Monday, February 25, 2008

Finally, "Peperone" Pizza.

If there is one story my father told me about his adjusting to life in the States after leaving Cuba sticks out in my mind, it's the "Pepperoni Pizza" story. My father told me how he loved it, but he did not know what it was called. He would go and ask for a slice, but he never got what he wanted. He would try to describe it, but he would get ham. He tried translating it (I guess he thought it was 'salsicha', but he would get sausage. One day the person at the counter walked away with a slice and he said "That. That is what I want". At the time, I never thought I would live in another country, and go through a similar experience. Obviously, my adaptation is "not the same" as his. For one, I "wanted" to move to Brazil, and was not forced to leave because of a revolution. I was already fluent in Portuguese, enough to go around the country being able to communicate most requests. Still, there were words I did not know, mostly names of specific foods. I repeated a lot of meals because it was all I knew how to say. Early on when my accent was thick, I got a lot of orders wrong. With time things got better and today it is pretty rare when I encounter a similar situation.

On to the pepperoni pizza. First, you need to understand that Brazilian pizza is very different from pizza in the States. The dough is thicker, more so than deep dish style. It is loaded, I mean loaded with toppings. The very first time I had a pizza here I grabbed it with my hands and it was so thick and full of toppings that it fell apart. They usually do not use tomato sauce. It is common to see people put ketchup and mayonnaise. The toppings are VERY different. These are a few pizzas on the menu:

Tomato sauce, tuna, 'palmito' (palm heart), peas, onions, mozzarella
Note that they specifically mention it has tomato sauce, and despite the fact that they say this is an "American" pizza, the only toppings I have seen on a pizza in the States from that list is the sauce, cheese, and onions.

Strombolli type, stuffed with ricotta, escarola, mozzarella, garlic, anchovies, parmesean, and oregano

"Carne Seca"
Tomato sauce, dried beef (kinda like beef jerky), mozzarella and oregano

They even have dessert and sweet pizzas:
"Romeu e Juieta"
Mozzarella cheese and Guava (no sauce)

"Pizza Doce"
Bananas, sugar, and cinnamon

"Chocofesta I and II"
Chocolate and your choice of strawberries or coconut.

Despite all this choice of toppings, I could not get pepperoni pizza. Not because I did not know how to say it, it just was not a common topping in this region. The closest thing is "calabresa" which is like salami. I would try and describe it, but most people had no idea what I was talking about. The pizza was good, but it really wasn't what I wanted. I swear I thought about my father every time I went to have pizza and could not get pepperoni.

Not too long ago one of my favorite bars closed and a pizzaria opened up in its place. Saturday night I went with Adriana to try it out, and much to my delight I read:

"Peperone "
Molho de tomate (Tomato sauce) mussarela, peperone e oregano

I was so friggin happy. I could not believe it. The waiter even asked me if I wanted it with tomato sauce (OF-FRIGGIN-COURSE). Much like my father must have been that day, I was so happy to finally be able to eat what I wanted in the first place.

All this being said, anyone comes down to Garanhuns and we can go down to "Pizzaria Due Fratelli" for some really interesting pies!!


Ms Calabaza said...

My experience with pizza is that it tastes totally different everywhere I've visited outside the US. I personally love very thin crust pizza . . . Your dad's pepperoni story reminds me of my mother, God bless her soul who when arrived in Miami did not know a word of English. She was looking for long grain rice because she just couldn't get used to Uncle Ben's Instant Rice. She came home from grocery shopping one day delighted because she finally found what she wanted and told us she found this brand pronounced reeee-se (Rice).

Daniel @ Garanhuns said...

Well a curious thing about "staple" foods (hamburger, hot dog, which is totally different here in Garanhuns, and pizza) in Brazil is that they are very regional, and vary from city to city. Some areas eggs are popular in the burger, the pizza toppings which are popular here are unheard of in another place, etc.

Ms Calabaza said...

Hey dude,
no post since last week. I hope all is well with you and your family.

Anonymous said...

The Pizza wrote it for me!!! Thanks.

I'll just put in a starter line on my blog and the link over to yours. I'll try to do that this week.

How did you end up in Garanhuns? Met Lula yet?


Daniel @ Garanhuns said...

In regards to Lula, I just shook his hand at some rally where he came by to give a speech and launch some federal program, I want to say Bolsa Familia, but I d not think that was it.

I ended up in Garanhuns via a friend, who had married a girl from here. I went out with her sister while she visited in the States, came down to visit, and just fell in love with the place. It is a city that I love and hate equally, which was a good indication that this was the place to be.

GringoGene said...

Finally got around to my Pizza entry.

Made the link over to your entry.

Please check it out to make sure what I said is correct.


Daniel @ Garanhuns said...

Thanks for the mention, I replied over at your blog.

Laural said...

I have been trying to explain Brazilian pizza to my friends and family for the longest time. I'm putting a link to your post on my blog, as you couldn't have done it better.

Daniel @ Garanhuns said...

Glad it was helpful Larual.

Rachel said...

hey daniel,

here in rio most pizzas have very very thin crusts and lots of toppings, and most people cut off the crusts and through them away, even though it barely qualifies as a crust!

markuza said...

I think the crust here in Bahia (at least in Salvador) is thinner than what you get. I find it totally bizarre that they skimp (my experience is most pizzas here have at least a little sauce on them) on the tomato sauce and then load up on the ketchup! Have you ever experienced brigadeiro pizza? Que coisa nojenta... I hate to admit this but if I have my druthers my preferred pizza here is Pizza Hut. As I would similarly (and guiltily) frequent a Starbucks if we had one.