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Lileks: Why the new Pizza Museum should be in Minnesota

August 10, 2018

About time: The United States Pizza Museum opened Friday. Its in Chicago, and this angers some people. Of course, everything angers some people these days, but pizza cuts to the pith of regional identities. New Yorkers surprise are furious about this.

They dont consider deep-dish to be real pizza. They say its a thick soup. Sauce on top of cheese? Whats next: the bun inside the hamburger? If you regard the crust-sauce-cheese order as something handed down to Moses on a hot stone, yes, Chicago style breaks the rules.

But lets break down why New Yorkers are wrong, and Minnesotans once again are the real winners here.

First, New Yorkers are poor judges of pizza.

Exhibit A: New York pizza. Exhibit B: New Yorkers passionate defense of Exhibit A.

While in New York last summer, we went to some late night joint with a sign from 1954, upstairs seating that consisted of two wobbly tables and walls shellacked with grease. It was the usual stuff boring crust, insufficient sauce, indifferent cheese, sitting under a lamp for an hour.

Its OK most of the time. But when its bad, its like someone spilled half a cup of Chef Boyardee sauce on the floor mat of a taxi. But New Yorkers will still think its the best. Because its from New York!

Chicago-style allows the sauce on top of the cheese because its thick. Besides, some joints put the topping over the cheese, some under, so dont tell me Chicago is tampering with the fabric of the pizza universe.

This war will rage forever, unless the Pizza Museum people realize theres only one place to put their new institution. That would be Minnesota, of course.

Heres my case: We have always been pizza pioneers. Back in the 70s, deep dish came to a place called My Pie, and it was a hit in fact, most people dont know that the Time magazine cover that showed Gov. Wendy holding up a fish was supposed to show him holding up a deep-dish, but it all slopped out.

You can get every style of pizza you want here. Theres Detroit style despite the name, it does not have motor-oil sauce and the contents of an ashtray for topping. You can get Chicago, New York, California, and unlike any of those places you also can get Minnesota style: cracker crust, thin layer of cheese baked by a solar flare, crispy cups of pepperoni that contain little lakes of grease.

Minnesota is the home of Totinos, a pioneering frozen pizza and inexpensive staple of college. Having eaten about 500 of them over the course of my youth, I am qualified to say they were horrible, and also I would gladly eat No. 501. When I mention Alpo crumbles and cubed pseudo-pepperoni, it is with admiration and awe. I ate that. And then with the full knowledge of what it was, I ate more.

Jeno Paulucci, another great Minnesotan whose statue should stand in the Capitol rotunda, invented the pizza roll, which folds the essence of pizza on itself: All crust on the outside! All essence on the inside! There is a recipe online for pizza-roll stuffed-crust pizza, and if you made it Chicago-style and wrapped it in slices of New York style, I think youd get a black hole.

One more thing: New York and Chicago styles both need flour for their crust, right? And where did that come from, back in the days of our Mississippi mills? Thats why we deserve the museum.

In effect, all pizza is Minnesota style. But were not asking for thanks. Just a museum.

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