Sunday, January 26, 2014


A few weeks ago I published a post on the foods you should eat when in Alto-Adige, the Italian region on the border with Austria. An Austrian reader lamented the absence of my often praised Pizza Viennese, which I'm happy to tell you is a pizza topped with sliced hot dogs. (If you can't believe Italians put hot dogs on their pizza, then I'm happy to disappoint you.) The thing is, I left out this gem because I thought it was common to all Northern Italy rather than just Alto-Adige. But is that so? I had to investigate.

You'll find this listed as a "classic" in Veneto pizzerias.

First of all, let me tell you that I really love Pizza Viennese. I love it because I love hot dogs, and because it was my favorite pizza during middle school (thus making it it the only happy memory of my pre-adolescence). Still, I must acknowledge that pizza with hot dogs is pretty far from the traditional Neapolitan masterpiece that I've eulogized in this blog. In fact, I'm pretty sure Neapolitan traditionalists would self-combust if they tried even a morsel of it. So where does this apparent abomination come from?

If I have to think about it, I would say that Pizza Viennese was born in Northeast Italy to please the hordes of German and Austrian tourists that descend on the beaches of Veneto and Friuli every summer. But am I right? What do other Italians think? First, I asked two friends from other parts of Italy if they knew about Pizza Viennese. Here's what they had to say.
"Never seen it. This is German stuff. I only go to serious pizzerias, although I know of a few places where they serve pizza with hot dogs and fries, but it's just for children." Mara, Chef (Rome)
"Pizza Viennese... Never heard of it. I know there's pizza with hot dogs, but it's more of a children's thing. I've never witnessed a sane adult eating one!" Martina, Photographer (Savona)
Harsh. I started wondering: Am I the only adult still ordering this pizza? Am I the one and only ambassador of Pizza Viennese in the world? Should I stop saying it's an Italian classic? I asked some friends from around Venice. The initial responses were not encouraging.
Personally, I have never been a fan of Pizza Viennese. I've eaten it in the past, and I still order it every now and then. I think it's a pizza for children in general, rather than for Germans. Matteo, DHL Centurion
I've always avoided it carefully. But I do the same with hot dogs in general: They disgust me. I don't think it's a pizza for German tourists. Pizza Viennese, in my opinion, is the ultimate pizza for babies and preteens. I don't think you'll find it in Naples, and I doubt it's served even in Rome. Anna, Science Teacher
Three people attempted to put Pizza Viennese in context, but were still critical.
You can find [Pizza Viennese] in almost every pizzeria or gyro place I've been, even in its "worse" version with fries. I remember eating it all the time as a kid. If I think about it today, it leaves me with an 80s taste in my mouth: the paninari scene and hamburgers, Wham! and "The Goonies", and evenings with friends, sitting on a bench with open pizza cartons on our laps. Today I'd eat it if I were throwing a trashy party, so then I'd have it cold with Nutella for breakfast the morning after. Christian, Art Connoisseur 
In my opinion, pizza with hot dogs is an oxymoron. I agree with others who said that the only ones who were authorized to order it were middle-schoolers during the 80s. Any other age group or historical period would make ordering this incomprehensible and deplorable. That said, you can eat whatever pizza you want. But then don't complain if you become a victim of bullyism as an adult. Alberto, Attorney 
The case of pizza with hot dogs is similar to that of pizza with fries. In both cases, what happens is that the pizza itself moves to the background, and the focus goes to the toppings. [...] Is it stuff for Germans? Maybe. Germans, unlike Italians, do not value the taste of the dough. They don't pause to ponder the quality of the rising or the sweetness/acidity of the tomato sauce, or discourse with their dining companions on the quality of the mozzarella. This means they have to add an ingredient from their own country, or someone else's (see pizza with pineapple). For Germans, the pizza is a plate: What matters is what you put on it. So if they want to eat a pineapple, they put a pizza underneath it. Marco, Songwriter & Musician
So, it seems Pizza Viennese is a middle-school homage to 80s Germany, which is not the best compliment you can pay to Italian food, as you may suspect. However, sociological analysis and culinary nationalism aside, there is still some love for this denigrated gem.
I simply adore hot dogs. I eat Pizza Viennese and if I'm making pizza at home and I have franks in the fridge -- I just slap them on the dough! However, the hot dogs have to be artisanal-quality or by Senfter! Federica, Travel Guru & It Girl 
Personally, in the face of the recession, bad government, and dieting, I eat pizza with pepperoni AND hot dogs. The infamous "FESTIVAL OF PORK". Roger, DJ 
I don't know what you'll make of me, but I count this among my favorite pizzas. But on the other hand, deep down I am German. Maybe I'm biased after decades of traveling in Veneto. We have pizza Viennese in Milan, it's more simply called "pizza with hot dogs." Although I'd say there are thousands of pizzerias in Milan, also owned by foreigners (especially from Egypt), that call their pizza whatever they want. I want to end this by saying, Hurray for hot dogs, always! Anna, Crafter
What can we say? Most Italians might be horrified by Pizza Viennese, but in the swamps and fogs of Northeast Italy, there is some love for this diamond in the rough. It might be that its devotees have a sentimental attachment to the carefree days this pizza evokes from their youth. Or they just might love a little junk food, every now and then. I mean... pizza with hot dogs. In Italy. You gotta love it.

Monday, January 6, 2014


The holidays are over, and with them the grandiose dishes that celebrated them. This year, we roasted our first Christmas goose. So tasty, so beautiful, so expensive... A tragic love affair that won't be easy to shake off. If you see me strolling pensively along the beach this winter, you'll know what I am thinking about. Anyhoo, to counterbalance the poultry heartbreak, I'm happy to report that we scored some fantastic authentic Italian panettone and pandoro right here in DC just in time for Christmas. Mr Bee and I were going to Eastern Market to purchase the aforementioned goose (see? I can't stop talking about her!) when we saw that a window of The Silver Spork was decked from top to bottom with Loison panettoni, pandori e focacce veneziane.

You might wonder, what is Loison? Loison is a lovely brand from Vicenza, near Venice, that produces traditional baked goods that I'm excited to eat even in Italy. Their panettone is famously soft, buttery and fragrant; it comes in a lovely wrapping, and it's a mile above the usual industrial panettone from more common national brands like Bauli or Motta. Of course, the best panettone or pandoro should come fresh out of the oven of a local bakery or pastry shop, but since there are no such places here, Loison offers the best alternative.

Each of these breads costs about $20, which is not cheap, but still better than paying a small fortune for a lesser brands at The Italian Store or at Rodman's. Incidentally, I bought an Easter colomba at Rodman's one year: For $30 I got a cake that literally underwent instant mummification as soon as it came in contact with the Earth's atmosphere, so I was not eager to try their Italian Christmas selection.
Traditional Pandoro: A tower of butter covered in sugar.

So get a panettone or a pandoro if you still can. And you might want to try the Focaccia Veneziana, which is a sort of softer panettone without raisins nor candied fruits that is sold in the colder months in Veneto. I have to say, the Loison one doesn't have the traditional crunchy sugar&almond top of the original, but, my goodness, it's still so good.
Focaccia Veneziana. My favorite breakfast since 1976.