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JANUARY 2024/ BECAUSE OF PIZZA

INTRO

If you have been a part of this club for any length of time, you might have noticed how wine is being used to explore the many ventricles of human history.  Because wine has been a part of human history since about 7,000 BCE, a year that was still early in the Holocene Era, when the modern humans were emerging form the most recent Ice Age and beginning an agricultural society, wine is able to reveal insights into daily life, rituals, rites, society, and earth.  It is one of the very few human creations that have stood the test of time and therefore has been present at the most significant events to the most forgotten.  Wine has been drunk by the unhoused, peasants, laborers, wealthy, aristocrats, the gods.  It can be at the center of a gathering or a reason to remain alone.  It is an equalizer, a counterweight, a tool which allows opposing properties to be forgotten.  The only other human invention to have this magnanimity is pizza.  This is undoubtedly the one thing on planet Earth that all people (and maybe even some animals) can share love for.  Even those allergic to pizza’s elements regret their ostracism.  
 
Arriving on the scene much after wine, in 997 CE during the Modern Era, pizza’s earliest documentation was found in a promissory note from a feudal lord of Gaeta in South Italy to the local bishop offering 12 pizzas a year in exchange for his services.  This was most likely a flatbread with herbs as tomatoes were not indigenous to Italy and would not be introduced until the 16th century when Spain discovered them growing in Central and South American.  In 1889, the first pizza Margherita was invented in Naples as a tribute to Queen Margherita of a newly unified Italian nation.  This is the beginning of pizza as we know it today.  Of course we can assume that Italian immigrants brought their pizza recipes from their homeland to the US during the periods of dense migration from Europe over the transition into the 20th century, but not until the U.S. soldiers of WWII tasted pizza while stationed in Italy did the demand grow back home.  WWII created a pizza boom that has led to unspoken requirements for every town and city to have at least two pizzerias and eventually the bastardization of pizza in the form of fast food.  We are now in an Era of Pizza which has the potential to last as long as wine, which we’re estimating to be until the end of the human race.
 
Therefore, we see pizza and wine as a powerful pairing- not only for the hundreds of possible flavor combinations,  but for their combined historic powers. Both wine and pizza are a gestalt allowing for the taster to activate all of their senses and experience something beyond what’s in the glass and on the plate.  This month uses some classic wines from pizza’s homeland of Italy to transport you to the sweeping farmlands that produce the red, white, and green we crave as we give reverence to humankind’s most loving inventions.  The artwork accompanying this month’s issue was made by shop owner Lenora Howl back when she worked at a pizzeria in Boston called Upper Crust from 2005- 2008 CE.  The people and conversations were real and the result of eating hundreds of slices of pizza.
 

WINE 1

'Grisela' Soave Classico 2021
Cornelia Tessari
ITALY, Veneto, Soave
Grape: Garganega
 
For ultimate refreshment, and when you have happily forgotten about Pinot Grigio, you should be drinking Soave. This is the Garganega grape as produced in the Veneto region of North eastern Italy. This wine will uplift you from any mild blues, from the doldrums of a long work day, and into that frisky mood like when you're preparing for a party filled with your favorite friends.
Due to popularity, the area of production for Soave (based around the town of Soave) was expanded greatly in the mid-to-late 20th century. Naturally, the quality level dropped as the terroir changed, creating wines that lacked the original distinction. So, to make up for this, the Soave Classico region was created, production being limited to its original area. The Soave region only produces white wines, and they must be made with predominantly Garganega grapes.
The vineyards of Cantina Tessari are located in old volcanic hills above the town of Soave. All organic production and hand picked grapes ensure wonderfully bright fruit at optimal ripeness. The Tessari family has been making these wines for three generations. They adhere to traditional production methods with modern technology.
 
FOR THE PIZZA:
Imagine a pizza pie with clams, mozzarella, smoked bacon, bread crumbs and maybe some roasted bell peppers and a sprinkle of chili. (This would be the Fresh Clams Casino pie as created by the Don of Dough, Andrew Belucci.) 


WINE 2

'Neruda' Ciro Rosso Classico Superiore 2020
Baroni Capoano
ITALY, Calabria, Ciro
Grapes: 90% Gaglioppo, 10% Merlot
 
For this wine we head to the southern tip of Italy in the region of Calabria. This is a rural region dependent on agricultural farming of grains and olives. Grapes for wines once were a dominant crop in the area, but have since become only a tiny fraction of the area's production. When the ancient Greeks first developed the vine here, wine production was quite high.
Gaglioppo is a grape that can produce deeply colored, full bodied wines with a good presence of tannins. The small bit of merlot that is added will help to soften the wines bite. Through DNA profiling, it has come to be understood that Gaglioppo is most likely a cross between Sangiovese and some other unidentified grape. All Ciro red wines must be made with the Galioppo varietal, and the Superiore classification ensures the alcohol level to be 13.5% or higher.
The region of Ciro has been making wine for thousands of years and its wines are considered some of the oldest named wines in the world. With such close proximity to the Ionian sea and the Mediterranean, there is a cooling breeze that helps to regulate the intense heat generated during the southern Italian summer. The breeze lowers the risk of fungal diseases on the vine, helping to ensure productive growth.
Baroni Capoano has been making wine in the region for several generations. The grapes selected for the Neruda cuvee are from the best hand selected bunches in the ancient old-vines vineyard. They go through a long maceration process and the finished wines can often be cellared for 6-10 years. 
 
FOR THE PIZZA:
  
A classic meat and red sauce pizza would be fantastic with this wine. Whether venison or beef, herbs and spices mixed with the sweetness of a tomato will make for an unstoppable slice grab.

 

PIZZA IN THE MOVIES

One of the best ways to witness how pizza brings people together is in the movies.  Pizza is a shared love between characters, and a shared love between audience members,  therefore a way for the audience to connect with characters and the movie itself.  While pizza can be found in hundreds of scenes across hundreds of movies, we have selected only five to take a bite out of.  These five scenes are particularly special because they show how pizza has played a unique role of simultaneously breaking and adding tension to a story.  (You might even notice a difference in the type of tensions created by movies that take place on the east coast versus west!)
Links to scenes can be found by clicking the title of each movie.  But you should really just rent the movie and watch it.  You deserve the whole pie.

 

DOG DAY AFTERNOON (1975)

In Sidney Lumet’s epic bank robbery film (based on a true story) Al Pacino’s character Sonny Wortzik with crime partner Sal Naturile played by John Cazale have had us on the edge of our seats for more than half the movie.  We have started to fall in love with these disorganized crooks, through their tenderness with each other, and through the support of the crowd growing outside.  This heist takes place during a real economic and morale low point for New York City, allowing for crimes against institutions to be seen as a fight against “The Man”. 
As part of the hostage negotiation, Sonny asks for pizza, soda, and aspirin to be delivered to the bank.  Relations have started to ease between hostage and captor, and even the most resilient bank teller named Sylvia asks Sal for a cigarette while the bank manager naps.  The chaotic tension has ebbed and flowed and taken its time in this film as you waffle between fear and sympathy for Sonny and Sal.  And then the pizza is delivered.
 
Even though it has been paid for by police, Sonny makes a show of paying the delivery guy, a gesture that shows solidarity with the working folk.  The fact that Sonny won’t take pizza paid for by the police causes the crowd to cheer with approval.  Their wild adulation inflates Sonny’s performance balloon again and he begins throwing cash to the crowd as well.  As they dive, and cheer, and yell, the delivery guy watches and laughs close by and unafraid of Sonny.  Police begin to step into the fray causing a celebratory moment to become one of mayhem again.  Tension and joy are layered like cheese on sauce in this scene as we watch the delivery guy hold the door for Sonny to return to his hostages victorious with a warm pat on the back.  Pizza has created a new level of unification between hostages and bank robbers, and bank robbers and crowd, while driving a larger wedge between the bank robbers and police.  The pizza has simultaneously soothed the tension inside the bank, and amped up the tension outside.  Not bad for a day's work.
 

FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH (1982)

One of the fantasies of a bored student comes true in Amy Heckerling’s, Fast Times at Ridgemont High.  While we have all daydreamed about what we would rather be doing during a class, Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn) makes it happen when a pizza delivery guy knocks on the door of his history class taught by the dictatorial Mr. Hand (Ray Walston).  While the rest of the class including Mr. Hand sits in shock, Spicoli and the pizza delivery guy do not flinch.  What we are witnessing here, is a very low key power grab.  Mr. Hand has humiliated Spicoli a few times by now, and really put a cramp in the Spicolli surf style.  By ordering a pizza to the classroom, Spicolli is showing Mr. Hand that he will not submit easily, or angrily, but with an attempt at democracy.  Ordering the food of the people to a classroom of the oppressed is a chance not only for Spicoli to show Mr. Hand who he is dealing with, it is a chance to win the respect of his peers.  There is no way to be unimpressed with this move.  However, Mr. Hand ends up with the upper…hand, by distributing Spicoli’s pizza to his classmates and using Spicoli’s attempt at democracy against him.  We see tension exchanged with the pizza box as the pizza is being used as a physical symbol of power- “one ring to rule them all!”  The holder of the box dictates the tone of the class, and the bystanders are loyal only to the slice. 


MYSTIC PIZZA (1988)

Director Donald Petrie uses the pizzeria as the central character and location in this story of three women’s trials and tribulations of love during the off-season in the small seaside town of Mystic, Connecticut.  They have all grown up together (Annabeth Gish and Julia Roberts are even sisters) and grown up with the pizzeria owner Leona.  This makes this pizzeria special because it has crossed over from being employment to being like a room in their house, where they can be their true selves.  It is a place where they share the news of a break- up, get into fights, make each other laugh, and dream of the future.  It is a place where they feel pride for their Portuguese heritage.  It is the source of their goodness.  There are many scenes in the pizzeria that exemplify unity, but a particular scene where a food critic is introduced through a TV show is the first time you see the staff unify together against the tension of judgment.  While the crew worries about making it through another slow season, the tv distracts them with the live canning of a restaurant by “The Fireside Gourmet” food critic.  Jojo (Lili Taylor) and Daisy (Julia Roberts) are drawn to the challenge of having him review their simple and honest pizza, while shop owner Leona (Conchata Ferrell) views him as repulsive.  When the idea of updating the pizza menu to meet richer tastes is suggested, Leona reminds her staff that their recipe comes from generations of her family, reaching back to her Portuguese ancestors.  The pizza they make is something to be proud of and does not need the distractions of expensive ingredients.  It is real, and that surpasses all superficialities, just like the women themselves.  In this movie, pizza hardly has a visual presence, but its symbolism weighs a ton.  It is what brings these women together, through thick and thin, through tragedy and victory, and is what keeps them true to themselves and each other. Again, the power that pizza holds is demonstrated in this scene. The holding on to tradition and what comes with that: family pride, connection to a place of origin, criticism of taste (and taste-makers). This thing, the pizza, is mystic. There are secrets needing to be known in order to make it what it can truly be, and in the wrong hands those secrets would be abused. (Goat cheese on pizza!? No way!) Pizza is what brings people together, and then creates tension. To change the recipe, to reveal the secrets, to try clams on pizza…the potential success and downfall of any of these decisions are felt in this scene.
  

DO THE RIGHT THING (1989)

Much like Mystic Pizza, the crux of Do the Right Thing revolves around a pizza spot called Sal’s Pizzeria in the mixed race neighborhood of Bed Stuy, Brooklyn, New York.  This is a predominantly low- middle income black neighborhood with remnants of the old world Italians who previously occupied this area as new immigrants, and the introduction of middle- high income white New Yorkers as gentrification is a whisper in the wind.  A microcosm of global struggles we see everyday (in particular, these days), Sal’s Pizzeria stands at the center of decades and even centuries of tensions between these different cultures, all trying to make their way in the world.
There are many important and iconic pizza scenes in this movie: from Buggin’ Out (Giancarlo Esposito) realizing that the walls of the pizzeria are covered in Italian heroes while the customer base is mostly black, to the destruction of the pizzeria by Buggin Out and an angry mob leading to the death of community pillar, Radio Raheem.  These scenes all contribute to the boiling point, heated by racial injustice of historic proportions, and a relentless summer heat wave.  But the scene that shows how pizza can unify is a short moment of real communication between delivery boy Mookie (played by the film’s’ director Spike Lee) and Sal’s son Pino (played by John Turturro) who works for his father Sal (Danny Aiello) in the pizzeria also.  
 
In the back of the pizzeria, next to a painting of the crumbling Colosseum (a center of gladiator battles in ancient Rome perhaps foreshadowing the battle about to take place in this very pizzeria) Mookie tries to level with Pino who has been talking down, insulting, even threatening Mookie this entire day.  This moment in the back of the shop is a humanitarian pause, where both parties speak to each other like colleagues.  Mookie asks Pino to list his favorite athlete, film star, musician, pointing out that they are all black, while Pino fumbles his way through explaining how he can love black celebrities but hate his fellow black community members.  There is no consensus reached, there is not even acknowledgement of understanding, as the conversation quickly spirals back into insults.  However, in the back of this pizzeria where they both work, delivering pizza to whoever has a buck to pay for it, two representatives from sparring sides take a moment to try to find a connecting point.  Pizza starts the scene as bringing two adversaries together, but ends up revealing their deep and unchanging differences.  Turns out all they have in common is pizza.  

 
INHERENT VICE (2014)

By the time pizza makes its way into P.T. Anderson’s film adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s novel Inherent Vice, the viewer, along with P.I. Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) and his sidekick Denis (Jordan Christian Hearn) are walking into the den of a cult that might be behind the kidnapping of Doc’s ex- flame.  This very stoned L.A. noir has a way of feeling like you are lazily bobbing on an inflatable raft while you observe the activities of a wealthy but seedy underbelly.  Tension is not a strong sensation when your mind is clouded with smoke, but a feeling of uncertainty is always present.  And this scene is a great example.
Doc and Denis, undercover as music magazine reporters, are entering this party for a well known surf rock band which they expect to have cult connections.  They are rehearsing who they are as they walk into the house swimming with partiers and find their confidential informant at a table in the back where a silent hippie softly stretches pizza dough.  It is almost as engrossing to watch her light handling of this dough on a baking sheet as it is the coded conversation Doc is having with Coy Harlingen (Owen Wilson).  The pizza maker eventually leaves and the two are left in seeming safety to try and share as much information as they can.  Coy, trying to appear natural to those in the rest of the house, gets up to join the group at the center of a long table which has become filled with pizza pies.  For a second, all characters freeze in a vignette of the Last Supper, imposing a sense that this cult could be as large ,and as powerful, as the Christian faith.  
Unlike the other films in this list, pizza is not drawing together opposing sides, but rather acting as a cover for two allies to meet.  While the rest of this sleepy cult is distracted by their pizza feast, Doc and Coy have a moment to do something dangerous- share secrets.  Pizza provides a break from the tension so that these characters can talk, but also uncovers the tension brought by having no clue what the hell is going on.
 The attached clip does not show the full scene, please watch/ re-watch this movie to see the Last Supper ending!

Our aim is to give a glimpse into the many roles wine has played throughout history.  All subjects mentioned deserve more attention and research and we encourage you to keep exploring.  We are only here to pop the cork.

Many Thanks, Caravan Wine Shop

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