Pizza d'Aprile!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 70 comments
Pazzo Rollo - an April Fool's Pizza!

It seems that even Mother Nature can't resist a prank: April Fool's Day in Minnesota dawned early and monochromatically bright with a couple of inches of snow on the ground and more flakes falling. At least I'll be safe from any other tricksters as I plan to hunker down at home and prepare for a Friday anthropology exam - unless the dog has plans for some mischief.

Poisson d'Avril (from Civilisation et Société) 
Although the origins of this day of shenanigans, gags and assorted antics are unclear (the Museum of Hoaxes gives a nice summary of possible theories), there's no doubt that this quasi-holiday is celebrated by many, from Poland's Prima Aprilis to France's Poisson d'Avril, or April Fish (source: Wikipedia.org). The spirit of levity also features in other cultural holidays and festivals that occur during this time of year, notably the Iranian celebration of Sizdah Bedar, which marks the last day of Norouz (Persian New Year) with a day of lighthearted enjoyment outdoors, and the Hindu festival Holi, also known as the Festival of Colours, during which celebrants gleefully throw brightly colored powder and water at each other. Fun is definitely had by all except, perhaps, for some in Italy who are fervently wishing that a bit of recent food news is nothing more than a bad joke:

Pizza-making Machine Has Chefs in a Spin

Rome (Reuters) - A vending machine that bakes fresh pizza in minutes for a few euros has got Italian chefs in a whirl before it hits the streets in the coming weeks.

The bright-red "Let's Pizza" machine uses infra-red rays and technology developed at the University of Bologna to knead flour and water into dough, spread it with tomato sauce and a choice of topping, and cook it - all in less than three minutes.

As far as pizza purists are concerned, the man behind this concept is il pesce d'Aprile - the April Fool - but Claudio Torghele is more akin to a Rube Goldberg-in-reverse: he has created a contraption that turns the complexity of Italian pizza-making into a simple, minutes-long process and this has gotten some aprons in a twist. In a country that gave birth to the Slow Food movement and has an accrediting body to preserve the standards of true Neapolitan pizza (Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana - AVPN), the marriage of a deeply-held food tradition and modern technology is an unholy union.

Pizza machines (Photo from Reuters.com)
Generally speaking, the main critique of vending machines is that their contents are pre-processed and preservative-laden facsimiles of food. Torghele's machine, however, defies that stereotype by actually making pizzas per order from 'scratch' - mixing flour into a dough and adding toppings before baking. The outrage for pizza chefs is that a national culinary treasure is being reduced to a novelty for the sake of low-cost, low-quality convenience.

"[Pino] Morelli [head of the Association of Italian Pizzerias] said that real pizza-makers 'certainly do not fear competition from any machine' but the invention could damage Italy's image as the home of Mediterranean cuisine. 'The pizza is the symbol of "Made in Italy" brand and we should let it live and prosper in peace', he said." 

Ironically, another of Italy's culinary traditions - the art of caffè - has already succumbed to total automation: according to a recent New York Times article, it leads all other European nations in vending machines, most of which dispense espressos, cappuccinos and all varieties of coffee. This distinction doesn't appear to have affected the enduring image and stature of the Italian coffee culture but that may be due to an important difference between a caffè macchiato and a pizza Margherita: the human touch.

It may be easier to accept a cup of coffee from a vending machine because it's only a short step from the largely automated process of brewing already common at home or in a coffee shop. And although there is certainly a great deal of artistry and skill required to pull a perfect shot of espresso or to steam milk to a flawless foam, rarely do bare hands actually touch the ingredients or final beverage itself as utensils are well-integrated parts of the process, even in the most traditional methods. 

Pizza Margherita (photo from wikipedia.org)
With pizza, however, it's all in the hands - mixing, kneading and forming the dough into a round base before carefully adding handfuls of tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil (as in a Margherita). It is by touch and by accumulated experience that a pizzaiolo, or pizza-maker, knows when the dough is the right consistency, how much topping to use and when the pizza is perfectly done. This is the heart that's missing from the Tin Man: the preparation of food - cooking - is a uniquely human characteristic which no other organism on earth shares. Perhaps the vilification of machine-manufactured, pre-packaged foods is rooted in a subconscious recoil from the idea that one of the most basic necessities of life is provided by lifeless machines. I've watched enraptured as the pizzaiolo at our local AVPN-certified restaurant deftly makes my pizza; he may be a stranger but he is a person and that may be the most important part of a 'personal' pizza.

We will have to wait and see what becomes of the "Let's Pizza" machines in Italy but I suspect that any impact it might have on the nation's culinary reputation would be that of a feather against a granite wall. Next to the prospect of metal, glass and computer chips preparing this icon of Italian cuisine, perhaps I can be forgiven for offering the following equally convenient, wildly inauthentic yet prepared-by-my-own-hands version of pizza.

Focaccia's Pazzo Rollo
What could be more appropriate for an April Fool's Day post about pizza than one that has been dubbed 'crazy roll'? I first had this preparation at focaccia, a charming and casual Italian eatery in Makati City, Philippines. Filipinos love Italian food but they also love adding a Pinoy twist, hence the infamous Filipino Spaghetti, made with hot dogs instead of ground beef. In the same vein, the Pazzo Rollo was unlike any pizza I'd ever had - it was rectangular in shape, had an extremely thin yet flexible crust and was made without tomato sauce. It was served pre-sliced into long strips to which fresh arugula and bean sprouts were added and then rolled up. Authentic? Not even close. Delicious and fun to eat? Without a doubt.


Ingredients
(Note: I do not include amounts because it's really up to you!)

1 pkg egg roll wrappers (trust me)
Olive oil
Garlic, chopped
Artichoke hearts, chopped small*
Sundried tomatoes, sliced thinly or chopped small**
Mozzarella cheese, shredded
Arugula
Fresh or dried herbs (basil, oregano, parsley, etc.)

* I used a jar of marinated artichoke hearts
** For best results, do NOT use the kind in olive oil - it makes the crust soggy!

To make:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees;
2. On a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, place one layer of wonton wrappers, edges overlapping each other so that it appears to be one large piece;
3. Very lightly brush olive oil on the wrappers. Do not saturate them as it will result in a soggy rather than soft crust;

4. Evenly distribute chopped garlic, artichoke hearts and sundried tomatoes on the crust;
5. Liberally sprinkle cheese over the entire crust - as the cheese melts, it will keep the egg roll wrappers soft and flexible. The outer edges, in particular, are likely to become crisp so be sure to cover with cheese. Sprinkle with herbs;
6. Place in pre-heated oven and bake until cheese becomes bubbly and begins to brown;
7. When done, remove from the oven and immediately slice in long strips about 1.5" wide;
8. To serve, top each slice with arugula leaves, roll up and eat immediately. Buon Appetito!

And if you find yourself in Makati City, try the original Pazzo Rollo at:

focaccia - a slice of Italy
Ground Floor of A. Venue Mall
Makati Avenue
Makati City
Tel: +632 729-9403


70 comments:

  • 5 Star Foodie said...

    What a fun post! I love the idea of the Pazzo Rollo. It's so neat and sounds delicious! My daughter saw the post just before she went to bed and wanted me to make the pizza rolls for her.

  • ChefBliss.com said...

    What a terrific post! I love how you educate me and entertain me all at the same time!! Snow?!?!? Enjoy the rest of your April Fools day and may it be prank free!!

  • Elra said...

    Whoaaa, interesting indeed. Spaghetti with hot dog, yum.... pizza with arugula and bean sprout? now that is hard to imagine how the flavor come together, but I trust you. If you say it's good, then it's good!
    Cheers,
    elra

  • Lori said...

    Excellent angle on the story. :)

    Rucula e Tomate Seco is a really popular pizza topping in Brazil, or at least in Maringa. It is probably one my favorite foods around here. I love the combination. Glad to have this recipe!

  • Manang said...

    no pranks for me today!

    that was highly educating. I was quite excited initially until I saw those photos of the pizza making machines (definitely not for household use!). I have always wondered if frozen pizza had preservatives (I freeze a lot of my doughs which have yeast; I have no doubt unyeasted flat types of bread like pizza can be frozen as well). I have several favorites (one is spinach feta) so i do not even bother to make them by hand.

    But this pazzo rollo of yourse sounds intriguing.

  • Bob said...

    Heh, I remember a few years ago (er, maybe like 10-15. sigh) we had an April Fools day blizzard here in Boston. We got like a foot and a half and it was all gone by the next day because of 70 degree temps. It was an odd little weather episode.

    But those pazzo rollo thingies look fantastic!

  • Phyllis said...

    The recipe is right up my alley - no measuring! Looks delicious with all my favorite ingredients.Using the egg roll wrappers - ingenious!

    b/t/w filipino spaghetti sounds like malaysian spaghetti (at least the way my mom made it)

    great post - learned so much about April Fool's Day!

  • Reeni♥ said...

    The 'pizza roll' looks delcious!! What a great twist on pizza.
    I love making pizza, you are so right when you say it is all about the hands. I had to laugh a little at the pizza machine, even though I know how serious 'pizza' and the making of it is to Italians. When given the choice I would go with human-made pizza.

  • onlinepastrychef said...

    That is the funnest. Yes, funnest! I saw the video about the crazy pizza vending machine a few days ago. I was horrified and fascinated all at the same time. I could not look away! I think I'll stick to conventional pizza, though:)

  • Mediterranean kiwi said...

    although i'd love a machine that does all the work and produces the dishes i want, just by my adding the ingredients to it, i cant believe that there is such a thing, and i dont believe it can make what its supposed to make at the same time as keeping taste.

    i'd much rather have your fresh foccacia version!

  • Sapuche said...

    I loved your essay on “the fall of pizza” in Italy. In some ways, it seems silly to complain over convenience, but there’s definitely something to be said about the presence of “human touch” in what we eat. If technology like this exists, there’s no question but that it will be used and will spread. Hopefully there will be a backlash against it to the extent that chefs will actually prosper in the face of competition with our insatiable desire for time-saving.

    Oh, and speaking of “April Fish,” I got duped this week, amazingly, by a doghillkitchen.blogspot.com post about sardine and spinach cupcakes. What’s weird is that I saw that none of it made any sense, and yet I still bought into it. Man, this Hawaii sea air is doing something to my brain.

    Good luck on your anthropology exam! I hope your dog puts off its mischief until the weekend. And I hope that one day I can pay a visit to Makati City to try its version of pizza!

  • Daily Spud said...

    I hope that Pazzo Rollo wasn't some kind of April Fools dish because I completely buy the idea of rolled-up, egg-roll-wrappered pizza - I mean, who wouldn't? :)

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Thank you everyone! I've spent most of the day typing up and reviewing my notes for tomorrow's exam. Wish me luck!

    doggybloggy - Either works for me!

    Gaby - Thank you! They taste pretty good, too. 8-)

    5 Star - Oops! That's the danger of looking at food blogs just before bed. These are really fun and easy for kids to make, like English muffin pizzas.

    Chef E - I agree! The inventor acknowledges that it's for convenience and price but perhaps we're taking it a little too far?

    Greg - Thanks! It doesn't come close to your panzanella, for instance, but it hits the spot in a pinch.

    ChefBliss - The snow began to melt by late afternoon but more is forecast for the weekend. Sigh. The joke continues . . .

    Girlichef - Thank you! And I've got my fingers tightly crossed for your giveaway - Espresso Brava has my name on it!

    Gera - Thanks! I read in one of the news articles that many Italians are aghast at the number and kinds of toppings we put on our pizzas. Sometimes, beauty is in simplicity!

    Elra - I wasn't as keen on the bean sprouts which is why I left it out of mine here but the version I had in the Philippines was the reason I fell in love with arugula! It is absolutely delicious paired withe the sundried tomatoes and artichokes. 8-)

    Jenn - I remember the first time I had spaghetti with ground beef when we moved to Canada: I was totally disappointed and asked my mother why there was weird stuff in it!

    Lori - Thanks for giving me the appropriate name for this combo! It is currently my favorite, at least in this version. I wonder: in Brazil, is the arugula actually baked with the pizza or added afterward? I've heard that Italian cuisine is well-represented in Brazilian culture - I'd love to visit and try it myself.

    Manang - At least the Tombstone frozen pizzas that I buy have preservatives although I'm sure some of the better-quality brands are better about it. I'll take yours anytime!

    Heather - Thank you! I knew when I had them that I wanted to try to make them at home (since I've never seen or heard of them except at that Filipino restaurant).

    Bob - This is the trickiest time of the year when you think it's all starting to warm up and the, wham! We may get more snow on Sunday. 8-( If you ever have any egg roll wrappers lying around, try these out!

    Phanitha - Thank you!

    Nutritiontokitchen - The arugula is such a great flavor with this and I now keep sundried tomatoes handy at all times!

    Brenda - We have pizza on the brain! I was totally surprised to hear that Italy has the largest number of vending machines in Europe and that the majority were coffee-dispensers! I suppose you can't always sit along the piazza, sipping from an espresso under the dappled sunlight . . .

    Lisa - Thank you! It is quite tasty despite its very dubious claim to pizza-ness.

    Eric - Go ahead, do it! 8-) I get about 2 slices and before I have a chance to go back, my husband has them all rolled up for himself!

    Maria - Thanks! They may seem a little weird but they are quite tasty.

    Phyllis - Thank you! I got the idea of using the wrappers b/c the one in the Philippines really seemed similar in taste and texture! I also love recipes where it's all about how much you want. And it's great that you're familiar with hot dog spaghetti! I understand that beef is expensive in the Philippines but I wonder why they chose hot dogs over using goat meat or pork?

    Reeni - I would also prefer 'human-made' pizza (although our ritual Tombstone pizza is hard to break)! Still, I have to admire the ingenuity: instead of frozen pizzas that are simply toasted up, the inventor managed to figure out how to make it from 'scratch'! At the very least, it would be fun to watch. 8-)

    Jennifer - Egg roll wrappers are so underrated. Let's hear it for these little sheets of goodness!

    Jennifer - Hmmm . . . you were apparently teleported here from 5 Star's post! 8-D

    OPC - Like watching a car wreck, huh? I'd like a little bit more human interaction with my pizza, too, even it's just me removing the cellophane wrapper from the frozen pie. Close to sacrilegious, I know, but old habits are hard to break . . .

    Mediterranean Kiwi - I have no doubt that taste has been sacrificed for convenience in this case. And although I am grateful for something like my bread machine - it is so convenient - I have resolved to try baking by hand. We can't always rely on machines - what happens if we lose those conveniences? As for the focaccia version, it's not authentic but as I noted, at least I made it with my own 2 hands!

    Sapuche - Convenience is so irresistible and cooking can be so time-consuming so that technology may seem like a gift. But as I noted to Kiwi, what happens if we ever find ourselves in a situation where such technological convenience are absent or inoperable? We can't let ourselves lose any kind of knowledge, such as how to make things by hand - we don't know when it will come in . . . well . . . handy! 8-)

    As for getting duped, I saw the same thing! But if you're concerned about the effects of Hawai'i's air, I'll trade ya for some of Minnesota's! 8-D

    Thanks for the well wishes and the dog has been behaving. I'll keep touting the Philippines until you and your wife decide to take a detour and spend a few days there the next time you are Asia-bound!

    Daily Spud - The pazzo rollo, crazy as it seems, is the real deal! Pizza goodness can't possibly be any easier than this.

    Duo Dishes - [Ba dum chhh!] LOL! Puns are always welcome!

  • oysterculture said...

    So is this the new pizza for your pizza Thursday, or our you still sticking to tried and true Supreme Combo? The pizza looks great.

    When I was in Japan I knew an entrepreneure developing fresh french fries from a machine - you pressed a button and then 30 seconds later you got steaming hot fries accompinied by your choice of dips. Cool in a novelty sort of way, but nothing beats the hand made version.

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    FWLT - Crazy is good! I hope you'll enjoy them. 8-)

    Carolyn - I will have to add a correction: I call them 'bean sprouts' when they are actually alfalfa sprouts. I don't know if that makes the concept sound any more appetizing, though! 8-)

    Beancounter - If you do, let me know what you think! (They also had some very good pasta). It's very close to my parents' home which is in Brgy Poblacion.

    Oysterculture - We try to toss it up every few Thursdays and I have made this for PNT! I imagine that the french fry machine would go over much more readily than the pizza but then again, what's the point if there's a McD nearby? 8-D

    Zerrin - Thank you! It's really quite tasty. I toyed with the idea of using a flatbread but the original one in the Philippines tasted closer to these wrappers. However, I may try lavash next time.

    Leela - Thanks! All credit goes to the restaurant - I'm just happy I found a substitute for the crust b/c when my aunt asked what theirs was made of, they just smiled and said it was the chef's secret. Now we know!

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Joie - How did I miss that? Thanks so much! I love visiting your site - you have such a clear and joyous philosophy about life and food that I'm still trying to attain. It's getting there and I receive so much encouragement and inspiration from your blog. I must admit, however, that as I write this, I'm still schlumping around in my sweats - although it's starting to melt, we received a couple of inches of snow last night. [Sigh]

    Your new blog design is beautiful and perfectly reflects your optimism and bright outlook on la belle vie!

  • Joie de vivre said...

    Amen sista. A machine can never add the most important ingredients, sweat and love. Thank you for your kind words. They made me smile. Now, go put on some lipstick and get out of those sweats girl!

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Joie - After I wrote that, I felt rather ashamed of myself! I didn't put on lipstick but I did dress up a bit and even took a little extra time with the old coiffure! I felt so much better - and the sun came out! 8-)

  • Jescel said...

    i've never had pazza rollo in the philippines before (I'm from Cebu, that's why) but that's very interesting... and definitely healthier... thanks for a very informative but entertaining post.

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Jude - You'll get no argument from me! We're fortunate to have a pizzeria that serves Neapolitan-style pizzas although we don't eat there nearly as often as I'd like. 8-)

    Jescel - Thank you! Because we don't have Filipino restaurants in Minneapolis/St. Paul, I only wanted to eat Pinoy food when we visited my parents in Makati so I didn't pay as much attention to other cuisines being offered. But I"m pretty sure that this 'pazzo rollo' may be unique to the restaurant Focaccia - so if you're ever in Makati City, check it out!

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Teanna - I know what you mean! Pizza is one of those foods that once it's mentioned, I crave it immediately. I'm always in the mood for pizza (which is why I sometimes need quick fixes like these).

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Pierce - Thank you! It has been quite some time since I visited your site; my blog reading is far behind as it's that time of semester when papers and exams are all starting to pile up. Can't wait 'til it's over and I can get back to my foodie friends!

    Selba - These are definitely not your typical pizza! But they were surprisingly good, especially with the fresh arugula.

    Gaga - Thanks! If I let him, Mr. Noodle would have pizza every night (I don't let him because I know I would join him and probably eat more than he would!)

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Midge - Thanks! I know what you mean about the machine. Really, what's the point when there are so many great places at all price points? As for the pazzo rollo, I'm sure I've sent purists into a state of shock but it's really quite fun and tasty to eat. As a matter of fact, Mr. Noodle asked for it tonight . . . !

  • burpandslurp said...

    Oh my God. if this is april's fool, I'd like to be fooled every single day of my life! what a creative version! so light and refreshing! such a genius idea!

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Gastroanthropologist - She wasn't done with us: we woke up last Saturday morning with another few inches of snow on the ground. Fortunately, the sun came out and took care of it! The roll is quite easy and tasty - we had it last night as part of a 'light' dinner (which is to say we didn't eat a large haunch of animal flesh!)

    Munchkin Mommy - Please do and let me know what you think of it! It's something the kids might like to make and eat. 8-)

    Burpandslurp - I promise, the 'pizza roll' is real! It really is an easy and light interpretation of pizza but all the credit for the idea goes to Focaccia restaurant in Makati, Philippines!

  • Teanna said...

    You are such a phenomenal writer! Knowing the Italians and their pride, they won't take a machine like this lying down! The Crazy Roll looks GORGEOUS!

  • Jacoba said...

    As usual, an amazing post, as usual the kind that requires a cup of coffee because, as usual, this one's reserved for waking up and stretching in the sun with the laptop before approaching the day.

    I, too, get furious about the invention of vending machines and if I can go by the comments of my angered and beloved friends, this 3-minute pizza won't do to well unless the tourists utilize it.

    Italians, by their nature, are not a fast food nation. They are genetically predisposed in other directions ..... surely a nation that are born with cooking in their genes, as the French are born with winemaking in theirs, will not worship such a dangerous piece of machinery ?????????

  • SoCal Pastry Chef said...

    come to think of it... I didn't have (1) prank played on me on that day. Maybe it was because I had a look that "I would kill" all over my face that people just said "eff that".

    This looks great... sorry about the snow... hope you did good on your exam.

  • drstel said...

    cute name too, pazzo rollo!

    what a very interesting read...i'm eager to try the vending machine pizza at least.

    and also to serve this to the kiddies..they've said no to Pinoy spaghetti though, even when i appealed to their sense of cultural identity :)
    i'll plant the idea in their minds anyway!

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Teanna - Thank you! It is rather amazing that the pizza machine originated in Italy (and that coffee vending machines are so popular). I don't think pizzaiolis have anything to worry about!

    Veggie Belly - Thank you for stopping by! Your blog is so incredibly informative and varied, and you photography is beyond outstanding. I really enjoyed the almond hot chocolate and Jamaican-style kale and white bean patties, both of which I'd love to try!

    Sarah - Thankfully, the weather is finally starting to warm up and our spring snowfall has melted!

    Jacoba - Thank you for your kind comments! I honestly don't believe that even tourists will go for these machines as many of them travel specifically to be able to say that they've eaten 'real' Italian food or experienced the real Italy. These machines pose no threat to pizzerias but it is a little disheartening that all this effort in technological innovation is being used for such novelties.

    Jackie - Thank you (although the idea belongs wholly to Focaccia restaurant)! I just stopped in at your site and will be back - there were so many incredible recipes that I had to stop b/c I was starting to get so hungry! But I've already bookmarked the cassava cake and sable recipes. Thanks for coming by!

    SoCal Pastry Chef - Thank you! The snow has melted and with any luck, I will get my score back tomorrow. And since I stayed home to study, I wasn't victimized (unless you count the dog whining constantly to be let out while I was trying to concentrate!)

    Bang - Please do and let me know what you think! We were there for my cousins bridal shower so my mother had already pre-ordered the rolls but she also had them bring a creamy, alfredo-style pasta - so delicious!

    drstel - When I first had them at Focaccia, I didn't know what they were called but the name definitely suits! And although I do think the machines aren't a great idea, I admit to wanting to try it before I make a final judgment (okay, I'm just really, really curious!)

    As for Pinoy spaghetti, they'll come around! I loved it as a kid, then thought it was awful and now I crave it again (for sentimental reasons). 8-)

    Joie - Mwah! Merci, ma chere amie!

 

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