by Dick Cami
Dick is the author of the Peppermint Twist: The Mob, the Music, and the Most Famous Dance Club of the '60s .
He was generous to include an excerpt of his book that never made it into the final copy of the book:
The Best Pizza
(A 1940 Story From the Bronx)
Scatsy had a will-e (Italian dialect for desire) for pizza and knew there was a good pizzeria up in Mt. Vernon by 4th Ave.
So he decided to go there and take Bozo with him.
“Hey Bozo, let’s go up to Mt. Vernon and grab a pizza.”
“Why are we going up there?” Bozo asked.
“Because they make the best pizza,” Scatsy replied.
They walked into the little pizzeria, a storefront that only sat about twenty people in rows of booths.
At the end was a counter that fronted a large coal burning pizza oven.
“You know every time you ate something that you thought was really
great, you were starving,” Scatsy said. “That holds true most of the
time, except for Georgie Blair...
“Who?” Bozo asked.
“Ah, shut up and order” Scatsy growled.
A large elderly lady waddled over to the table to take their order. Her eyes lit up when she saw Scatsy and greeted him with wide opened arms.
“Scatsy,” She yelled. “Figlio mio, I’ve been thinking
about you, where you been?”
Scatsy who was only about five foot one stood up to greet her; his head came up to the middle of her oversized chest.
She grabbed and pulled himforward jamming him in and all you could see was the top of his head. She swayed back and forth as
Scatsy helplessly held on.
Finally she released him and took the order then retreated to the kitchen.
“Holy mackerel,” Bozo exclaimed, “ You’re lucky you weren't suffocated, I thought you were a goner.”
“Let me tell you about this joint” Scatsy said “ They make one
a the best pizza’s anywhere.”
“How come?” Bozo inquired.
“Because they know what they’re doing. When you make a pizza, you just
don’t throw everything on top and bake it...you mama-luke you.”
“Oh! I didn’t know,” Bozo replied.
“First of all, the most important thing is when you’re making a pizza is you need great dough. You gotta use Hi-Gluten flour, nothing else works.
I don’t care what they say. Next the right combination of yeast, water and sugar is the most important thing...also did you
ever order a pizza and the dough tasted like cardboard heavy as a rock? Whatta they know? You can’t blame em, most
people makin’ a pizza don’t know nuttin.”
Scatsy then embarked on a long dissertation on ‘how to make a great pizza’. Bozo was astonished that he knew so much about the subject.
“Now the cheese,” Scatsy said. “Nothing’s more important then this. Whatta you think you can use any mozzarella? Whatsa matta which you?
gotta use the right one, not one that has a lot of oil in it. That cheese burns up right away and leaves you with nuttin but a greasy tastin’ pizza.
You know what I mean? You gotta get a mozzarella cheese
that has a very high fat content, remember stupidhead, that fat tastes
Bozo sat there taking it all in afraid to interrupt, nodding and shaking his head in agreement as Scatsy continued commenting,
“The pizza sauce, this is the number one thing, with out this, you got nuttin. Most people make a pizza sauce that’s
overcooked and loaded with oregano.
Ma dawn, the agida alone will kill you. That’s a big mistake; I don’t know what’s the matter with them?
You need a beautiful light tomato sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes from Italy...forget about any other tomato...
and you can’t put too much on the dough either, just spread a little around nice and even...then you sprinkle just a
little oregano over the sauce.
Listen to me, now I'm gonna tell you what the most
important thing is about making a pizza.”
Bozo looked at Scatsy and wondered, how many most important things can there be about making a pizza?
He already hit me with about four
or five and they were all the most important.
“After you stretch out the dough, ” Scatsy continued. “And before you put
anything on it you have to put it in the oven first, just for a few seconds or so until the dough gets a little skin on it,
now you take it outta the oven and brush it with a combination of olive oil, garlic powder and salt...mixed up good.
Now don't forget the salt, you know
what I mean? You’ll need that for the taste. Hey, are you listening?
“Yeah,” Bozo jolted to an answer. “Of course, I’m listening.”
“Now after you paint the top of the pizza dough with that mixture, you
put a little sauce around, spread it
nice and even
like I was telling you
Scatsy went on. “Now the Mozzarella. With your hands tear little
pieces off the ball and spread it around over the sauce, not too
You hear what I’m saying you mope ya? Scatsy’s voice grew louder. “Parmigiano cheese is the greatest cheese in the world...
only Reggiano Parmigiano imported from Italy of course,” he repeated.
Bozo sat up in the booth, “Yeah. Yeah. I’m with you, I’m right here, Parmigiano cheese.”
“Parmigiano cheese is the most important thing,” Scatsy continued.
“Because there’s no cheese that cooks like it, you sprinkle a little around on top of everything.
Now here’s the most important touch of all...fresh basil. You gotta tear it up with your hands and put the pieces around even over the pie.
If I ever hear that you were cuttin’ the basil with a knife...I’ll stick this fork in your eye...always tear the basil by hand...you hear what I’m sayin’?
“All right...all right,” Bozo echoed.
Now you put the pie back in the oven and the very most important thing of all is that you make sure you
keep turning the pie around so it cooks even, those coal ovens are hot, and they need just a couple minutes to cook the pie.
As if timed by magic, the elderly lady approached the table with a big
pie and placed it on the table between them. The smell of the fresh baked pizza filled the booth and brought a wide-eyed wonderful
smile to Scatsy’s face.
“You see what I mean, look at this pizza, this is what I’m talking
Am I right? This is a masterpiece, ain’t it beautiful? Remember what I told you...in pizza making, less is better.
The old grease balls had
it right; the new guys want to load it up with a ton a stuff. Forgetaboutit. Less is better.”
Scatsy leaned over and put a slice of pizza on his plate and yelled out to
the old lady “Give us another pitcher of beer” then turned back to Bozo, stuck his chin out and said.
“What did you do, drink the whole
pitcher? I only had a glass.”
“I don’t know, I just had a glass to,” Bozo cocked his head, then reached out
for a slice of pizza folded it over and started to eat it. “Let’s see, what you’re talking about,” Bozo said.
After tasting it, “Hmm,” Bozo said. “Wow...you’re right. This is
Scatsy curled up his lips, “Ah…whatta you know about makin’ a pizza anyway.”
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