Happy Easter! I hope you are with the people you love today, eating chocolates, ham and laughing a lot.
Every year around this time, Anthony starts getting excited because it is time to make Pizza Gain. Pizza what? is what people ask when I start to explain Anthony’s Easter tradition to them.
Pizza Gain is an Italian Easter pie, of sorts. It’s kind of like a giant (and that’s no exaggeration, it is unbelievably large) calzone, without marinara sauce. And with an extreme amount of cheese, eggs and meats in it.
I love the tradition and ritual of it all. And I really love watching Anthony when he makes it. He gets so excited, he woke up yesterday and the first thing he rolled over and said was “do you want to go downstairs and have some Pizza Gain?” Uh, no. “Are you sure you don’t like it?” He and his Mom had approximately 5 conversations on the phone about the Pizza Gain – when was he making it? Was she going to make it? Why was her dough so dry? How much Ricotta (pronounced Ri-Goat) did he use? Hers didn’t come out, so Anthony won the ultimate victory, at least in his eyes, of who made the best Pizza Gain this year.
One of Anthony’s best qualities is that he never gives up. Especially when he’s trying to get you to eat something he has made. My family never liked Pizza Gain, except for my Dad. My Dad has loved eating hospital food at every hospital he’s ever worked at. He also loves things like sardines and liver and onions. You catch my drift here? Yet every Easter, Anthony would offer it to every single person in my family, only to be turned down, every single time.
Last year Anthony tried to convert our neighbors to Pizza Gain lovers, but he was not successful. They told him in the most polite way possible that they didn’t really care for it. He could not and still cannot believe that they don’t like it. He is dumbfounded by the fact that I still don’t like it, and after 15 years I probably should have broken down by now and started eating it. But it’s just not my thing. I think Pizza Gain is something that’s nostalgic and one of those foods that you grow up eating and loving. Maybe not because of the taste so much at first, but because it’s just what you’re supposed to do.
Yesterday morning as I was scrolling through my Instagram feed, I stopped dead at a picture of – what? Is that? No, it can’t be. This was Saveur, a fancy food and wine magazine. But yes it was, a picture of Pizza Gain and a link in their bio to a story all about it. I was so excited for Anthony, it was pretty cool to think about all of the other people who were participating in the same tradition as him this week.
I never understood what the name meant, and according to this article, Pizza Gain comes from Naples – Anthony is part Neopolitan (pronounced Na-Ba-li-DON), and the recipe varies from family to family as well as from village to village. In Italy it’s called Pizza Chiena. But it always includes lots of meats – prosciutto, sopressata, capicola, lots of eggs – at least a dozen, and lots of cheeses – ricotta, mozzarella, provolone or something called Italian basket cheese. The dough is peppery and brushed with egg yolks, giving it a gorgeous golden color.
As soon as it’s out of the oven, Anthony’s next move is to
force encourage everyone around him to eat it. And it’s not an easy sell. At least not to anyone other than an Italian. It smells great, looks crazy and makes Anthony and some people in his family extremely happy.