A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from July 30, 2004
Pizza
New York claims "pizza" (from Naples, Italy) for the rest of this country and hemisphere. Here are some early citations.

18 February 1866, New York Times, pg. 6:
Recollections of New-York Fifty Years Ago.
BY ONE TO THE MANOR BORN.
NEW-YORK, Wednesday, Jan. 31, 1866.
(...)
You doubt whether in 1815 a tomato was sold or eaten in this city. I am a living witness against the latter portion of your suggestion. I began to eat them some years earlier than 1815, and used to long for their being ripe. But my father and I were the only two members of a large family that would touch them. I remember, about that time, hearing my mother say that the tomato was grown as a curiosity in her father's garden, (he had been long dead,) and that visitors would occasionally say that they understood that the French people sometimes ate them, but it was thought a strange taste.

25 July 1880 Washington Post, pg. 2:
Queen Margaret at Naples.
From the Geneva Gazette.

Queen Margaret is in Naples at the palace of Capediamonte, and a story is related of her which explains the secret of her popularity among the people. A favorite eatable with the Neapolitans is the pizza, a sort of cake beaten flat in a round form, and seasoned with carious condiments. The Queen sent for a pizzaimole, who is famous for his skill in making these cakes, as she said "she wanted to eat likethe poor people." The man went to the palace, was received, and having shown a list of thirty-five varieties of pizza, was sent to the royal kitchen to make the kind which the Queen had selected. He made eight, which were the ideals of their kind, and the little Prince and his mother found them excellent, but to eat as the poor people in Naples eat--that is often not all, and is more than could be expected. But she has visited the poor quarter of Naples, and sympathizes with the misery she sees there.

May 1901, Century Illustrated Magazine, "Breakfast in Naples," pg. 15:
The famous pizzerie of Naples, some of which boast a hundred years of existence, are devoted exclusively to the manufacture and sale of a sort of rustic pie, or short-cake made out of risen dough, sharply beaten till quite thin, and seasoned on top with a great deal of lard, tomatoes, and grated cheese, or, on fast-days, with olive-oil, fresh anchovies, and a touch of garlic. The brisk tapping and slapping of the pizze can be heard a block away, and is as characteristic as the sonorous call of the sellers:"Have some breakfast! Have some breakfast!" You can buy a slice in the street from one of the runners, or, if you prefer, can enter the shop, stand by while your pizza is being vigorously thumped and slapped, can see it cooked in the glowing open oven under the fierce heat of a lateral fire of wood shavings, whisked out on an iron shovel in three minutes' time, and served to you in popular style on a tin plate, all for three cents. Queen Margherita, when she visited Naples, sledom failed to patronize the pizzerie, though not exactly at the stalls, nor yet before the street oven. One of the "ancient" makers was invited to the royal palace at Capodimonte, where she usually resided, and there, in one of the rustic lodges of the domain, he set up his marble slab, hard by the stone oven, and merrily beat his pizze before the interested eyes of the royal dame and her court.

15 December 1902, Fort Wayne (Indiana) Morning Journal-Gazette, pg. 6:
MASCAGNI AND
HIS FAVORITE
DISH, PIZZA
NEAPOLITANA
(By Genie H. Rosenfeld, in "What to Eat.")
(...)
When Mascagni left the sunny skies of Italy and the home of Pizza Neapolitana he knew nothing of the Musical Protective Union, he had also never heard of Pink Eye. He expected to paralyze Americana with "music as she is played" and he never dreamed but that in a country so progressive as America, Pizza Neapolitana was a familiar article.
(...)
Many of his compatriots did not wish to travel so far, but Mascagni said to each of every grumbler:

"Figlio mio, thou shalt see the world, and we will eat our Pizza Neapolitana together upon the American strand."
(...)
All through the length and breadth of New York City he sought his Pizza but no one knew it. When he sought out some of his old friends who had emigrated ahead of him, he found that they had all become naturalized for election purposes, and to prevent any suspicion on the part of Supt. McCullagh had taken to eating corn beef, hash and scrapple.
(...)
As a matter of fact his yearning was so great that he did go to the edge of the ditch and cry aloud, "Pizza Neapolitana," and though his compatriots came swarming up the ladders in answer to his cry, and strained him to their clayey bosoms. It was only to echo in mournful refrain "New Yorka nou maka pizza!"
Mascagni could have wept.

But his good angel had not deserted him. In his company was Eugenia Mantelli, the famous contralto, and owner of the equally famous recipe for pizza.

Finding the sad state of the Maestro's nerves she hied her up to Fifty-second street were dwell her friend Katherine Evans von Kreaner, Marquise de Pateri. This lady, as behooved one of New York's first singing teachers, had lived long in Italy and knew the trick of using olive oil with the reckless abandon of water without getting bilious afterwards.

To the studio repaired the prima donna contralto, and hastily sending out for a gallon of oil and a bunch of garlic the two ladies proceeded to prepare the lunch to which Mme. Mantelli had bidden the sorrowing Mascagni.

To be sure of correct atmosphere, madame ranged her pupils round the alls of her kitchen and kept them singing the sextette from "Lucia," and selections from really truly Italian masterpieces until the pizza was cooked.

Then they rolled up their sleeves and went at it. The while the diva made puff paste the vocal teacher browned a liberal supply of onions in olive oil, then she stewed truffles in white wine and took lentils which she had already prepared, and warmed them in the broth from the truffles. These three ingredients were then stirred together with some juice of tomato, pepper, salt and a taste of garlic, and as soon as this was ready a quart of cream was added to thicken the mixture.

By this time, Mme. Mantelli had the paste half baked in a large shallow pan, and into this mixture it was poured, a second crust being put on top. While this was baking, the two ladies prepared some rizetti as a side dish.

To make this they took rice and boiled it till it was hard. Italians don't eat the mush we do; they cook their rice in boiling water and in fifteen minutes take it out and put it in the front of the fire to dry; in this way the grain is separate and firm.

After the rice was cooked for the rizetti they added onions fried in olive oil, tomatoes stewed, green peas and fine slices of citron. This was seasoned well with herbs, and as soon as it was well mixed it was put on a platter, a hole scraped in the center and into this was poured a thick sauce made of cream and the liquor of stewed celery.

Hardly was the meal ready when the hungry composer arrived, and his joy over his Pizza Neapolitana, of the flaky crust and the truffles, and the garlic, was pathetic. It was a dish for the gods, he averred, and when washed down with some fine old Chianti the composer was so cheered that he promised to exclude Fifty-second street from the Anathema Marantha he meant to pronounce on America.

Old Fulton NY Post Cards
21 September 1903, The Evening Telegram (New York, NY), "The Cries of War and Festival," pg. 4, col. 4:
Student of the quarter says that pizze cavuie and taraluccio, eaten with beer, are a delicacy in Mulberry street. Wonder if this is the germ of the vendetta and the Blackmailing Brotherhood of the Black Hand?

4 October 1903, Boston (MA) Sunday Journal, sec. 3, pg. 12, cols. 1-2:
"HOT CAKES" IN NORTH STREET
Toothsome Dainties, Favorites of Neapolitan Palates, Are Pizze Cavuie and Taraluccio -- Beer, Not Wine, Therewith.
Scattered throughout North and Prince streets and other portions of the Italian colony where Neapolitans congregate are occasional little shops with the words "Pizze Cavuie" on the windows. The words mean simply "hot cakes" in the Neapolitan dialect. But only a traveler would know that pizze are one of the famous products of Naples, eaten by rich and poor, high and low, and dutifully partaken of by every tourist as one of the features that must be "done" in order to say that one has seen Naples. The devotion of the American race to pie is a poor thing in comparison with that of the Neapolitans for their pizze.
(...)
Making the Cakes.
Behind, two Neapolitan bakers, clothed in white, are baking pizze from morning till night, and almost night till morning. Quantities of dough are kept prepared, made inside fat rolls. The baker takes a roll, and with a few deft slaps flattens it as flat as a pancake, but somewhat thicker and a little larger than an ordinary pie. Then he dabs bits of lard on its surface. Over this he sprinkles grated cheese, from a dish which stands always full beside him. Then he pours on cooked tomato, and on top of that he throws a handful of aregata, the spicy aromatic herb which is such a favorite of Italian seasoning. The cheese used is the Roman, so much employed for culinary purposes. The whole operation has not taken him more than a minute. Then he slaps it on a broad, flat, long-handled paddle, and thrusts it into the furnace oven. In two minutes it is done.

it comes to the table on a big, flat pewter plate. Ordinarily individual plates are not furnished or required, for every true Neapolitan takes his piece pf pizze, folds it over so that the crust is outside, and eats it from the hand. The pastry seems to be a cross between bread dough and pie crust, and is not lacking in suggestions that when cold it might lie somewhat heavily upon the unaccustomed interior. But as a whole the confection is enticing, by reason of its delectable hotness and crispness, and the cunning blend of spicy flavors for which it is renowned. It is probably indigestible, but certainly not more so than Welsh rarebit.

On the walls of the pizze shop are pictures of the King and Queen and of Garibaldi, and also a placard, with which elaborate politeness begs the customer to be so kind as to not be in a hurry, as patience will enable them to be better served, and also have the goodness not to be offended if on Sunday, by reason of the crowd, they are required to pay when they give their order.

A cake of this size is 10 cents, and there are smaller ones for 5 cents. In Naples the price ranges from 10 cents down to a penny for little ones containing only a good-sized mouthful. A favorite cry for them at the doors of the bakeries in Naples is "Ca'pummarola e alice," which is dialect for "With tomatoes and anchovy," some of them made with anchovy there, though the fish is never added here. Men may sometimes be seen on the streets, particularly on feast days, carrying trays of hotcakes fresh from the bakeshops, and crying "pizzelle." These are merely the baked dough, however, without any of the added ingredients which make the pizze so succulent a morsel.

6 December 1903, New York (NY) Tribune, supplement, pg. 5:
Pie has usually been considered a Yankee dish exclusively, but apparently the Italian has invented a kind of pie. The "pomidoro pizza," or tomato pie, is made in this fashion. Take a lump of dough, and, under a roller, flatten it out until it is only an inch thick. On this scatter tomatoes and season plentifully with powdered red pepper. Then bake the compound. "Salami pizza," or blogna pie, is made with this under layer of dough and a combination of tomatoes, cheese, red peppers and bologna. To use a slang expression, this might be said to be a "red hot" combination.

Chronicling America
18 June 1905, The Sun (New York, NY), sec. 3, pg. 5, col. 3:
Ever Eaten Pizze Cavuie or Tried Tarallucci?
"Let us go and get pizze cavuie," said the Dago.
(...)
"Don't be so eloquent," said his companion. "What's pizze - oizza - what did you call them?"

"Come and see," said the Dago. "There are only two places in New York where you can get real genuine Neapolitan pizze. One is on Spring street, and one on Grand. All the rest are Americanized substitutes."

They took a surface car downtown, transferred to a horse car, and jogged placidly eastward to the Spring street pizze shop. On the window were the cabalistic words: "Pizze Cavuie," and the window itself was piled high with Italian cheeses.

Within was a long, black table, covered with a bright green oilcloth and bounded by long black benches. Along one side of the room ran a row of little private stalls, about the size of theater boxes, with partitions of black wood between, and a black table and twop black benches in each.

"It's something to eat," said the woman, "but what is it?"

"If you had ever been in Naples," said the Dago, "you would know pizze cavuie. Every tourist is bound to taste them as one of the features of the city."

Back of the railing, which cut the shop in two in the middle, stood two Neapolitan bakers. They were clothed in white, with white caps upon their heads, and they had fat rolls of white dough. A broad shelf ran along behind the railing, and the woman watched the baker make her pizze on this shelf.

He took one of the fat rolls and with a few slaps on the shelf flattened it until it was a liottle thicker than a pancake and a little larger than ordinary pie. After it was flattened he dabbed bits of lard all over the surface. Then he sprinkled it all over with grated Roman cheese, from a dishful, which stoof beside him. THen he poured on cooked tomato, and on top threw a handful of aregata, the spicy, aromatic herb, which is a favorite Italian seasoning.

The whole operation had not taken him more than a minute. THen he slapped it on a broad, flat, long-handled paddle, and thrust it into an oven beside him. In two minutes he pulled it out, and sent it ot the table on a big, round pewter plate. Also he sent individual plates - this in deference to American patronage.

The pastry seemed to be a cross betreen bread dough and pie crust, and was not lacking in suggestions that when cold it might lie with some heaviness in an unaccustomed interior. Nevertheless, it was enticing by reason of its hotness and crispness and the cunning blend of spicy flavors.

"Pizze Cavuie,'" said her escort, "means simply 'hot cakes.' You won't find the words in the dictionary, because they aren't Italian, but Neapolitan dialect. In Naples they sell little fellows on the street for a cent apiece. A favorite cry for them at the doors of the bakeries in Naples is 'Ca pummarola e alice,' which is dialect for 'with tomatoes and anchovy.' They make some of them with anchovy over there, but I never saw any in New York."

As they strolled away from the pizze shop the Dago stopped the woman before the window of a little bakery.

Google Books
January 1906, Century Illustrated Magazine, "The Olive-Vendor," pg. 432:
Then came Lucia Pacini, daughter of Paolo Pacini, who kept the pizze cavui shop in Mott Street. (...) "I have come for some cheese," murmured Lucia, with downcast eyes, as she tendered Pius a small silver piece. "And let it be as much for the money as you can make it, for summer is not a good time for pizze cakes and business is poor with us." (...)
Already a sign, "To Let," adorned the front door of the pizze cavui shop.

12 March 1908, Kansas City (MO) Star, pg. 11:
NEAPOLITAN DAINTIES.
Made in Mulberry Street After Recipes
Found in Pompeii Excavation.
From What-to-Eat for March.

Scattered through Mott and Mulberry street and other portions of the Italian colony where Neapolitans congregate in New York, are occasional little shops with the words "Pizze Cavuie" on the windows. The words mean simply "hot cakes" in the Neapolitan dialect. A visit to one of these reveals a window piled so high with great round Italian cheeses that the interior is invisible. Entering, one sees a long table covered with brown oil-cloth and bounded by long black benches. One side of the room is lined with little private supper rooms, about the size of theater boxes, partitioned off with black wood. Each is filled with a party of men, peacefully dining on pizze. A bright tin bucket of beer is in the center of the table, and passes from lip to lip without the formality of glasses. The shop does not sell beer. When a man gives his order he takes a bucket from a stack provided for the purpose, and goes to a neighboring line for his beer. By the time he gets back his order is ready, for the pizze cook quickly.

In behind, two Neapolitan bakers, clothed in white, are baking pizze from morning till night, and almost from night till morning. Quantities of dough are kept prepared, made in fat rolls. The baker takes a roll, and with a few deft slaps flattens it as flat as a pancake, but somewhat thicker and a little larger than an ordinary pie. Then he dabs bits of lard on its surface. Over this he sprinkles grated cheese, from a dish which stands always full beside him. Then he pours on cooked tomato, and on top throws a handful of aregata, the spicy aromatic herb which is such a favorite Italian seasoning. The cheese used is the Roman, so much employed for culinary purposes. The whole operation has not taken him more than a minute. Then he slaps it on a bread, flat, long-handled paddle, and thrusts it into the furnace oven. In two minutes it is done.

It comes to the table on a big, flat pewter plate. Ordinarily individual plates are not furnished or required, for every true Neapolitan takes his piece of pizze, folds it over so that the crust is outside, and eats it from the hand. The pastry seems to be a cross between bread dough and pie crust, and is not lacking in suggestions that when cold it might be somewhat heavily upon an unaccustomed interior. But as a whole the confection is enticing, by reason of its delectable hotness and crispness ,and the cunning blend of spicy flavors for which it is renowned. It is probably indigestible, but certainly not more so than Welsh rarebit.
Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Friday, July 30, 2004 • Permalink