Long Story Short: The comparison edition
Photo by kc kratt.
Pizza vs. pizza
Arthur Bovino is a Queens-born, Long Island and Hong Kong-raised Manhattanite, and a graduate of New York City's International Culinary Institute. He has a string of writing and media accomplishments too long and prestigious to list.
Bonivo has this to say about Buffalo-style pizza: “I’m in love. Buffalo serves some awesome pizza.” In fact, the title of a recent Daily Beast article, in which he makes this statement is, Is America’s Pizza Capital Buffalo, New York? It’s basically a promotional article for his book, Buffalo Everything: A Guide to Eating in "The Nickel City" (Countryman Know How), which is something of an antidote to food snobs who believe the only rating that matters is a Michelin star.
According to Visit Buffalo Niagara, there are more than 600 pizzerias in Buffalo and its surrounding urban area. If you look hard enough, you can find other types of pizza in Buffalo (not to mention franchise pizzerias), but there is a classic Nickel City style that we’re all familiar with (think Bocce or La Nova). Bovino considers “cup-and-char pepperoni” pizza to be the baseline Buffalo pie. And he compares this favorably to the best-known alternatives in New York and Chicago.
There are New York City pizza elitists (many attending college in Buffalo), who claim ours is not “true” pizza, and that NYC style is the original. That would be a faulty comparison, because the history of pizza actually stretches back to antiquity. The word itself goes back to 997 A.D. But the modern tomato-based version was invented in Naples Italy, in the early eighteen-hundreds. The Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana ("True Neapolitan Pizza Association"), sets the rules for an authentic Neapolitan pizza. It’s not like New York’s or Buffalo’s, and Chicago deep dish is a distant relative at best.
True Neapolitan pizza can’t be bigger than thirty-five centimeters (just under fourteen inches) in diameter or more than one-third of a centimeter (just over a tenth of an inch) thick at the center. Purists believe there are only two true Neapolitan pizzas—the marinara (tomato, oregano, garlic, and extra virgin olive oil) and the margherita (tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil). This pizza has a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status from the European Union, meaning you can’t call anything else “Naples-style” pizza, (aka “real” pizza).
Pizza in the US
The pizzas that came to New York City’s Lombardi’s restaurant in 1905, along with an influx of Italian immigrants, were called tomato pies and were considered peasant food at the time. In fact, the reason tomato became a basic pizza topping in Naples is because when the fruit first made its way to Italy from the US, it was thought to be poison. Italian reluctance to embrace the plant made it cheap, so it was affordable to the poor. In America, as in Italy, pizza was looked down upon by food critics, until sometime after gaining popularity among US servicemen serving in Italy. Even Dwight D. Eisenhower returned with an appetite for the food. Once it became popular here, it gained wide acceptance in Italy, like other American fads.
By this time, the term pizza in the US applied to any wheat-based crust with some sort of topping—a return to its ancient origins.
“Italian” pizza comes to Wegmans
Wegmans supermarkets recently changed its pizza recipe from New York style, to something they are touting as Authentic Italian Pizza. Why is it called that? Because the dough is made from Italian flour. I’ve eaten pizza in several Italian cities, and believe me, what Wegmans is selling is not what they eat in Italy, regardless of where the wheat is grown. Then what is it you ask? It’s Buffalo-style, and Wegmans should be proud of that.
Remember when you were a child, and you said, “Mommy, look how high I can jump?” Yeah, me neither, but I imagine I said it at some point. More recently I took my granddaughter to the Buffalo History Museum, where they have a display that allows you to compare your jumping ability to that of famous Buffalonians.
They just might have to add another marker and name.
The new champ
Former University at Buffalo football player, Chris Spell, just set the standing jump world record at 64.125 inches high. As a point of comparison, this guy could meet my five-foot four-inch wife and leap up onto her head—and stick the landing. Though, just to be clear, this would not count for the record. Guinness World Records requires the landing surface to be completely flat, with enough surface area to accommodate both feet. Plus, it must be fixed and immovable, and I’m positive my wife wouldn’t go for that.
An architect and two law enforcement officers were on hand to confirm and verify the jump, and Spell’s girlfriend, Anna Kelly, made a video for Guinness. For good measure, after making the jump, Spell did a backflip for the cheering spectators. Tuesday, Spell got word from the record authorities, that he had the world record.
Buffalo’s talking proud, comparatively speaking
For a long time, Buffalo was compared unfavorably to other cities. You’d hear, “Look what Pittsburgh has done.” Or, “Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Grand Rapids all use the arts as an economic development tool; why can’t we?” (Still a good question.) You might even hear, “Buffalo should be more like Katowice Poland (if you’ve never considered this, you should).”
Buffalo shines in the sunshine state
Finally, there is a city that appreciatively compares itself to Buffalo, and it’s from the sun belt! The Jacksonville, Florida chamber of commerce is asking, “Why can’t we be more like Buffalo?” Representatives from that city came here last week to learn how to do just that.
Jacksonville wants more people to live in its downtown. Buffalo’s downtown population grew fifteen percent over five years, so the Jacksonville chamber is exploring how Buffalo converts older buildings into residential properties. Jacksonville would like a medical sector like Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, and it has a waterfront that could use some sprucing-up, so the medical corridor and Canalside were on its must-see list.
Jacksonville also wants to improve its school system (hint to Jacksonville: a good start would be to stop teaching “Evidence of a Flood,” “Evidence against Evolution,” and ”The Evolution of Man: A Mistaken Belief” in your science classes). What it doesn't need to learn from Buffalo is how to have a strong economy. Jacksonville is booming. So hopefully our leaders are learning how to do that from them.
Still talking proud
Bringing Jacksonville reps here was the idea of native Buffalonian Brian Wolfburg, who now runs a highly successful Jacksonville credit union, after working for several banks here in Buffalo. Of course, local officials are thrilled to be compared favorably to another city, so they went all out to impress our southern friends. We’re talking city bus tour, river history tour, and downtown walking tour, with stops at all the usual sites, including Larkinville, the theater district, and, of course, Anchor Bar, as well as a developer panel discussion with Douglas Jemal, Paul Ciminelli, and Rocco Termini.
Orchard Park rolls up red carpet, rolls out red tape
What’s the cost of a permit to film a movie? Let’s compare:
• Los Angeles – for $699 you can film in as many as ten locations, over a two week period. Student projects cost $25.
• New York City – perhaps the most filmed metropolis in history, $300 per film.
• Toronto – the stand-in for New York in many movies, free.
• Rochester: $70 application fee.
• Orchard Park: $500 to $4,000 per day; depending on public impact.
Yes. Thanks to a hastily-written law created when the movie A Quiet Place 2 requested a permit to film in Orchard Park, it can now cost more than thirteen times the price of filming in New York City to make a movie there. Village of Orchard Park leaders say the fees will protect taxpayers' interests.
In a recent WBFO interview, Tim Clark, of the Buffalo Niagara Film Commission (BNFC), said that the village did not consult his organization in creating the law, and he points out that the fees could have far-reaching effects. It’s not just big-budget Hollywood studio movies that will be impacted. TV commercials, low budget independent films, even wedding videographers must pay a fee as the new law is written. This includes filming on private property! So, to make a movie in your backyard, you need a permit costing at least $500 dollars each day you film. A car dealer would need a permit to make a commercial on the lot. Clark says that when a planned Christmas-themed movie recently scouted the area for locations, BNFC didn’t even show them Orchard Park.
The local movie industry—and it has developed to the point where it can truly be called an industry—is not pleased. To them, the fees look like a money grab, and they hope the trend doesn’t spread. Orchard Park officials say they don’t want to pay village employees to assist with a film at taxpayers’ expense. There are costs associated with filmmaking, and all they’re just trying to do is break even.
Yes, they actually said that.
Benefits outweigh costs
A Buffalo News article from last year titled Buffalo’s film production renaissance pays off, describes the many economic benefits of bringing filmmaking to the region. The returns far outweigh costs. Big productions spend enormous sums of money where they film. New York State tax breaks make filming in Western New York attractive. But Orchard Park’s fees make it impossible for small productions, unattractive to larger ones, and devastating for the poor wedding couple who just want to record their nuptials. From published reports, it seems it was rushed through because the village was not sure what expenses it would incur while Paramount filmed A Quiet Place 2. Whether the village consistently enforces the law going forward, or changes it, is yet to be seen.
Another quick comparison
In nearby Olcott, residents of Ontario Street were paid $500 each not to cut their lawns for a few weeks and to keep their cars hidden and lights off for a few evenings of filming A Quiet Place 2.
Compare that to Dyersville Iowa in 1988, where there was a forced blackout of the entire town—which included baseball parks and the local train—while 1500 cars drove up a road for the movie Field of Dreams.
Long Story Short is an opinion column by artist and educator Bruce Adams, a longtime contributor to Buffalo Spree.
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