A slice of pizza tradition
American pizza is coming full circle.
When Gennaro Lombardi opened the first U.S. pizzeria in 1905 in New York's Little Italy, he baked his pies in coal-burning ovens - even though most pizza chefs in the home country used wood. Coal was heating most Gotham buildings back then.
Today, a majority of American pizzerias use gas-heated ovens lined with stone, while larger chains utilize electric deck ovens and conveyor belts. But an emerging culture of artisanal cooking and a growing appetite for it have led to a small slice of the industry returning to the old ways.
"Every couple of years, something new comes out that's usually a rediscovery," said John Arena, who teaches a credited class called "The Culture of Pizza" in the hospitality program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Tony Sacco's Coal Oven Pizza opened its first restaurant this summer at Coconut Point in Estero, baking pies briskly in 1,000-degree heat. The company is looking for more locations to expand, including Fort Myers.
In the wood-burning camp, Arizona Pizza has added restaurants in Fort Myers and North Fort Myers since opening its first outlet two years ago in Estero.