Culinary no-no began on Father’s Day 2007, a beautiful summer day, when I wrote about grilling brats. And eating brats. And topping those brats. I was inspired by my wife, Jennifer who, in my admittedly unscientific opinion, ruins brats by squirting ketchup on them. Other dining taboos quickly came to mind. The original idea was to take this concept only a few months, till the end of summer and then pull the plug. Then the unexpected happened. People started reading Culinary no-no. Lots of folks. So we keep doing the no-no.
This week’s topic is…
Photo: Maria’s, Milwaukee
There are two important components to this week’s no-no, and they’re tied together.
First, interesting nugget according to PMQ Pizza Magazine’s Pizza Power Report 2020:
Pizza chains are growing their sales while independent pizzerias struggle a bit.
“Independents still lead the chains in total number of units nationwide, but CHD Expert says that lead is shrinking. The chains saw their number of units rise to 36,151 (from the 2018 total of 34,967), while independents lost a little bit of ground with a total of 41,573 stores (compared to 42,026 in the previous year).
“The worse news for independents, as CHD Expert reports, is that they continue to lag behind the chains in total sales. Independents saw their sales drop by 1.33%, from $18,780,796,296.57 for the previous year ending September 2018 to $18,531,653,875.99 for the same period in 2019. As in years past, the pizza chains showed some growth, from $26,952,859,714.50 in the previous year to this year’s total of $27,806,315,514.43, an increase of 3.17%.”
Personally, I prefer pizza from an independent than any chain. For example, I definitely would dine at Zapapizza in Portland, Oregon.
But I can’t. Why not? I’m not going to be in Portland anytime soon. And besides, the restaurant recently closed. Despite a unique menu and concept the pizzeria sadly closed after just five months.
Zapapizza quickly became known for going beyond the customary taco pizza by topping its pies with taquitos, chilaquiles and other traditional Mexican dishes.
Taquitos on a pizza (above). A taquito is a Mexican dish consisting of a small tortilla that is rolled around a filling of meat and cheese and then deep-fried.
Chile relleno pie. Chiles rellenos are a traditional Mexican dish made of roasted poblano chiles stuffed with Oaxaca cheese, dipped in an egg batter and fried, then covered with a rich salsa roja
Taquito Mexican Pan Pizza: cheese, green sauce, sour cream, avocado salsa, cilantro, pico…and a potato & cheese taquito PER SLICE.
This past week Zapapizza owner Nick Zukin was downhearted when he wrote on the restaurant’s Facebook page:
“It’s funny because I was in knots all day yesterday knowing I would have to tell the staff we would be closing — telling them they would no longer have a job. I woke up at 4am unable to sleep. I had a headache and was on the edge of tears the entire day. But the first person I told, Christopher, gave me a big hug and said he was sorry — for me. Most of the rest of the staff was asking if I was okay and was worried for me after I told them. It was very humbling. It also makes me even more ashamed that I failed them.
“Harrison said, ‘It’s not your fault,’ but it is. There are things that definitely made success harder, from city red tape and fees to a contractor that took 6 months longer than he should have and cost me most of my cash reserves. But ultimately, we just never had enough business and that’s on me. I chose to serve a food that downtown lunchers weren’t really interested in. I chose too big a space for a new restaurant serving something unusual. It’s on me. Entirely.”
Zukin also offered some advice to patrons and consumers.
“Don’t order from Caviar or Postmates or Grubhub. Go out to a small restaurant that can’t afford a brand manager or PR firm. Find a place where the chef cooks what he loves, where they want to share something meaningful to them with you. Order the dish you’ve never heard of, that’s not on the menu because it sells, but because it’s too dear to the chef to remove it. Let yourself be educated. Let your palate learn and explore. Understand how much care and passion and hope and pain goes into your meal whether it’s a chef with a dream or an immigrant family trying to eek out a better life for their kids.”
In short, skip the chains.
BTW, Zukin operates another restaurant in Portland.
CULINARY NO- NO BONUSES
The Journal Sentinel tried take-and-bake pizza from Piggly Wiggly, Kwik Trip and four other stores. The verdict for these Wisconsinites? Cheesy is better.
ICYMI, Culinary no-no #641