Pizza is more than just pizza for Anthony Giordano, owner of Anna’s Vesuvian mobile pizza trailer. It’s an edible symbol of cultures colliding to create something incredibly delicious. And even though his family is from Naples, Italy, he says we shouldn’t just credit Italians for creating pizza.
There’s a pizza on his menu that’s topped with Middle Eastern zaatar spices, and this pie is symbolic of what pizza means to him.
“Pizza is Arabic,” he says with conviction. And that’s something to think about.
“It is an itinerant Bedouin Arab food that has come to the east… There is a bread called khubz which is an Arabic bread made with a starter,” he says. “There are pizzas that look like the pizzas we eat here, except you may have seen them at Piemonte.”
He explains how he studied archaeological anthropology in college to learn more about the origins of ingredients and culture. “Tomatoes don’t come from Europe. They come from the new world, more precisely from South America,” he says. “People have been putting something on Arabic sourdough bread for millennia, for 10,000 years. It’s not something people talk about and it’s something that motivates me every day. I fight for the truth.
While he includes za-atar on a pizza, the rest of his stunning wood-fired pies focus on local ingredients. One could try to classify it as Neapolitan in style, but that’s not the case, as Giordano takes his own spin on things using farm and locally made produce. flower of latte Connecticut cheese to top their pizzas, just as Italian chefs tap into what’s available around them to create the simplest and tastiest dishes.
Pizza is a form of self-expression. “The most important thing is that food and cooking for me is the only non-verbal activity I do that really expresses how I feel; If I’m sad, if I’m happy,” says Giordano. “I think about things every day and I have to restrain myself from putting things on my menu because it’s too much.”
Giordano draws on his gastronomic background and models his culinary skills after the way food is presented in Italy, using simple ingredients gathered nearby. The company is named after his grandmother, Anna, who came from Corbara, a small Italian village near Vesuvius, where the famous San Marzano tomatoes grow that make Naples synonymous with Neapolitan pizza. “My grandparents emigrated here from Naples in 1918,” he says. “My grandmother, Anna – whose name was actually nanianelle but no one could pronounce it – was an incredibly progressive woman in her 20s, 30s and 40s in Brooklyn.
Giordano recounts how his grandmother spoke English, Italian, and Yiddish, and would help other Italian immigrants find their way to New York by helping translate the languages. It all started around a Brooklyn pizzeria, Totonno’s Pizzeria in Coney Island, where Giordano says he spent a lot of time as a kid growing up with his five siblings, including two sets of twins, two older brothers and two younger sisters, as well as another little brother.
“The original pizza maker and owner didn’t speak English. My grandma brought Anthony to the downtown Brooklyn office and got him his license,” Giordano says. “From then on, that’s where my parents got pizza. It’s absolutely one of the most influential things in my life.
Giordano spent time shadowing his older brother, who is also a chef, in kitchens in New York City, and grew up loving all things food. His best friends were Palestinians and he loved eating at their place.
“I grew up not with Italians, but with Palestinians,” he says. “They were a huge inspiration in my life because I used to go to their house for dinner and we had all these dishes with lamb and rice and I named one after a friend of mine, my best friend , from Jordan. He brought the za’atar from Jordan, so I made it and finished it with lemon and tomatoes.
When he thinks of the pizza on his menu, he realizes he’s making a cultural statement about his childhood and what he learned growing up. “Pizza is a very non-confrontational medium that allows people to come together and sit down and share something while discussing a topic that to me is very important and underrepresented and underrespected,” says -he.
He credits his team for helping to make the pizza better than it could ever be if he made it alone. “At the end of the day, you can’t improve unless you hire people who are better than you,” he says. annasvesuviano.com