Books for Cooks
Albert Grande

Book offers pizza picks

Ed Levine takes his pizza seriously. He consumed more than a thousand slices in 12 months, in 20 states and several countries. The result of this journey, "Pizza: A Slice of Heaven," is a volume dedicated to America's favorite food.

"Pizza: A Slice of Heaven"

By Ed Levine

(Universe Publishing, 2005,
paperback, 367 pages, $24.95)

Levine reviews all manner of pizza and pizzerias. He tries the fantastic as well as the mediocre. There are adventurous tales filled with pizza obsession, heartbreak and enlightenment. You will even find a cure for the dreaded "pizza burn." (This occurs when searing hot cheese meets the unprotected roof of your mouth.) He also includes a pizza recipe for the home cook.

His focus, though, is on pizza so memorable that his heart pounds just thinking about it. Levine has developed his own rubric for rating pizza. He notes the criterion is the fuel source, oven, crust, mozzarella, sauce and balance. Ed Levine has done his homework.

Levine is very straightforward about his pizza picks. He is a New Yorker, and his choices have a New York spin. He feels (as many New Yorkers do) that New York is the center of the pizza universe. He is not a pizza elitist, however.

He acknowledges that New Haven, Conn., home of legendary pizzerias Pepe's and Sally's Apizza, has some of the best pizza in America. He also searches Italy, Boston, Chicago, the Midwest, South, Southwest, West Coast and South America. He takes a stab at Bar Pizza, Frozen Pizza, Chain Pizza and Internet Pizza.

Levine rates Hawaii pizza, by enlisting the assistance of Joan Namkoong and John Heckathorn from Honolulu Magazine. As part of their research, they ordered 14 pizzas from Kahala to Mapunupuna and brought them back to their office for a pizza party.

After a blind-test side-by-side comparison, one pizza came out on top: Antonio's New York Pizzeria, in Kahala. Owners (and cousins) Anthony Romano and Joe Tramantano are transplanted from Connecticut, carrying on the thin-crust pizza tradition in Hawaii.

This is a wonderful book for anyone who ever enjoyed a pizza. Levine does not sugarcoat any of his reviews or recommendations. The book is totally opinionated, and therein lies its charm. Levine is already braced for controversy and asks readers to contact him with additional suggestions for future editions.

Albert Grande is a teacher at Waialua High and Intermediate School and owner of the pizzatherapy.com Web site, which is mentioned in "Pizza: A Slice of Heaven."

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