I just got back from a 10-day vacation in the Orlando, Florida area. As I do every time I go away, I did some pizza research ahead of time.
As it turned out, I only had pizza once, from Bruno's in Kissimmee. It came very highly rated online, for its NY style pizza.
My family, our hosts and I shared a cheese pizza and a meat lovers' pie. They were good, but not exceptionally good. I'm not going to review Bruno's pizza, because this is a Rochester pizza blog. But it got me thinking.
Many areas of the country don't have much if any of an indigenous pizza culture. I can't say that I even scratched the surface of Florida, or for that matter Orlando-area pizza, after just this one experience, but from what I saw, most of the pizza around there seemed to be an attempted version of an established style. New York style was especially prevalent, which is hardly surprising, considering the number of transplants and tourists that make up the local customer base. And there were the now-usual wood-fired places, and generic American pizza, a la Papa DominoHut.
Again, no surprise. Much of Florida's economy is based on tourism, and the tourists aren't coming to see or experience anything authentically Floridian. They're coming to see fake Bavarian castles, fake lagoons, and fake movie sets. (I was particularly bemused by the Harry Potter section of Universal Studios, part of which is supposed to look like London, as it appears in the HP movies. It was, then, an imitation of an imitation.)
And - based on my extremely limited experience - so it is, mostly, with pizza. I didn't run across any place in Florida, either through my online research or my travels, that made me want to go there to find some hidden nugget of genuinely local pizza.
I'm not saying that such places in Florida don't exist. Maybe they do. My point is, this trip made me appreciate our local pizza culture. Yes, I often report on the latest wood-fired pizzeria, and I return time and again to our local New York-style pizzerias (which benefit from our relative proximity to NYC), but what I love most about the pizza around here is its diversity, and the fact that we do have a local style of pizza, with roots going back many decades. I'll keep that in mind next time I bite into a nice thick, chewy slice of local pizza. It's good to be home.