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The world's most popular food? Pizza!!
January 25, 2010
By Peter J. Genovese
Devan Moriarty, along with rest of the world, is crazy about pizza.
The two-year-old insists that her dad, Sean, play Charlotte Diamond’s “I am A Pizza’’ whenever they get into the car. It may be two-plus minutes of silliness (“I am a pizza/with extra cheese/plum tomatoes/onions and mushrooms’’) but little Devan can’t get enough of it.
Her dad loves pizza, too. Moriarty, a former Morristown resident, is CEO of pizza.com. DDC, a domain development firm where Moriarty is an executive, bought the pizza,com name for $2.6 million in 2008 from a Maryland man who registered the name in 1994 and was paying $20 annual fees for maintaining it.
“It’s probably the best generic domain name in existence,’’ Moriarty said of pizza.com, which he hopes to develop into the most comprehensive online pizza resource.
New Jersey, with about 3,000 pizzerias, is not quite the center of the pizza universe. New York City claims that title. But no other food evokes such passionate debate in the Garden State.
Starting today, The Star-Ledger counts down to the most significant event in New Jersey pizza history: the announcement of the winners in a nearly-six-month-long quest. The paper’s four-member Pizza Patrol drove 9,000 miles in the Munchmobile, visiting 333 pizzerias and sampling 1,000 slices.
“I don’t know anyone anywhere who has done what you have done,” Steve Green, publisher of PMQ Pizza Magazine, said of The Star-Ledger.
From Denville to Delhi, from Union Beach to Ulan Bator, pizza has won the hearts, minds and stomachs of consumers like no other food. Americans alone eat 350 slices a second, putting 250 million pounds of pepperoni on their pizza every year.
In the U.S., pizza is a $36 billion, virtually recession-proof business, Total sales dipped one half of 1 percent from 2008 to 2009 — “nothing like what some analysts were predicting,’’ said Liz Barrett, PMQ’s editor-in-chief.
The world’s most popular food - American schoolchildren prefer a slice over chicken nuggets or anything else for lunch — can be found in practically every country. Europe, according to Barrett, “is wild about pizza.’’ Domino’s has more outlets per capita in Iceland than any other country.
“The place where I see it exploding is India,’’ Barrett explained. “Domino’s and Pizza Hut are really going after each other to see who can open up the most locations.’’
“Brazil’s big,’’ added Green. “It really is global.’’
PMQ, based in Oxford, Miss., also publishes editions in China and Australia. There are about 700 pizzerias in Shanghai and Beijing each, according to Yvonne Liu, co-publisher of PMQ China. The Chinese Pizza Championships, hosted by PMQ, have been held annually since 2006.
Liu prefers thin crust pizza, like the one served at Winery Yard Cafe in Beijing, but choices abound in China —from global chains like Pizza Hut and Domino’s to local chains like Mr. Big and NYSP.
NYSP (New York Style Pizza), with 9 locations in Shanghai, Beijing and Bangkok, is owned by a former New Yorker. Dennis Barco, who opened his first store in 2005, offers 18 kinds of pizza, from a Manhattan (mozzarella, parmesan, sausage, onions, garlic) to the porko (mozzarella, tomato sauce, pepperoni, sausage, meatballs and chicken).
Barco, who also owns International Eco-Enzymes, an odor control firm, says he was the first to offer pizza by the slice in Shanghai. He uses bottled water instead of local water, mozzarella from the U.S. and tomatoes from Italy. “I want to make it as American as possible,’’ Barco explained.
A 16-inch pizza costs about $16, and toppings are free.
“Real estate prices here are higher than New York City,’’ said Barco, speaking from Shanghai. “If someone offered me a hole-in-a-wall (as a new location), I’d take it.’’
Overall, though, he is happy. “Profit margins are fairly high, which I love, and labor costs are fairy low,’’ Barco said.
In the United States, chains dominate sales (Pizza Hut, Domino’s and Papa John’s account for nearly 30 percent of all pizza sales) but independents have carved out a sizeable piece of the pizza pie. Nearly 60 percent of all pizza stores in the U.S. are independents. The average pizzeria, chain or independent, does $542,456 in annual sales.
Pizza shows no signs of slowing its global march. You can get a slice at Pizza della Casa on Peace Avenue in Ulan Bator. Mama’s Pizza in Fiji is said to do a credible pie.
There is even pizza in Nothing. Mike Jensen bought Nothing, Ariz. for $1.1 million and opened a pizzeria inside the abandoned deli/gas station at the dessert crossroads. Jensen, who makes a living driving his mobile pizza trailer to events, hopes to turn Nothing into a tourist attraction.
There is at least one place in the universe where you can’t get pizza. Mike Massimino, an astronaut on the Atlantis shuttle mission last year who became the first human to tweet from space, lamented he could not get a good slice up there. Good luck getting a brick oven on a cramped spaceship.
“It is impossible in space,’’ he told reporters. “Someone would get a Nobel Prize if they can figure out to get pizza in space.’’
Peter Genovese can be reached at (973) 392-1765 or email@example.com