Tuesday, September 16


The Ottaviani Pizza Intervention and the Famous Ray's Indult - A Footnote of the Post-Conciliar Epoch

From The Organic Development of the Pizza, by Fr. Strozzapreti Marinara, St. Farinatus Abbey Press, 2005, pp. 338-39:

...Certainly it may seem hard to believe, but for a brief period in 1967, it looked as if Traditional Roman Pizza would vanish forever from the Vatican cafeteria. On one momentous day in October of that year, Paul VI's special commission on the Holy See's food services (informally nicknamed "Dominus Pizza") introduced an American innovation called "Chicago Deep Dish" to the Sistine dining room in the Apostolic Palace, explaining that it would be fine-tuned ad experimentum in order to permanently replace the old-fashioned, thin-crust traditional Italian pizza, made according to recipes developed organically, and in continuous use since the eighteenth century. After some initial, somewhat diffident tasting, utter chaos broke out, with blistering dicastery reports and editorials in L'Osservatore Romano thundering back and forth.

Progressives thundered against the thin, insubstantial, flimsy crust of the antiquated Italian pizza, with its insufficient quantities of dough (as well as the unchanging one-year topping cycle), while traditionalists fulminated against the Americanized Novus Ordo Pizzae. One early article by anti-Deep Dish critic Michael Davies even went so far as to claim the Novus Ordo Pizzae was, in fact, not a pizza at all, but a dish called a "raised pie"--suspiciously associated not with Italy, but with the Protestant nation of England. Cardinal Siri pleaded with Paul VI to return to the old pizza, citing a line in the Aeneid which described a thin-crusted ancestor of the Italian variety. Deep Dish supporters countered that the new pizza was, in fact, an organic improvement on the old, containing both more choices and a larger dosage of nutrients than before, and reminded the traditionalists that cheese was in fact a late Neapolitan addition dating back to the second half of the nineteenth century, and tomato sauce was known no earlier than the seventeenth century.

It was then gleefully pointed out that Chicago pizza could then not be an ancient restoration, as had been claimed by Dominus Pizza committeeman Josef Jungmann, who, as Siri remarked, wasn't even Italian. Furthermore, all that cheese was a quantitative rather than qualitative improvement, was often gross and disgusting, and would lead to a decline in the number of personal mini-pizzas put out by the cafeteria. The variable toppings just confused everyone and, rather than eliminating repetitions, unnecessarily prolongued the ordering process. (It also encouraged the chefs to engage in odd ad-libbed topping combinations, like salmon, raisins and tapioca, in one infamous instance). Jungmann, spluttering, responded, if you just made a little bit of an effort, used good ingredients, and thought logically, like a German, the Novus Ordo Pizzae could be as tasty and elegant as the traditional form of pizza... He would have continued, had the then-Fr. Ratzinger suggested he try some of this lovely calzone, in an attempt to mollify both sides.

Tempers grew frayed; the schismatic Spaniard "Pope Gregory XVII" (Clemente Domínguez y Gómez) denounced all cheese as a Masonic plot--it having been introduced onto Pizza Margherita in honor of the colors of the Italian flag. He subsequently invented a monstrosity called pizza palmariana, composed of cocoa powder, anchovies, and cream of wheat, and waited for the eschaton to immanentize.

It was at this point (January 1968) than Cardinal Ottaviani authored his famous Pizza Intervention, a text now lost to history due to large marinara stains that rendered it all but illegible, the result of a three-way food-fight with Yves Congar and the young Piero Marini. Nonetheless, some of the basic substance of his argument can be reconstructed based on journal entries, articles in L'Osservatore Romano, and Annibale Bugnini's shopping-lists.

Ottaviani based his principal argument on the breakdown of hierarchy that he saw inherent in the unlimited and promiscuous mixing of toppings, especially now that they had become enmeshed with the cheese rather than resting on top of it. He was somewhat aided by the fact that, despite the theoretically unlimited possibilities posed by the roster of ingredients, Sistine chefs had now taken to buying only one or two of them and took the easiest option out of laziness. It is important to recall that Traditional Roman Pizza had considerable variety, though it came in graded levels of importance, with ingredients matched by artistic and gustatory compatibility:

1. The Solemn Pontifical Pizza, or the Quattro Stagioni, included a whole kaleidoscope of additions--asparagus, prosciutto, artichokes, olives, speck, even a fried egg on Greater Doubles in the calendar.

2. The Pizza Solemnis, with prosciutto, oregano, and mushrooms.

3. The Pizza Cantata, with mozzarella, stracchino, fontina and gorgonzola cheeses.

4. The Low Pizza, or Pizza Recitata, the most familiar to cafeteria-dwellers, which was just mozzerella and tomatoes.

5. The Pizza of the Pre-Sanctified, or Pizza Bianca, only eaten on Good Friday. (Its popularity was due to its dry nature, because of the difficulty of getting tomato sauce out of moire silk.)

Ottaviani also argued that the inversion of tomato sauce and cheese in the Novus Ordo Pizza was also suspect, damaging the very concept of pizza. Several commissioners, however, pointed out that he had been eating Chicago pizzas of inferior quality, and despite the rearrangement, the pizza's integrity remained whole, so long as good ingredients were used. The "concelebrated pizza," also ran against the longstanding, possibly even apostolic principle that "two many cooks spoil the broth," though Reinhold, citing Aquinas, pointed out several Eastern Rite precedents in regard to stew preparation. (It is to be noted, to the credit of Dominus, that around this time the project to construct a freestanding pizza oven and stage kitchen was shelved because the chimney blocked any view of the diners. The subsequent extra-legal development of versus populum barbecue pits cannot be blamed on their influence and is outside the scope of this book.)

Some cardinals began to start installing ovens in their own private apartments, and a few determined laymen began to frequent illicit pizzerias set up by the increasingly belligerent Society of San Marzano. Paul VI seemed increasingly unable to reign in the situation, distracted by weightier matters such as Humanae Vitae and seemed content to let the various protagonists thrash it all amongst themselves, until one day he himself decided to try one of the new Chicago pizzas, and, while he found it tasty, was startled by the approach of Fr. Ratzinger, and spilled the tomato-sauce topping all over his front. "Ah, now you see the point of the cheese!" cried Ottaviani. (Legend has it this is what happened to the infamous papal white suit Paul VI designed for himself, and why it subsequently vanished.) It turned out Fr. Ratzinger had brought a communique signed by all the pizza chefs of New York demanding an indult for the preservation of the Traditional Roman Pizza, including, the Pope gasped, none other than Ray Bono. He paused. "Famous Ray! I must sign this!" And so he did.

Several days later, the Vatican realized it had a bigger crisis on its hands when news came that Jesuits at Georgetown had celebrated a "pizza mass," and not only that, they had announced the development of a dangerously liberal recipe calling for something only whispered about until now: stuffed crust...

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?