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Pizza in Sao Paulo

Forget feijoada, the hearty pork and bean stew that is often hailed as Brazil's national dish. If you want tradition in Sao Paulo, pizza is where it's at.

by: Todd Benson | 02 Oct 2007

Paulistanos, as residents of South America's largest city are called, revere pizza much like the French cherish fine wine and Argentines love a good steak. Sao Paulo is so serious about its pizza that for the last 22 years the city celebrates "Pizza Day" every July 10.

For many Sao Paulo residents, dinner with the family at the neighbourhood pizza joint is a Sunday ritual. People of all ages line up for hours outside pizzerias every Sunday night all over this sprawling metropolis to get their weekly fix.

By some estimates, only New Yorkers devour more pizzas annually than Paulistanos. Sao Paulo is home to more than 6000 pizza parlours that, churn out close to a million pies a day, according to the local association of pizzerias.

"We're talking about mountains of pizza", said Vinicius Casella Abramides, who manages Pizzarias Braz, one of the most popular upscale pizza parlor chains in the city.

Braz normally seats 400 to 600 people every Sunday night at each of its four outlets, serving up as many as 800 pizzas out of old-fashioned wood burning stoves. It also typically fires up over 1000 more for home delivery, making Sunday the busiest day of the week.

Little Italy
The first pizzerias in Sao Paulo popped up in a gritty industrial district called Bras, which eventually became Brazil's version of Little Italy. The neighbourhood is no longer the city's epicentre for Italian cuisine, but one legendary pizza parlour, Castelos, still stands among its run-down streets and abandoned factories.

Founded in 1929, Casteloes has long been the gold standard for pizza in Sao Paulo. So much so that it's best selling pie, mozzarella with a spicy Italian sausage called calabresa, is dubbed Casteloes on menus all over the city.

Other local favourites are Italian classics like the Margherita, mozzarella with basil leaves and the Napolitana, which is topped with grated Parmesan cheese, fresh garlic and basil leaves.

But not all Paulistanos are purists when it comes to pizza. Homegrown concoctions include the so-called Portuguese pizza, which is topped with ham, hard-boiled eggs, onions and black olives. Another big seller has shredded chicken and a creamy local cheese called catupiry.

Elsewhere in the country, Brazilians have been known eat pizza with gobs of ketchup, a practice that is scoffed at in Sao Paulo as provincial and even banned by some pizzerias.

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