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Year of the giant pizza

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Havana made history in 1987

By Pat Faherty

 

A quarter century ago, Gadsden County grabbed a slice of international fame.

It was 1987, the summer of the big pizza project.

Twenty-five years ago this month, a cooperative county commission expedited approval of a plan to create the world’s largest pizza in Havana.

Tallahassee restaurateur Lorenzo Amato planned the giant pie and the world’s largest oven to bake it in.

He knew his sauce, having twice previously held the record for the world’s largest pizza. But Amato had lost the crown to a South African pizza maker and told the commission he wanted to return the title to America.

Why Havana? It seems his son owned some land just north of town on U.S. 27.

So that summer, the Gadsden County Times through Alice Du Pont kept the public informed about progress on the big pizza.

The recipe called for 15,624 pounds of flour, 1,037 gallons of water, 494 gallons of sauce, 2,062 pounds of cheese -- and don’t forget the pepperoni, 1,875 pounds of it.

The finished product would be about one-third the size of a football field and weigh an estimated 29,160 pounds. The giant pizza would be 100.83 feet in diameter, giving it a circumference of 316.6 feet.

Construction of the giant propane-fired pizza oven became an attraction itself with busloads of kids from Gadsden and Leon counties stopping off to see the progress.

The oven was finished and tested in early September, as the pizza pieces were being pre-sold. The pizza project was also a fundraiser to benefit the American Red Cross, the American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society.

Preparing the big pizza was set for Columbus Day weekend. According to news accounts, there were two days of carnival atmosphere with pony rides and vendors and traffic jams at what was being called Lorenzo Park.

About 4:30 a.m. Sunday morning Amato and “an army of experts from the United States and Canada” finished preparations, rolled out the dough and fired up the oven. Eight hours later it was ready to eat.

The event attracted a crowd estimated at 10,000 to 30,000 people, who polished off less than half of the giant pizza with its estimated 94,000 slices.

“We have regained the pizza title for the United States,” proclaimed Louis Piancone, president of Roma Foods, which sponsored the $500,000 project. Representatives from the state Bureau of Weights and Measures verified its size.

The famous Havana pizza did go in the record book and ruled until June 1990 when a Pizza Hut in Singapore broke the record, which was quickly topped again by a supermarket in South Africa.

 Tales about Havana’s giant pizza can still be found on various websites and Google images has a color photo of the finished product.