When the Going Gets Tough, Get Pizza

Pizza rises to the occasion when you're combatting culinary holiday stress. Pizza doesn't ask questions; pizza understands.

The holidays are coming and soon we'll be spending hours in the kitchen baking pies and cookies, mashing potatoes and glazing sweet potatoes, and roasting turkey, ham and maybe even a turducken or two. And in between the holiday feasts, we'll most likely be cooking festive meals for extended family and friends and making elegant dishes to take to seasonal parties.

So what to do when you can't take the heat and need a break from the kitchen this holiday season? When the idea of making one more meal makes you feel like the Grinch, that's when pizza rises to the occasion.

One of the most popular foods in the country, as well as the world, pizza presents the perfect solution to holiday culinary stress. You can accommodate different diets and tastebuds with a huge choice of toppings, and order enough to feed a crowd or an intimate party of two. Opt for take-out and bring home a box or two or have it delivered directly to your door. Better yet, get out of the kitchen completely and let others do the work for you—you won't have to wash a single dish or lift a finger, except to enjoy every bite.

Pizza has been a culinary staple for centuries and is a relative of the traditional seasoned flatbread that's long been a part of Mediterranean cuisine. Some people trace the word “pizza” to the Latin word pinsa, which means “flatbread,” but not everyone agrees on this. What most people do agree on is that pizza as we know it, with cheese, tomatoes and crust, originated in Naples in the 16th century, where peasants would buy flatbreads with various toppings from street vendors or informal restaurants and eat them for every meal.

According to legend, one of the world's most famous pizzas, Pizza Margherita, was created to honor the queen consort, Princes Margherita of Savoy, in 1889 by pizzamaker Raffaele Esposito, who garnished the dish with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil to represent the national colors of Italy.

When the Neapolitans, and millions of other Europeans, began immigrating to the U.S. for factory jobs in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they bought their pizza recipes with them and began making their pies in Trenton, Boston, Chicago and St. Louis. In Manhattan, Lombardi's began selling the dish in 1905, and it's still serving its pies today.

Pizza became even more popular after World War II, when American soldiers returning home from Italy brought a craving for pizza with them, and the dish has since evolved in innovative ways, from the thick, cheesy Chicago style, to the New York thin crust, and even California gourmet pizzas topped with barbecued chicken, smoked salmon and more.

So when it's time to escape the kitchen and its holiday prep, you'll find some inspired pizza fare in Santa Fe, including the Rooftop Pizzeria's house specialty made with roast chicken, green chile, toasted pinon nuts, cotija and asadero and Alfredo sauce on a blue corn crust. This unique pizza features flavors of the Southwest and had a starring role on a segment of “Eat the Street,” Chuck Hughes' show for The Food Network. It also was named the Land of Enchantment's very best by Food Network Magazine.

Rooftop's other creative offerings include lobster, shrimp and Applewood smoked bacon with mushroom, green onion, truffle oil and four cheeses; smoked duck with caper, spinach, basil and four cheeses with roast garlic spread; and wild and domestic mushrooms, roast garlic clove, truffle oil and four cheese with Alfredo sauce. Or, build your own gourmet pizza from a huge menu of toppings,

The pizza at Joe's Dining is famous, since owner/chef Roland Richter got his start in Santa Fe opening Pizza Etc. in DeVargas Mall. He sold the pizza place a few years back to open Joe's, but his delicious pies are on the menu still, including Giovanni, topped with Montrachet goat cheese, roasted red peppers and roasted whole garlic cloves; Greek, with Tucumcari feta cheese, calamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, cucumbers and oregano; and Deluxe, featuring pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, green peppers, onions and black olives. For non meat-eaters, there's the Veggie, with mushroom, tomato, spinach, green peppers, zucchini, onion and garlic. Build your own with an array of toppings that include house-smoked salmon, New Mexico grass-finished ground buffalo and truffle oil.

Over at Pizza Etc., The Rodeo is a popular pie, topped with barbecued chicken on calabacitas with green chile, zucchini, onions with cheddar cheese. There's also the Trecolori, with asparagus, roasted red peppers, pesto and feta cheese and the Trifolati, made with portobello, shiitake and oyster mushrooms. Best of all, Pizza Etc. delivers, so you don't even have to leave your house to find relief from your kitchen!