My great-grandfather Luca was among those who came to New York from Italy and sought to earn his living and start a family. He came from Sicily and found work as a baker. He began making little pies with pomodoro and cheese, and it wasn't long before he was building his own brick oven in Brooklyn. The Rosalia Bakery turned out loaves of Italian bread and pizza pies that sustained my family for decades. During the depression, family lore goes, it was a member of the Mafia that loved Luca's pizza and kept him in business.
The new plan from the geniuses at the city level is to do away with this tradition, the tradition of my ancestors, and to make pizzerias that use this old-time method not only pay out the nose to keep doing it, but to make the pizza a shadow of its former glory.
The New York City Department of Environmental Protection is moving to demand that New York City pizzerias cut their carbon emissions by 75 percent.
"All New Yorkers deserve to breathe healthy air and wood and coal-fired stoves are among the largest contributors of harmful pollutants in neighborhoods with poor air quality," said some genius with the DEP, Ted Timbers, per the New York Post.
"This common-sense rule, developed with restaurant and environmental justice groups, requires a professional review of whether installing emission controls is feasible," Timbers said.
So what does this mean for pizzerias? It means they have to pay to install emissions control devices. The city wants to take one of the major draws to the city, its pizza places, and force them to pay upwards of $20,000 for emissions control devices.
The crackdown on commercial cooking started in 2015, when City Council passed Local Law 38, updating the Air Code to include commercial cooking. First, they came for the char broilers. Now, they're coming for the pizza ovens.
Meanwhile, what's the biggest cause of emissions? Building boilers, not pizza ovens. The questions about the pollution caused by wood-fired pizza ovens goes back nearly a decade. In 2005, The Guardian reported that Italy had changed some of their laws to limit the amount of pollution pizzerias were allowed to generate. The issue there was with the burning of the wood, which "releases all sorts of chemicals."
However, The Guardian was quick to point out that transportation, and not pizza, was the biggest culprit of urban pollution. In 2016, a study came out showing that wood burning stoves created pollutants through the smoke and particulates produced by burning wood. 2020 saw Food and Wine make the claim that wood-fired stoves are bad for the environment, too.
"From the results obtained in this study," reported Chemical Engineering Transactions in 2022, "it is possible to conclude that wood-fired ovens represent an important source of major air pollutants. The concentrations of the examined species were comparable with the performances of other wood- or pellet-burning small-scale appliances. The experimental tests also showed that pizza cooking had a significant impact on the emission of OGC as a result of the volatilization of several compounds present in the food matrix."
They recommended that "Due to their extensive presence in many urban areas, the need to introduce regulation for this sector is of the upmost importance for the safeguard and improvement of air quality."
The Biden White House is seeking to ban gas stoves, which has already been done for new buildings in New York. For many commercial and home chefs, this is a travesty for cuisine. Now, while Al Gore, John Kerry and Bill Gates jet around the world to climate conferences on their private planes, New Yorkers are being told they may soon be unable to even find a decent slice.
Pizza, and the wood-fired ovens that make it, have long roots in New York, and emissions or not, the perfect pizza is not something that should be messed with, not over pollution or particulate, and certainly not to appease the climate alarmists who will do anything to cut emissions–except change their own extravagent ways of life.
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