Mark this as the week Jay Jerrier blew up the Internet. Again.
The owner of three Cane Rosso pizzerias has long made known his disapproval for ranch dressing as a condiment for Neapolitan pies, going so far as to offer customers a bottle of Hidden Valley for the low price of $1,000.
Recently, though, Reddit user Brostash (yeah, bro!) snapped a picture of the bottle and posted it to the site, where users screamed though more than 800 comments in less than seven hours.
Some defended Jerrier's ranch-free policy. Some branded him as arrogant and called for freedom of taste buds. Some thought the whole debate was pointless, and yet found time to weigh in anyway.
Unlike most pointless food debates (Ketchup on a steak? Sauce on brisket?), the ranch-on-pizza argument is an exceedingly complicated one, with many sides. The Purists, also known as "the Pizza Snobs," mainly hail from New York City, and view the drizzling, dipping or any other application of ranch dressing to pizza of any form as sacrilegious. Ed Levine, author of Pizza: a Slice of Heaven and also a New Yorker, is of the pizza snob camp.
"It's a crime against nature," Levine offered, when asked by Robb Walsh of the Houston Press in 2008. Walsh had encountered the ranch dressing debate at Romano's Pizza in Houston, where owners "Frank and Vinny" hung up a sign that read "Great pizza doesn't need ranch... so don't ask!!!"
Frank and Vinny, if you haven't guessed, lived in New York before they moved to Houston. Before that, they lived in Italy where the original pizza snobs specify pizza making down to every ingredient. Anyone caught in the country doing anything remotely as degrading as putting Hidden Valley on a pizza is immediately deported, while the offending pizzeria that allowed the atrocity to occur is closed forever. New Yorkers are almost as passionate.
Walsh subsequently endorsed the flavor combination, or at least told the purists to take a hike.
Head over the page to continue the debate with the Arterial Masochists!
Another camp can be accurately referred to as the Arterial Masochists. To these dressing devotes, the use of tangy ranch is permissible on everything from cheese fries to Buffalo-style chicken wings to fried chicken to, of course, pizza. They'll happily dip and drizzle their way to a coronary because in their eyes there's not a whole lot in the edible world that can't be made significantly more delicious with a thick coat of ranch dressing. The Masochists cry out in agony, "let my pizza be," and think the Purists are a bunch of bullies. After all, they reason, didn't they pay for the slice in question?
A third group, known as the Pacifists, dodge the anger and altercations with modifications and complex rules to justify their seemingly indiscriminate use of ranch. Pizza Pacifists say things like: "it's OK to dip pizza in ranch dressing if the pizza in question is bad pizza," or "I only dip my crusts," or the morally reprehensible "it's OK to dip when you're drunk," as if alcohol justifies all bad behavior.
But the Pacifists are on to something. If you've finished all but the crusts on a shitty pizza and you still have the munchies, ranch dressing has unprecedented lubricating qualities. The Pacifists are not eating ranch for buttermilk's sake as much as using ranch to cover pizza inadequacies.
Meanwhile, the Masochists aren't using ranch to doctor up pizza as much as they're using pizza as a delivery vehicle for their beloved dressing, and they've incited comparably volatile debates about other food products they've drenched. Just look at how they've ruffled the feathers of buffalo wing enthusiasts, who claim (rightly) that blue cheese is the ultimate condiment for their celebrated bar snack. And now they've spurred a Dallas pizzaiolo to dangle a plastic bottle of ranch dressing in front of customers at his restaurant for the cost of a flight to Rome.
So should you use ranch on your pizza? Certainly the dressing is available at enough pizzerias to indicate that it's publicly acceptable. Pizzerias that don't offer it, however, usually refrain from doing so because ranch clashes with delicate flavors that pizzaiolos work very hard to attain. You won't notice the delicate, acidic tones in the crust of a carefully fermented Neapolitan pizza if it's overwhelmed with a dousing of tangy buttermilk ranch. Those costly tomatoes shipped from Italy that pack more flavor than their domestic counterparts will be drowned out too. It's a bit like buying tickets to hear the symphony only to put on headphones and listening to bad pop music in your seat.
Me? I'm siding with the snobs on this one. Well made ranch dressing could make a pizza disaster delivered by a teenaged stoner taste good, but 98 percent of the ranch that's served in restaurants these days tastes just as bad as that pizza. Unless you're willing to walk around with a pint of buttermilk, a handful of fresh herbs and a whisk, you're pretty much relegated to ranch that smacks of powdered garlic and monosodium glutamate.
Meanwhile there's plenty of well-made pizza, which should be embellished with nothing more than a drizzle of olive oil. If you put down your ranch hose, you'll see it's plenty delicious on its own.
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