by Sophie Mindes
On a cold day, the wood-burning oven of Dupont Circle’s Pizzeria Paradiso offers a warm respite. Bustling with patrons of all kinds — from 20-somethings sipping craft beers to a pair of white-haired men sharing a 12-inch Napoletana — everyone comes in for a favorite pie. And perhaps now, to support female politicians.
Inspired by the new wave of women entering politics since the November elections, owner and chef Ruth Gresser has introduced her bipartisan series “United States of Pizza: Women’s Slice of the Pie.” Each week, she will offer a pizza that features the female delegates of one state, available at all of Pizzeria Paradiso’s locations: Dupont Circle, Georgetown, Hyattsville, Old Town Alexandria and Spring Valley.
“It’s about women’s leadership,” Gresser says. “We wanted to find a way to… honor the work of so many women, and the diverse food traditions from their respective states.”
Last week, for example, patrons enjoyed the New York Super Bowl Pizza with buffalo tomato sauce, chicken, light gorgonzola and fontina, celebrating the likes of Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Women comprise just over half the U.S. population and about 25 percent of its leadership. Gresser, who sits as President of the Board of Directors of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, has been running her business for 27 years and recognizes this changing tide of diversity as cause for celebration. She also acknowledges that, “while I’d love to do all 50 states… there are still a few who need to work on electing a woman or two. Personally, I’m saddened that I won’t be able to include a Maryland pizza because I’m from Baltimore.” The state is currently without any women at the Governor, U.S. Senate, or House level.
“Our focus,” a manager on shift at the Dupont location emphasized, “is the pizza, not the politics.” And Gresser says the response has been positive. Her combinations are bold —a shift manager described a creation from a previous event, Political Pours and Pizzas, as “Georgia on a plate.” When asked which creation was her favorite, Gresser replied, “a mother shouldn’t have to choose between her children. But the pizza that I was tentative about – the Illinois ‘Chicago Hot Dog Pizza’ – turned out so well that it’s the one that has pleased me the most. It really tasted like a Chicago dog!”
As for the delegates themselves, “we’d love to welcome all the women we’re honoring. Each week, we’ve tagged the officials from the states… and have had some thank us through Twitter and Instagram.”
Since Gresser began creating the menu in January, Pizzeria Paradiso has already recognized Illinois, Massachusetts and New York, and will continue to add updates on commemorative pies through their Facebook and Instagram pages. Some flavors to look forward to include the Arizona ‘Pozole Pizza’ with hominy, pork, chilies, cabbage, queso franco and queso seco, and the Connecticut ‘New Haven Style Pizza’ with tomato sauce, mozzarella and oregano.