Whoever imagined that a simple tomato pie with a bubbly, blackened crust (“bruciata,” in the trade) could potentially cause a cancer cluster? At least one Delray Beach-based letter writer to the Sun-Sentinel did, and she’s not alone (read the down & dirty responses that letter generated here).
Whether or not coal-fired pizza palaces spew too much noxious pollution is a hot topic in South Florida, particularly since the 800-plus degree ovens are proliferating (Florida currently boasts more coal-fired ovens than any other state, and still counting). Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza has new locations in Delray, Boynton, and Palm Beach Gardens. Carolina’s Coal Fired Pizza and Pasta has settled in Delray, and Vic & Angelo’s is scheduled to open soon, bringing the total for that city to three. To say nothing of the wood-fired ovens.
So what gives? If coal is so safe, as red-faced parlor owners claim, how come New York City banned the stuff? Turns out the very reason Florida is seeing this sudden explosion of coal-fired pizza ovens is because piemakers are streaming down from the Big Apple like old-time golddiggers to take advantage of our environmentally lawless climes.
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But here’s a dirty little secret: Pizza ovens burn anthracite, the top-shelf coal (flaks call anthracite “clean burning,” because this hard, high-carbon coal produces so little smoke or sulfur emissions) and ovens are often fitted with catalytic converters to keep a lid on any stray carcinogens. Even better, most anthracite is now reclaimed from closed mines and leftover slag heaps. Until a wind-powered pizza oven comes along, anthracite coal could be the most environmentally correct way to heat. And eat.