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There’s are two stats stuck in Chef Ruth Gresser’s head.
Women currently make up 50.8 percent of the U.S. population.
Yet, she calculates that only an average of 25 percent of the governors, lieutenant governors, and members of Congress in the U.S. are female.
“On the one hand you can be excited that the number of women in national leadership has increased and is now at 25 percent, and at the same time 25 percent is only half of what women represent in the population,” says the proprietor of Pizzeria Paradiso, which launched 27 years ago and now has five locations in the D.C. area.
Gresser recognizes that she’s doing business in a political town and occasionally rolls out specials that poke at pertinent topics. To commemorate the fact that the recently sworn in 116th Congress has more women than ever before, Pizzeria Paradiso is introducing an initiative called “United States of Pizza: Women’s Slice of the Pie.”
Each week, all locations of the Neapolitan-style pizza shop will serve pies inspired by states with women in power. This week, for example, diners can try a “New York Super Bowl Pizza” with Buffalo tomato sauce, chicken, light gorgonzola, and fontina ($15 for a 9-inch and $20 for a 12-inch pizza).
It celebrates Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, and Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Carolyn Maloney, Elise Stefanik, Grace Meng, Kathleen Rice, Nita Lowey, Nydia Velázquez, and Yvette Clarke.
“This was a conversation about how we can have a conversation with customers and engage them,” Gresser says. “People don’t come to Paradiso to talk politics, they come for pizza. This is an interesting way to do it. The fact that so many women were elected in the last election really moved the needle.”
Gresser, a long-time feminist, points out that the female politicians’ party affiliations will not be listed on the menu. “This is not about that,” she says. “It’s about women.”
The promotion is two-and-a-half weeks old. The first two weeks covered Illinois and Massachusetts. Sorry to those who missed on out a pizza that Gresser swears tasted like a Chicago hot dog.
Future specials include:
Arizona Pozole Pizza: hominy, pork, chilies, cabbage, queso fresco, and queso seco
California Cioppino Pizza: shrimp, mussels, tomatoes, onion, peppers, and cioppino
Connecticut New Haven Style Pizza: tomato sauce, mozzarella, and oregano
Hawaii Pineapple Farm Pizza: pineapple, prosciutto, red onion, fontina, and rosemary
Rhode Island: clams, mussels, shrimp, tomato, peppers, onion, linguiça, and gremolata
Texas Chili Pizza: beef cooked in chili sauce, orange cheddar cheese, scallions, and cilantro with avocado
Washington Apple Orchard Pizza: apples, Brussels sprouts, portabella mushrooms, red onion, thyme, and cheddar
Gresser says to check Pizzeria Paradiso’s Facebook and Instagram accounts to learn which state’s pizza is currently available. They rotate every Wednesday. The above line-up will last through March. More states and corresponding pizzas will be announced in the coming months.