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We Tried To Make The Wonderfully Bizarre ‘Altoona Style’ Pizza

An interesting quirk about the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is that despite the fact that it’s bordered by the two best places for pizza on earth — New York to the north, New Jersey to the east — it’s not a particularly amazing state when it comes to producing really great pizza. At least in my personal experience.

My qualifications for making this proclamation stem from the following facts:

  1. As a high school junior, I moved to Pennsylvania and did not leave the state until a decade later.
  2. I eat far too much pizza, something that was underscored the last time my blood pressure was taken.
  3. I am originally from the great pizza state of New Jersey and therefore an expert.

While conceding that I have never had Old Forge pizza — which my friends from the northeastern corner of PA swear by — I have never, in all my time as a Pennsylvanian, had a slice of pizza that truly knocked my socks off. Mind you, most places to get a slice or pie in the state are perfectly fine (good, even), they’re just generally unable to live up to the standards set by the best pies their neighboring states, is all.

That said, the Keystone State has a very cool habit of coming up with regional takes on pizza within the commonwealth. Pennsylvania is a remarkably unique state in how populations and cultures are clustered — which is reflected in some of its regional pies. Philadelphia’s tomato pie was the result of the influx of Italian immigrants that came to the area in the 19th century, while the aforementioned Old Forge pizza was born out of the need to feed miners in coal country. This eclecticism reminds us that food is a wonderful medium through which you can learn and experience history and cultural diversity first-hand.

With all of this as a backdrop, my curiosity was immediately piqued when a friend passed me this Facebook post by a restaurant in Altoona, a city in Blair County, Penn. just a tick above 45,000 people.

Facebook

Quick backstory: Altoona is the home to Penn State Altoona, one of the school’s “commonwealth campuses.” You’ve probably heard of the University Park campus, but of the 73,000 or so of the non-online undergraduate students in the school’s system, 27,100 of them attend commonwealth campuses, with Altoona being the fourth largest among them.

I was one such student, spending two years in Altoona before making the trek to University Park. So you can imagine my surprise when I heard Altoona had its own regional pizza that 1) I’d never encountered, and 2) looked like a punishment from a wrathful god. A quick Google search confirmed this was A Thing, so I took a screenshot of the first picture I could find and tweeted this out.

The next two days made me laugh a lot. Seemingly everyone who had ever known someone from Altoona was getting tagged by friends demanding an explanation. Some people who were born and raised in or around Toon Town swore that they’d never heard of it. A pair of friends who grew up in the area were flummoxed as to how this ostensibly regional delicacy that they’d never heard of could possibly be real. Curious, they asked their respective moms about it. Both confirmed the distinctive pie’s place in the pizza firmament.

According to an absolutely wonderful piece done by Ryan Deto of Pittsburgh City Paper and a whole lot of folks on Twitter, the now-former Altoona Hotel was the birthplace of the pie. One Pennsylvanian seems to confirm my personal hunch: it was born out of the desire for pizza by the area’s Italian immigrants, who could not always get what they needed to make a classic pie. A true case of necessity being the mother of invention.

Once this started to pick up, I figured I had to try it. The issue is there is a pandemic going on right now and I cannot get to Altoona (in case you hadn’t heard). But I do have an oven, a sheet tray, and the ability to go to a grocery store. So I decided to step into the kitchen to make a pizza featuring one of the weirdest meat, cheese, and veggie mixtures ever to hit a pie.

In order to be completely thorough, I decided to undertake this experiment three ways. The first two pizzas I made were the standard Altoona pies — green peppers, salami, cheese — but since there was disagreement over whether yellow American or Velveeta was called for, I decided to do both. The third was to do the Binging with Babish thing where I attempted to keep the spirit of the dish but make it, uh, less weird.

The good news is that picking up the necessary items was pretty easy. I cut one corner — Wegman’s has pre-made pizza dough that works in a pinch, especially when you’re like me and don’t always have the time to dedicate to making your own dough. Most other ingredients in play were easy to find in every supermarket — packaged and sliced salami, the two kinds of cheese, and green bell peppers.

As penance for taking the easy way out with the dough, I made my own sauce. This is the easiest thing on earth — some garlic in some warmed up olive oil, dump in a can of tomatoes, season with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and Italian seasoning. My last name ends with an O, so you can trust me when I say this takes like 10 minutes and is better than anything you’d get from a jar. It was specified that this is a sweet tomato sauce, so I added a bit of sugar, too.

I agree, this is a bad idea

For the assembly, I decided to do two personal pizzas, because I am one human (albeit one with a healthy appetite) and my hunch was that one bite was all I really needed of these monstrosities. Per this Facebook post a friend showed me, the layering goes sauce, then salami, then uncooked peppers, then cheese. Behold:

Yeah there is no way this ends well

Despite liking, individually, everything on this pie, it’s a brutal image. Like a frame from a montage made by Mother Nature, urging us to change our ways. Here is what they look like after 20 minutes at 400 degrees.

UPDATE: It did not end well

I, as you can surely tell, messed up the rolling out the dough portion of this and got these weird mondo pies where certain corners were thoroughly cooked while others were not, in part because the cheese to everything else ratio was just off. Still, I was able to get a few bites of both pies where everything sat together on completely cooked crust. It wasn’t bad, necessarily, it just tasted like what would happen if Subway made pizza. There are times when a person wants that, maybe. And I can absolutely see how this regional branch of the pizza family tree could be born out of the needs of Italian immigrants.

Still, raw strips of green bell peppers don’t quite cook up when hidden under cheese, the Velveeta just doesn’t work, and the salami needed some crisp edges and to not be in such gigantic pieces. But I figured there must be a path in which all of these ingredients could be used to make something legitimately solid. They’re all good-tasting things, after all.

Then it hit me. The answer is in Pennsylvania, but we have to leave Altoona in order to find it. In a phrase that also applied to Allen Iverson from the summer of 1996 through early 2007 — the answer is in Philadelphia. Cheesesteaks have meat, cheese, and potentially peppers of some sort on them. Traveling a stone’s throw north from Philly, we get to Lehigh Valley, which puts a sweet red sauce on its cheesesteaks. There’s some controversy over this, as you may imagine, but I asked my friend Ted, who is from that area, about whether this is a regional thing, and he promptly replied: “it’s delicious.”

I decided I could work with the cheesesteak approach and reverse engineer a pizza from there. I kept the sauce the same, and because it can be good on cheesesteaks, used the same yellow American (I am a provolone guy when it comes to cheesesteaks, but that’s neither here nor there). The peppers being uncooked before going on the pizza had to be fixed, and to make this more cheesesteak friendly, I diced them and cooked them up with some onions. For the meat, I prepared some shaved steak, then tossed the salami in and got it nice and crispy.

The result, before and after 25 minutes and 450 degrees:

Before…
…and after

It certainly looked a little better, even if the cheese looks like a bunch of weird scabs on the surface of the pizza. The taste was better, too: the steak and onions were welcome additions, with the steak serving as a good balance to the salami and the onions providing some sweetness and rounding out the dish. The cheese is still a problem, particularly because longer exposure to high heat is not something that works for processed American cheese. But between the add-ons and pre-cooking the peppers and salami, this was legitimately kinda tasty.

Trust me, I was just as stunned as you are.

One question remains after all this: Should you make and eat either of these? The answer is, of course, no. But if you insist on making one, you should absolutely make the original version. If there’s one thing we are learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that you only have so many opportunities to try and experience weird, quirky, interesting things. Life is fleeting. Death stalks us all.

Why not, then, make a dish that harkens back to a different era in a little Pennsylvanian city that you’ve never heard of? It’s a unique thing that you can experience while we’re all locked inside, bogged down by monotony and driven to distraction. If there’s ever a time to try a totally out of left field thing in the confines of your home or apartment, it’s now.

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Tekashi 69 Makes His Flamboyant Return With The Rainbow-Colored ‘Gooba’ Video

In his first video after being released from prison, Tekashi 69 remains as brash and provocative as ever. “Gooba,” the 23-year-old rapper’s comeback single, has arrived with a candy-colored visual awash in twerking dancers, dazzling jewelry, and all of 69’s signature troll energy as he gets back to business.

Anyone hoping that his year and a half behind bars would have humbled Danny is going to be sorely disappointed. The rainbow hair is back, along with a new, diamond-encrusted pendant resembling the shark Bruce from Pixar’s Finding Nemo. Tekashi’s subject matter remains the same, as does his full-throated delivery as he scream-raps lines like “Are you dumb, stupid, or dumb, huh?” He also makes reference to current events, marking this single as the result of his weeks of post-COVID-19 freedom as opposed to older, vaulted material: “They sick, been hot way before Coronavirus,” he brags while showing off his latest accessories — including the one monitoring his location and keeping him inside his own house while the rest of us voluntarily self-isolate.

69’s new single lands amid a maelstrom of controversy surrounding his use of trolling to promote new music, his arrest for racketeering and subsequent early release for “snitching” on his former Nine Trey Blood cohorts, and willingness to make himself the butt of “snitch” jokes on social media afterward. He even plans to stream live today — although he’s blaming a delay on YouTube, after seemingly promoting his appearance for Instagram at first.

Watch the “Gooba” video above.

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Freddie Mercury impersonator entertains his neighbors and us all with epic ‘I Want to Break Free’

Carlos Díaz Ballesta dressed up like Queen front man Freddie Mercury and put on a show for his quarantined neighbors from his balcony in Spain. He threw on Mercury’s iconic jeans, undershirt, and mustache and lip-synced to Queen’s 1984 song, “I Want to Break Free.”

In the video, Ballesta dances with a vacuum cleaner, an homage to the song’s video. In the “I Want to Break Free” video, members of Queen dressed in drag as characters from the British soap opera “Coronation Street.”



Freddie Mercury balcony (auténtico autor del baile)- OFICIAL 🇪🇸 (del auténtico autor del baile)

youtu.be

While the video was a hit across the world it was a dud in America where no one knew what the band was lampooning.

“All around the world people laughed and they got the joke and they sort of understood it,” Queen guitarist Brian May told NPR Radio. “I remember being on the promo tour in the Midwest of America and peoples’ faces turning ashen and they would say, ‘No, we can’t play this. We can’t possibly play this. You know, it looks homosexual’.”


Queen – I Want To Break Free (Official Video)

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Dani Evans From “ANTM” Finally Addressed The Episode Where Tyra Told Her To Close Her Gap


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Mxmtoon Taps Lil Jon And Fans For A One-Year Celebration Of Her ‘Prom Dress’ Single

Though Mxmtoon just released her latest EP, Dawn, the 19-year-old songwriter is celebrating a big achievement. One year ago, Mxmtoon’s breakout single “Prom Dress” was released, the song that marked her pivot to pursuing a career in music. To celebrate the release, the singer looked to friends and fans on the internet to offer clips of them lip-synching the single.

Mmxtoon’s “Prom Dress” was infamously influenced by her experience eating a cheeseburger and then realizing she no longer fit into her prom dress anymore. But the singer has come a long way since then. Not only has she graduated high school, but she’s gone on to garner hundreds of thousands of fans and receive critical acclaim for her music. The single’s anniversary video celebrates all she’s achieved and features cameos by influences, fans, and friends, including Lil Jon.

The visual opens with a compilation of TikTok videos of people singing along to the single. Near the beginning, Lil Jon appears on the screen and delivers his signature catchphrase, “Yeeeeeeeahh.”

In a statement upon sharing the video, Mxmtoon thanked all who took part in making it special: “prom dress” is one year old TODAY! thank you to everyone who helped make this celebratory video a reality, this chapter has been a whirlwind, and i’m so glad i get to share it with you!”

Watch Mxmtoon’s “Prom Dress” anniversary video above.

Dawn is out now via AWAL. Get it here.

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Sarah Silverman Wants To Replace Seth Rogen As The New Santa In HBO Max’s ‘Santa Inc.’ Series 

After rocking the Hanukkah sweater in 2015’s underrated The Night Before, Seth Rogen is starring in another holiday-themed project, this one an animated series with Sarah Silverman about the first female Santa Claus. Santa Inc. features Silverman as Candy Smalls, the highest-ranking female elf in the North Pole. “When the successor to Santa Claus (Rogen) is poached by Amazon on Christmas Eve, Candy goes for her ultimate dream— to become the first woman Santa Claus in the history of Christmas,” according to HBO Max, which is releasing the series.

There are a few reasons to be excited for Santa Inc., beginning with “it’s called Santa Inc.” (which is also the name of a trucking and excavating business in Seattle?). Also, it’s being written by Shrill and Parks and Recreation producer Alexandra Rushfield, and Sarah Silverman and Seth Rogen are both very funny, obviously, and she has a pretty good track record of voicing animated characters named after candy. That’s a promising collection of talent, but it’s all for nothing if Weird Al Yankovic’s “The Night Santa Went Crazy” isn’t the theme song. Spoiler: Candy Smalls becomes the new Santa after the old Santa is sentenced to federal prison for his infamous crime.

Set to be eight episodes long, Santa Inc. does not have a premiere date yet. But HBO Max, which will also have Rogen’s immigrant pickle movie, launches on May 27.

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Roy Wood Jr. Hopes To Create A Comedy Nerd Feast With ‘Stand-Up Playback’

It can be cathartic to dunk on your past. I use Facebook Memories as a shooting gallery for my previous “deep thoughts,” commenting that I’d like to go back in time to hit myself in the face with a toaster and things like that. And it’s fun! Anyway, Daily Show correspondent and comedian Roy Wood Jr. was propelled by a similar concept to launch the Comedy Central YouTube original interview series, Stand-Up Playback, wherein Wood chats with comics as they review some of their old clips (which he digs up) and pick apart their style choices along the way.

For Wood, the show is a natural extension of something he does to continue improving on stage, telling Uproxx, “Part of my process is to go back and watch stuff from two, three years ago, just to clock the evolution of the physicality of my performance.” Aside from playing MLB The Show at night, popping up on The Daily (Social Distancing) Show, co-raising his kid, and writing, Wood has extra time on his hands thanks to the quarantine. Time that he might have spent on stage or on tour, but which he’s now spending digitizing VHS tapes and DVDs of performances from a career in comedy that spans more than 20 years. As you can imagine, that kind of deep-dive has unearthed some wince-worthy moments tied to his penchant for bad suits. This includes Wood’s “youth pastor” look that he and Mike Birbiglia went all-in on a recent episode of the show.

Poking at Birbiglia as he acknowledges the crimes against fashion that he committed when he dressed like a barely keeping it together dad on Sears photo day helps Wood to keep his “comedy knife sharp.” But the look back also leads Birbiglia to talk about the change in the pacing of his jokes, his move to more biographical material, and getting a hand from John Mulaney on a punch line from way back. It’s comedy catnip, insight into comedy craft that, according to Wood, almost feels like “a director’s commentary.”

Wood knows that diving deep into such things isn’t for everyone, but he also posits that it doesn’t really matter. “I know that, to a degree, there’s a lot of nicheness to what we’re doing, but I just think the way content is now, it’s okay to be niche.”

Friday’s guest, the legendary George Wallace, helps to provide what Wood describes as, “one of the most meaningful conversations [he has] had with a veteran in the game.” In the episode (which you can preview below), Wood praises Wallace for his uncommon willingness to mentor younger comics after discussing the limits put on him when he made late-night appearances on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show (as well a quick thought on the rise of DefJam). This runs parallel to Wallace riffing on staying at home and Wood being stunned by Wallace’s purple leather jacket that needs to be seen to be believed.

Wood has big ambition when it comes to future guests, looking to bring on comics whose experience crosses multiple eras. He mentions Cedric The Entertainer, Chelsea Peretti, Chris Rock, Ellen, Michael Che and others. Dave Chappelle, of course, is mentioned as a dream fit.

While Stand-Up Playback launched as an answer to the insatiable need for fresh content during COVID, it’s not something tied explicitly to when things open back up and comics like Wood are able to get back on the road. Wood tells me that the idea for the show had occurred to him before COVID and that he sees value longterm with little change — which means keeping it at home as opposed to in a studio with the more lo-fi location providing a dose of intimacy that Wood believes comes through in the conversations. A take that’s hard to deny after watching the end result.

Episodes of ‘Stand-Up Playback’ launch Fridays on the Comedy Central YouTube channel.

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A Temporary Rule Change Will Allow Soccer Teams Five Substitutions Per Match

Due to the global novel coronavirus pandemic, almost all sporting events and leagues around the world were forced to suspend or cancel their plans starting in March. However, as some countries begin to ease their lockdown restrictions, some sports are starting to slowly return. As some European soccer leagues begin preparing to resume their seasons, the International Football Association Board has temporarily amended the laws of the game, allowing teams to use up to five substitutes per game, increased from the original limit of three.

The IFAB approved FIFA’s proposal on Friday and will take effect for any leagues that start and end within the 2020 calendar year. FIFA originally submitted the proposal in order to ensure the health and safety of players given that they have not played soccer competitively since mid-March. There is also the possibility that some leagues may attempt to play more games in a shorter period to make up for the number of games missed. The hope is that the new temporary substitution rule will limit the number of injuries and stress on players’ bodies once the season picks back up.

While the rule increases the number of substitutions allowed by each team, it does not change the amount of times a change can be made, eliminating any added possibilities for time-wasting. So teams will still have just three opportunities in a game to make a substitution, but with the chance to swap more players than usual at each stoppage in the game.

“The temporary amendment comes into force with immediate effect, and has been made as matches may be played in a condensed period in different weather conditions, both of which could have impacts on player welfare,” IFAB’s statement read. “The decision on whether to apply this temporary amendment will remain at the discretion of each individual competition organiser, while The IFAB and FIFA will determine at a later stage whether this temporary amendment would need to be extended further (e.g. for competitions due to be completed in 2021).”

The German Bundesliga resumed training in April and is set to become the first European league to resume on May 16 with a plan to play without fans and end the season on June 30. This week, players in Spain’s La Liga began reporting for training after being tested for COVID-19. There is no set date for the league’s return yet, but Sports Illustrated reported that the Spanish football authorities wanted teams to train for about a month before competition resumes. Most Serie A teams in Italy began training this week with no set return date.

In France, the remainder of the Ligue 1 2019-20 season was officially canceled on April 30 and Paris St. Germain were crowned champions. The Premier League season remains postponed, and it is unclear whether domestic and European competitions will return this year.

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New Details Have Emerged On Vince McMahon’s Role In Getting Assault Charges Against Jimmy Snuka Dropped

Jimmy Snuka and the 1983 death of his girlfriend, Nancy Argentino, was brought up again last month when the story was told on Vice’s Dark Side of the Ring series. Today, a new piece for MEL Magazine examines the detains of both Argentino’s death and Snuka’s domestic violence arrest months earlier, and reveals new information about the involvement of Vince McMahon.

How much of a role Vince McMahon played in Snuka not initially facing criminal charges related to Argentino’s death has been one of the wrestling industry’s bleakest questions for decades. “Who Failed Nancy Argentino?” doesn’t have a concrete answer for that, but the piece does show that McMahon was directly involved in making sure Argentino didn’t go through with pressing charges against Snuka for a domestic violence incident about five months before her death in 1983.

Though Argentino was initially willing to press charges, she ended swearing that Snuka “never struck me or intentionally harmed me in any way on January 18, 1983, nor at any other time in the past,” a claim that doesn’t mesh with police and other witnesses’ reports of what happened between her and Snuka that night. Why did Argentino change her tune?

According to an interview during the investigation of Argentino’s murder with law enforcement officers who worked on the January case, “Vince McMahon tried to talk her out of making the complaint against Snuka.” Meanwhile, McMahon claimed during the murder investigation that he had never heard of any issues between Snuka and Argentino even though the January assault was in the news.

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Berlin is celebrating being liberated from the Nazis with an unprecedented holiday

On May 8, 1945, Nazi Germany surrendered to Ally forces, thus ending World War II in Europe. For most of the world, it’s a day to celebrate, but for the German people, the day comes with a feeling of uneasiness.

May 8 has different connotations throughout the country. In the west, most people feel a sense of shame over the day. In the east, which fell under the power of the Iron Curtain, it was taught in schools as the “Day of Liberation” by Soviet forces.

For the 75th anniversary of the fall of Nazism, the city of Berlin is celebrating with a public holiday to mark the end of World War II for the first time. The holiday commemorates May 8 as a day of liberation from the forces of fascism.


The day was scheduled to have public events including an open-air exhibition and museum events. But they were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Posters by Kulturprojekte declaring “In the beginning was a choice — a choice and a result” have been hanging around the city.

Kulturprojekte says the goal of its campaign is to remind Berliners that the Nazi regime came through Democratic means and “that it is the responsibility of everyone to ensure that history does not repeat itself.”

It believes that making May 8 a public holiday “offers the opportunity to send an unmistakable message against fascism and war and for peace.”

“We are also keen to reach a young audience, particularly those with a migrant background, who have little knowledge of German history,” Moritz van Dülmen, the head of Kulturprojekte, told the BBC.

“It’s the principles of democracy that we want to get across,” Dülmen added.

There is also a movement to make May 8 a national holiday celebrating the liberation of Germany from Nazis. Holocaust survivor Esther Bejarano, 95, wrote an open letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel pushing for May it.

Over 100,000 people have signed her petition for a holiday that would commemorate “a day of liberation and the crushing of the National Socialist regime.”

Prominent politicians from Germany’s left-wing Linke party have backed Bejarano’s plan. However, Alexander Gauland, a leading figure in the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD), disagrees.

“You can’t make May 8 a happy day for Germany,” Gauland said. “For the concentration camp inmates, it was a day of liberation. But it was also a day of absolute defeat, a day of the loss of large parts of Germany and the loss of national autonomy.”

As right-wing nationalism spreads across Europe, it’s essential to keep the lessons learned during World War II from falling by the wayside. The biggest opposition party in Germany right now is the AfD, a right-wing nationalist party that has downplayed Nazi atrocities and has declared to fight an “invasion of foreigners” into the country.

Kulturprojekte’s May 8 campaign is to remind Berliners that living in a democracy doesn’t inoculate Germany form the forces of fascism. There’s never been a better time to remind them than now.