Don’t Hold The Anchovies

Anyone who grew up in the 80s watching “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” will recall a very specific phrase that kicks in whenever the characters decide to order a pizza. I feel like you hear this phrase in “E.T.” when Eliot’s brother has friends over for poker and maybe in an episode of “Facts of Life” where Blaire learns the perils of superficiality. Either way, the phrase is emblematic of its time, not something you often hear today. The phrase is: “Hold the anchovies.”

It’s funny, because it’s a phrase that was so standard, so much about the call-and-response between pizza-orderer and toppings-choosers that I don’t think it ever occurred to me that anchovies were a thing anyone could possibly want on a pizza. That is, until I moved to Brooklyn.

Now that I live in Park Slope I have two excellent pizza options out my door. The first, Franny’s is a Park Slope pizza treasure. It has two stars from the New York times and an eclectic, attractive fan base that usually crowds around the door waiting for a chance to crack through the crust of the superlative pizzas coming out of the wood-burning oven. The other option is one we recently discovered:


That’s Peperoncino, a place right here on 5th Ave. that we’ve walked past a million times but never entered until the blurbs taped to the door (from The Village Voice, New York Magazine, Time Out New York) convinced us to give it a chance. And though not as polished as Franny’s, the pizzas are excellent, also from a wood-burning oven, and slightly less expensive. At both places, though, the standout pizza has that dreaded ingredient, that slimy, hairy, fishy curl of gray that strikes fear into the hearts of 80s movie characters. That’s right, the best pizzas here have anchovies.

What makes anchovies so great on a Park Slope pizza? (The picture you see at the top is the anchovy pizza at Peperoncino). For starters, I think it has to do with the quality of anchovy: these aren’t the mealy, greasy kinds you get from a jar. My hunch is that these anchovies are salt-packed, a process that retains the structural integrity as well-as the flavor profile of a fresh anchovy. Secondly, the pizza isn’t slathered in a sea of them; I count four anchovies on the pizza at the top of this post. A restrained amount of anchovies allows the anchovy to work their potent magic without overwhelming the pie. Finally, as you can also see in that picture, the anchovy is matched with other powerful flavoring components: lots of slivered garlic, capers and, of course, peperoncino. The bombast of its back-up singers makes the anchovy that much more powerful, sort of like Beyonce when she was with Destiny’s Child. Or Diana Ross with The Supremes.

In conclusion, I know many of you will write comments like “sick” or “I hate anchovies” or “dude, where’s my car?” but think about it: why would people in 80s movies need to say “hold the anchovies” unless there was a time when people were actually ordering lots of anchovies on their pizza. Thought of that way, anchovies harken back to a simpler time, a happier time, a time when people weren’t afraid of bad breath and hairy fish on their pizza. Maybe it’s time to go back to that time, a time before Ninja Turtles and time-traveling phone booths. Maybe it’s time for people to respond, when someone picks up the phone to order a pizza, not “hold the anchovies” but, instead: “Four anchovies, please. And make them salt-packed.”

To quote a Ninja Turtle, that’d be “righteous.”

20 thoughts on “Don’t Hold The Anchovies”

  1. Hear hear! When I was growing up in Costa Rica, you often found fresh anchovies on pizza. Not sure why we Costa Ricans liked fish on our pizza, but that’s another story… Anyway, as a child of the 80s and a longtime fan, it’s nice to hear something good said about them for once!

  2. This is the best blog post I have ever read. You are my soulmate. Keep up the good work.

  3. Peperoncino rules! Park Slope rules! Anchovies rule!

    If you wanna try more anchovies, head to Convivium Osteria a block or so away. They have an amazing seafood tapas appetizer. It includes a side of fresh anchovies…eat it with some of the amazingly fresh bread they serve there. It’ll make anyone rethink anchovies.

  4. I really like anchovies, but I have to go in with the turtles and say that they’re not my favorite on pizza. It’s probably just a weird quirk for me, though, because there’s a few things that I like independently that usually go together, but it doesn’t click for me: anchovies and pizza, nuts and brownies…

  5. I’m not going to say “sick” or “I hate anchovies” or “Dude, where’s my car?” (mostly because I don’t own a car). I will say that my other half and I were recently having a conversation along similar lines, and I declared that I really found myself wishing that I liked anchovies. I may have to investigate more fully!

  6. I had anchovies on a pizza for the first time at Franny’s and was surprised to enjoy it. I’ve been to Pepperoncino but have only had the pizza with the gold leaf on it. The pizza was pretty good despite the gimmick and knowing that I’d be sh*tting gold in the near future made it that much more fun.

  7. I’m a huge fan of anchovies. I absolutely love them and I’m glad you’re writing about it now! Cheers!

  8. I believe all of the “no anchovies” bits actually refer back to the second album by Firesign Theatre, “How Can You Be In Two Places At Once When You’re Not Anywhere At All,” circa 1968, and an extended bit called “Nick Danger, Third Eye,” a parody of 1940s radio serials:

    Los Angeles. He walks again by night. Out of the fog (fog horn) into the smog (cough cough). Relentlessly … ruthlessly (“I wonder where Ruth is”) doggedly (bark bark) toward his weekly meeting with the unknown.

    At 4th and Drucker he turns left. At Drucker and 4th he turns right. He crosses McArthur Park and walks into a great sandstone building (“Ouch! My nose!”)

    Groping for the door, he steps inside, climbs the 13 steps to his office (phone starts ringing). He walks in. He’s ready for mystery, he’s ready for excitement, he’s ready for anything, he’s

    Nick: Nick Danger, Third Eye!

    Voice on phone: I want a pizza to go and no anchovies.

    Nick: No anchovies? You’ve got the wrong man! I spell my name, Danger! (hangs up)

    Voice: What?

  9. You’ve got the wrong man. I spell my name…Danger!

    /Nick Danger

    PS: weren’t Eliot’s brother and friends playing D&D? Damn I haven’t seen that movie in years…ET rlz

  10. This is a great post. I’ve recently started cooking with anchovies more often, and I love the unique saltiness they impart to recipes. I was rather scared of them before. Now I’ll have to try them on a pizza.

  11. I LOVE anchovies on my pizza. Every time we make pizza at home, anchovy & red onion is our standard. And I often order this topping combo from pizza joints as well. Everybody wrinkles their nose at this when I tell them…probably because of what you said…the years of turtles telling us that they were nasty. Those nose-wrinklers are missing out, so thanks for posting this. Maybe people will open their minds a little.

  12. It’s this type of post that makes me love your blog. :)

    I don’t know whether I’ve had anchovies on pizza or not, but I know I’m not anchovy-averse. I’ve added anchovy paste to my deviled eggs. I’ve added it to a few dishes, actually. But I don’t know that I’ve tried salt-packed anchovys. I’ll have to give them a try.


  13. My wife and I rarely eat pizza, but now and then she gets the urge to make one from scratch. When she does, MY half always gets 6 anchovies (packed in oil) and HER half gets none . . . zero.

    She hates them and I love them. Especially on her homemade pizza (which is superb, by the way).

    Also, what’s a Caesar Salad without anchovies?

  14. Enjoyed this article, thoroughly. My husband and I were actually just thinking about the same thing the other day, on why the 80’s had that “hold the anchovies” thing. We couldn’t remember where we heard that line though, now I remember

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