Why two CT lawmakers voted against pizza as the state food

Hot pizza getting cut and boxed at Frank Pepe's in New Haven on April 23, 2021.

Hot pizza getting cut and boxed at Frank Pepe's in New Haven on April 23, 2021.

Lisa_Nichols/Hearst CT Media/Lisa Nichols

HARTFORD — Among the less-consequential public policy issues that will be hashed-out this year in the General Assembly, the joys of a charred New Haven-style crust, a spinach-and-feta loaded Greek-style pie and any other manner of baked goods called pizza cleared its first obstacle when a legislative committee approved a bill to designate the dish as Connecticut's "state food."

The legislation, which passed the state House of Representatives last year, died without action in the Senate. This year's version, which heads next to the Senate, passed the Government Administration & Elections Committee in a 17-2 vote on Wednesday.

The lone opponents were conservative Republicans from Wolcott, state Sen. Rob Sampson and Rep. Gale Mastrofrancesco, who reminded their colleagues that lawmakers have much-more important issues to ponder than baked dough and its myriad toppings.

"I absolutely love pizza," said Mastrofracesco, a top Republican on the panel. "Who doesn't love pizza? Last year when this bill came to the (House) floor I supported it, then after that I started thinking about it and I'm saying you know what, here we are a body of 187 people. Are we the ones, really, to make the decision on what the state food is? There's what, 3.6 million people in the state? I'm thinking, have we ever done a survey to see what they like? If it was up to me I'm have pasta fagioli or macaroni or pasta to be the state food. Right? With 187 people, should we really be making that decision for everybody in the state?"

Mastrofrancesco said she would feel more comfortable if there was a statewide survey.

"Let the record show that Rep. Mastrofrancesco is in favor of direct democracy," quipped state Rep. Matt Blumenthal, D-Stamford, the committee co-chairman who introduced the bill for debate.

"Let me state for the record that Connecticut does have the best pizza in the world, whether this bill passes or not," Sampson said. "I think that is to my colleague's point, which is that I don't think the legislature needs to comment on whether or not Connecticut has the best pizza in the world. I think we know that, whether the legislature says so or not. In fact, in many ways I think that the legislature voting to make it so diminishes that fact." 

Sampson said that over the years, constituents have approached him and asked how the General Assembly has taken the time to delve into generally trivial issues like this.

"They say 'don't you have better things to do?' and I completely understand and convey to them that we obviously do a lot of things," Sampson continued. "We can walk and chew gum at the same time and even though there are a lot of important issues, we do have time to do maybe less-important items as well. But the sentiment is there and I think it shouldn't escape any of us that we're here to do serious business."

If approved in the House and Senate and signed by Gov. Ned Lamont, pizza would join the people (State heroine Prudence Crandall), mammals (Sperm whale), birds (American robin), insects (praying mantis) and even state song (Yankee Doodle), listed in the back of the State Register & Manual.

kdixon@CTPost.com   Twitter: @KenDixonCT