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Judge in pizza case rules: It's Italian

Smacking his lips after sampling the evidence, a San Francisco judge has ruled that pizza was invented in Italy, not China. Municipal Court Judge George Choppelas rejected claims that the dish originated in China and was delivered to Italy by Marco Polo, in sort of an early forerunner of Domino's.

Choppelas, presiding at lunchtime this week before a room full of growling stomachs at the Court of Historical Review and Appeals, heard testimony from restaurateurs and historians.

Annie Soo, publicist for the Chinese Historical Society, and Joe Ling Jung, a restaurant owner, told the court that pizza is the direct descendant of ping tze _ flat cakes filled with delicacies and spices, served to the children of the Empress Dowager in the early 13th century.

The recipe, they testified, was taken back to Italy by Marco Polo in 1271. Italian housewives made a number of modifications, including the use of what was then called the "poisonous love apple" _ today known as the tomato.

But restaurateur Gino Biradelli and chef Maurice St. Ives told the court that pizza originated in Italy around 1000 B.C. The name, St. Ives said, comes from the Greek word picea, which described something baking on a hot slab.

There was no question which side the hungry audience favored, at least not after Biradelli sliced up and passed around "Exhibit B."