Your Pizza Calendar, Starting With National Cheese Pizza Day
This image is from the greatest pizza website ever, Slice!
That’s right. Today is National Cheese Pizza Day. Its origins are unclear, but its meaning certainly is. I know what you’re thinking: “How did National Cheese Pizza Day sneak up on me so fast this year?” Well, we have busy lives and sometimes these things just pop up. You’re probably also wondering what other pizza celebration days you’re missing from you calendar. Well here you go:
September 5 is National Cheese Pizza Day
October is National Pizza Month
October 11 is National Sausage Pizza Day
November 12 is National Pizza with Everything But Anchovies Day
February 9 is National Pizza Day
June 11 is the anniversary of the naming of the Pizza Margherita
I’m sure you’ll find a way to celebrate pizza the other eight months of the year. ENJOY!
Tomato season is short. In California’s Central Valley, canners have about seventy days to harvest and pack the entire season’s crop. Most people don’t realize that pizzerias all over the planet use canned tomatoes rather than fresh. Think about it; tomato season is short, so the “fresh” tomatoes you buy in March are far from what you’ll get coming off the vine in August. What’s wrong with off-season tomatoes? First of all, flavor is never the concern when breeding tomatoes. They’re grown to be tough enough to handle the rigors of the road. Secondly, they’re often grown in water (Canada) or in sand (Florida), so vital nutrients have to be added artificially. The industrial practices in the fresh tomato industry are also pretty bad, but you’ll have to read a book like Barry Estabrook’s Tomatoland for the full scoop on that.
The canned tomato doesn’t get its due, so I decided to take a quick trip out to Modesto, Ca for a first-hand look at how some of our favorite pizza tomatoes are grown, harvested and canned. I visited farms and facilities used by Stanislaus Food Products, one of the country’s leading tomato companies and certainly the most popular in the New York area. I personally love their products, which often take top honors at our annual tomato tastings (see here, here and here).
First we headed out to a farm that was in the midst of being harvested. Farmers in Modesto use amazing machines that harvest an entire vine in one shot. Check out this video for a better look at the machine. It has three sets of “eyes” that discard tomatoes that aren’t the correct color. The machines look for a bright red - you know TOMATO COLOR!
A brand new art space is opening in Manchester next week and it’s going to be amazing! Why? Because when you’re exhausted from looking at amazing art, you can relax by the Stefano Ferrara oven and order yourself a pizza.
Following Neapolitan tradition, the pizzas at PLY will bake in about 90 seconds! To celebrate their opening, PLY asked a bunch of people to submit 90 second films, each of which will play on loop at a pre-opening exhibition. I was honored to receive the invitation, so if you’re in Manchester and want some pizza with your art I strongly you suggest the masterpiece I shot in my living room in about 15 minutes. It’s a classic.It may or may not feature pizza boxes.
I recently spent a whopping 40 hours in São Paulo, Brazil and my brain almost exploded from excitement. São Paulo has had pizza for over 100 years and there are so many pizzerias in town that nobody really knows the exact count (it’s in the thousands). I ate some pizza, but my biggest takeaway had to do with the pizza boxes. They are insane.
You can see in the photo above that Brazilian pizza boxes don’t look like normal pizza boxes. First of all, they’re not square. I get the question all the time “Why does a round pizza go into a square box?” Squares are easier to deal with in manufacturing and assembly. It takes much less time to assemble a standard American pizza box, but what’s the fun in a boring square box when you can get octagons like they have in Brazil!?!?
Once you recover from the shock of octagonal pizza boxes, take a closer look at the artwork. All three boxes in the above photo contain funny die-cut shapes on their lids. The one all the way to the left becomes a soccer field, complete with goal posts that pop into place and a two-piece soccer ball that snaps together for gameplay. But the other two boxes get even crazier.
Here’s what the box all the way to the right looks like when you snap out and assemble all the pieces:
Today is the 125th Anniversary of the Pizza Margherita Myth
Today marks the 125th anniversary of the Pizza Margherita! It’s a big day for pizza lovers everywhere in which we avoid sausage, peppers, onions, anchovies, pepperoni and the like in favor of a simple combination of crushed tomato, fresh mozzarella and basil.
As the story goes, Queen Margherita joined her husband King Umberto I on a trip to Naples in 1889. As a sign of goodwill, she sampled a local food, popular only with the peasants, called pizza. The pizzaiolo she hired, Raffaele Esposito, crafted three different pizzas for her: one with only oil, one with fish (whitenbait) and one with mozzarella and crushed tomato. As the final pizza was about to leave the kitchen, Esposito’s wife Maria Giovanna Brandi tossed a handful of basil on top so that it will match the colors of the Italian flag in a display of patriotism. The queen loves the pizza and Esposito dubs it Pizza Margherita in her honor.
It’s a fantastic story, but one with many holes. I’m as guilty as anyone for perpetuating the legend, but the time has come to take a closer look at the facts behind one of pizza’s great creation myths.
In 1889, the pizzaiolo Rarraele Esposito owned a pizzeria called Pietro e basta cosi (Pietro and that’s enough). That pizzeria still exists under the name Pizzeria Brandi. It’s one of the most famous in Naples but the main attraction isn’t edible. Brandi has a framed copy of the famous thank you note sent by Queen Margherita to Raffaele Esposito.
As the only historical document tied to the events surrounding this story, this is an extremely important letter. First of all, it gives us a date. The top of the letter clearly states “11 June (Giugno) 1889,” which is why pizza enthusiasts celebrate today. But that’s about the only concrete piece of information we can get. Check out the translation:
Household of Her Majesty Capodimonte 11 June 1889
Moth Office Inspectorate
Most Esteemed Raffaele Esposito. I confirm to you that the three kinds of Pizza you prepared for Her Majesty were found to be delicious. Your most devoted servant
Galli Camillo Head of Table Services to the Royal Household
No mention of mozzarella, tomato or basil. No mention of the Italian flag. That doesn’t mean the queen didn’t eat the famous pizza, it only means we don’t have clear evidence of it happening in the only document tied to the events.
Michael in front of his toaster oven as it reconstitutes treasures from his youth.
There’s something so special and untouchable about the pizza you grow up eating. Every Sunday night you’d gather with family at the same restaurant and order the same dishes and eat them the same way. You’ll eat better pasta, better chicken marsala and better pizza in your life but somehow it will never make you feel the same as those family get-togethers. Sunday nights were particularly special for my friend Michael Berman, who would spend them at a restaurant called Pines of Rome in Bethesda, Maryland. Michael is a fantastic photographer, recent author of a great book about things to do in NYC with kids, AND he runs an excellent blog called PizzaCentric. I was deeply honored when Michael invited me to his Brooklyn abode to share some of the pizza he carefully transported back from his favorite pizza restaurant in Bethesda after a Memorial Day weekend visit.
Actual conversation between two adult males about pizza transportation.
I tried to visit Pines of Rome on Michael’s recommendation when I was in Washington, D.C. a few months ago. I got there 30 minutes before closing time but the pizza guys had already gone home, leaving me with a consolation prize of eggplant parmigiana, which I ate on the bench out front. I knew in my heart that one day I would make good on my blood oath to Michael to eat his favorite hometown pizza.
Just some details about my latest bread-baking session last week…
Step 1: Making Dough
I began with a starter fed with rye flour and water. Once it doubled in volume, I whipped up a batch of dough with the following amounts:
387g total starter
306g Trader Joe’s white All Purpose flour
156 room temp tap water
I let the mixture sit 20 minutes before adding that salt, then I kneaded it all until I was convinced the salt was evenly distributed. It’s a wet mix, so kneading is done more by lifting and folding than by pushing.
I then put the dough into my mixing bowl and covered it with plastic wrap. That sat in the fridge overnight, actually about three days.
Step 2: Shaping and Proofing
The shaping process is hard to describe in text, but it basically involves folding the dough together and tightening its form so it will capture more gas during the proofing stage. I let the shaped dough sit in the base of my cloche (sprinkled with semolina to avoid sticking and give texture) until it reached room temperature and filled with some gas. On this particular day, I turned my oven on for a minute and then switched it off so the dough (in the cloche) could sit in the warmth for a bit to speed up the process.
Step 3: The Bake
Once the dough had rose sufficiently (ie I was running out of time) I sprinked some flour on it and scored a pattern so it would A) rise and open, and B) look cool. It worked! Bake temp was 450 F but I let the oven preheat for about 35 min at 550 F with a Baking Steel in there. Since I didn’t preheat my cloche, I figured I’d use the steel’s fast conduction to throw heat into the clay and give the dough some nice spring. The bread baked in the cloche for about 30-35 min before I removed the lid for the final 7-10 min. That last bit gets the top nice and golden brown!
Step 4: The Crumb Shot
You gotto wait at least 30 minutes (it’s fun to listen to the little crackling sounds) but then you get to cut in and find out whether or not you’ve made anything worth eating. Sometimes the outside looks great but the inside is dense and undercooked. This loaf came out awesome and the crumb is clear about that! Funky, uneven holes but dense enough to spread some butter or jam.
I love books about pizza almost as much as I love animals dressing in disguises just so they can eat pizza alongside humans without getting chased away with a broom. That’s why I absolutely adore Secret Pizza Party by Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri. It perfectly captures one raccoon’s pizza obsession and the lengths to which he will go just to savor a slice. Go buy it for everybody you know!
I was beyond honored to be invited to the 2nd Annual ConPizza conference in São Paulo, Brazil earlier this month. I had no idea Brazil was so into pizza but they’ve apparently had it for over a century and São Paulo has so many pizzerias nobody knows the real count! The event was sponsored by a pizzeria association, similar to the VPN in Italy (and the US), but they’re more of a union than a certification agency.
The goal of ConPizza is to get a bunch of pizzeria owners and pizza business folks into a room together to share information that could be mutually beneficial. They had a bunch of speakers from big companies talking about marketing and franchising but it was all in Portuguese so I had almost no idea what was going on. Attendees got cool headsets so they could hear an interpreter’s version of my talk about pizza diversity in NYC and pizza box design around the world (I always manage to squeeze that in).
I only had two days to experience the wonders of São Paulo’s pizza scene but here are some highlights of the trip.
Let’s get pizza boxes out of the way first. From what I can tell, 99% of the pizza boxes in Brazil are octagonal! Most pizzerias deliver by scooter, so the unconventional box shape might be a way to keep the pizza from bumping around too much. They come in two pieces (a lid and a base) which seems crazy to me because it takes so much more time and material, but they seem to love it over there. The artwork is also insane. The boxes int he photo above are all interactive. One becomes a soccer field with upright coal posts and even a two-piece cardboard “ball.” The other two have pieces that pop out to form either a toy airplane or a model dinosaur. HOW COOL IS THAT?!?!
The gentlemen from the association even took me to their headquarters, where they store a box from every pizzeria they work with. It was incredible. There are boxes in that pile are beyond belief and I’m just glad I had the opportunity to see them in person! New York City truly is living in the pizza box dark ages.
Now for some pizza. We spent night #1 at Quintal do Brãz, an absolutely beautiful restaurant with an incredible yard. I noticed a couple amazing things here. First of all, they offer pizzas divided into three sections. I’m used to seeing a half-and-half pizza, but this is seriously divided into thirds! It seems so much harder to cut and top, but they did it and I applaud them for it. The pizza above has one section with soppressata; one is a Calabrese salad with fresh tomato and mozzarella; the final section has a “requeijão,” or creamy cheese, made by a local company called Catupiry. From what I can tell, Catupiry is to creamy cheeses what Kleenex is to tissues. It’s a little strange for my palate but the people here seem to love it.
At Quintal, I noticed that the staff serves your slices and leaves the remainder on a table to the side of the dining area. It gets covered with a vented lid and marked with your table number. The pizza isn’t sitting on your table while you eat, so the server has total control when it comes to who gets the final slice!
Quintal do Brãz is one of several locations, but the word “quintal” separates this one from the others because it means this place has a serious “backyard.” Here’s a photo of the most beautiful path to a restroom I’ve ever seen.
We spent the second night at 1900, a pizzeria that has been family owned since it opened in 1983. We tried a ton of different pizza from the restaurant’s 30 year history before I had to zip to the airport.
Erik is the owner of 1900 and he’s extremely proud of his family’s restaurant. He told me how his father used to stop service for an hour every Monday night so the restaurant could become a concert hall for local musicians. This wasn’t meant to attract business, they wouldn’t sell food during the performance. That’s pretty damn cool.
His pizza was really interesting. The crust is a dense, yet soft, surface (probably because of the extremely short fermentation time) and topped with more interesting ingredient combinations. These were served as whole pizzas instead of three sections like Quintal do Braz. Both places baked in a wood-burning brick oven. Most Neapolitan ovens I’ve seen have an arched doorway but the wood-fired ovens in Brazil all had square openings. Bake times were in the 2-3 minute range and most of these places are burning composite wood logs rather than straight chopped wood. They claim it’s cleaner and easier to manage.
In Brazil, pizza is treated like a proper restaurant food. People sit down and use a fork and knife to eat it. They apparently don’t eat it for lunch, only dinner. And most of the pizzerias in São Paulo are delivery/takeout only. I’m so used to seeing wood fired ovens as showpieces inside restaurants but in a delivery business the customer will never see them. I completely forgot that these ovens are tools for food, not just for marketing.
Here you have it, every single pizza I judged at the 2014 International Pizza Expo. The International Pizza Chanllenge has several categories: Traditional, Non-Traditional, American Pan, Gluten Free and Blind Box. This year I judged Non-Traditional, American Pan and Blind Box (an Iron Chef-type challenge where pizzaioli compete using their own dough and surprise ingredients).
Every compeditor has to bring their dough and toppings to the event, get them through airport security, keep them alive in the hotel room and prepare the pizza using an unfamiliar oven in a gigantic convention center. No easy task.
1. A company selling bags of coal! Pizza was introduced to the USA at coal-burning bakeries in the Northeast. After all, anthracite coal comes mostly from Northeastern Pennsylvania, so it only makes sense that cities like New York and New Haven still have a bunch in use (and even more laying dormant). But coal-fired pizza ovens died out as natural gas became the easier, less expensive alternative. Now companies like Grimaldi’s, Tommy’s Coal Fired, Anthony’s Coal Fired and a bunch more are bringing it back. Gotto get that rock!
2. Lots of dough acrobatics. Dough needeth not need be airborne to make a good pizza, but it really is hard to look away when someone’s doing crazy tricks with it. These guys do crazy choreographed routines with dough that contains extra salt so it won’t rip.
3. The World’s First Breathing Pizza Box! A packaging company from India may have solved the problem of crust soggification - you know, that tubby gummy crust you get from delivery pizza. The VENTiT box utilizes indirect venting to allow humid air to escape while containing valuable dry heat. They had all sorts of cool demonstrations and even a FOG MACHINE that pushed smoke through the logo on their booth. Pretty sweet.
4. Hardcore culinary competitions! I’ve been fortunate enough to judge culinary competitions at Pizza Expo since I started going in 2007. Here’s a shot of my fellow judges checking out one of the many many pizzas we had the honor of eating. That’s Jonathan Goldsmith (Spacca Napoli in Chicago), Tom “The Dough Doctor” Lehmann (American Institute of Baking), Domenico Crolla (Bella Napoli in Glasgow, Scotland) and Theo Kalogeracos (Little Caesars in Perth, Australia - NOT the American franchise). Some of these pizzas were excellent, some were vile.
5. Amazing pants! They must shop at the same place.
6. A live artist painting a classic pizza box scene! We’ve already covered my love of pizza box art, but I’ve never witness its creation in action! This artist was on-site at the RockTenn booth (they make 65% of all pizza boxes in the USA) all three days of the event painting a classic cafe scene. I patiently await the day I see this image on a pizza box.
7. Merchants of nightmares! Seriously frightening pizza costumes. There were several of these booths at the event and they were clearly separated to avoid turf wars. Have fun sleeping tonight!
8. Pizza Stadium! The final culinary showdown pits the winners of all four pizza competitions (Traditional, Non-Traditional, American Pan and Italian) for an epic battle. The secret ingredients are revealed and each pizzaiolo had 20 minutes to prove they’re the best. I’m not going to lie, it’s pretty damn exciting.
9. Beautiful pizza boxes and they’re all free for the taking!!! OK, this one might only be fun for me but I had to include it. After all, I have written a book about pizza box art and currently hold the Guinness World Record for Largest Collection of Pizza Boxes. To keep a collection of top-notch specimens, you have to go to the source. These companies trash all their display boxes so all I have to do is wait until the show is over before I sack all the box companies on the floor. There’s a FedEd center in the convention center, so I just wrap them and ship them back to Brooklyn. I’ll just have to wait 7-10 business days before I get to examine the loot!
10. A dude spinning a baby pool!Justin Wadstein won this year’s dough acrobatic competition, thanks in no small part to his ability to spin just about anything.
I did an interview with a cool new site called Pizza Life, run by my friend Gianluca Rottura. He’s a serious pizza lover and wine aficionado. He has a killer wine store in NYC and a book about wine called Wine Made Easy. I’m super excited about this interview because it reveals some deep secrets, such as which concert I went to after eating a great slice of Sicilian pizza last summer. ENJOY!
Pizza Box Gallery Show Hits Brooklyn This THURSDAY
Steph Mantis built these rad custom frames to house beautiful pizza boxes!
The art world will never be the same after this epic gallery show of amazing pizza boxes hits the scene this Thursday at the Melville House Gallery in DUMBO. About a dozen boxes will be on display all month long, most of which are featured in Viva La Pizza! The Art of the Pizza Box, the acclaimed new book about the history, art and science of pizza boxes.
I was so completely delighted to attend a tomato tasting at Razza Pizza Artigianale in lovely Jersey City a few weeks ago! The owners, Dan and Fred, are solid dudes and they truly care about their goodies — enough to invite a bunch of folks over to taste 11 different canned tomato products.
Everybody got a super-detailed scoring sheet, complete with grading rubric and helpful hints. All the cans were covered so we couldn’t see labels. Dan mashed all the can’s contents with an emersion blender and that was that.
He even put his own sauce into one of the cans to see how it held up against the rest. The results were pretty consistent with tomato tastings I’ve done before (2010 part 1, 2010 part 2, 2013) so that was comforting!
Cameo by Pizza A Casa's Mark Bello as Dan unveils the results!
The Results 1. Stanislaus Alta Cucina - 3.6 (a tomato from central CA, usually wins) 2. Ciao - 3.5 (Italian tomato found on the pies at Keste and Don Antonio in NYC, among others) 3. DiNapoli - 3.4 (lovely California tomatoes) 4. Escalon 6 in 1 - 3.28 (a crushed tomato product on the sweet side) 5. DaniCoop San Marzano DOP - 3.26 (Very good DOP tomato) 6. Razza’s Pizza Sauce - 3.23 (I LOVE that Dan included this!) 7. Jersey Fresh - 3.18 (another crushed product, I dig it) 8. Muir Glen - 3.1 (California organic product) 9. Cento San Marzano DOP - 2.76 (go-to supermarket availability) 10. Bianco DiNapoli - 2.1 (I love these, surprised the came in so low) 11. Teo - 2.04 (private label tomato from Chef’s Warehouse)
Tastings like this are important because the crop changes every year. If you’re struggling with your sauce, start by finding a tomato you like. The better the base, the less you have to do. Most NYC pizzerias use the Stanislaus Alta Cucina tomato, but that’s not available in stores unless you’re a restaurant. Good comparable tomatoes are the Trader Joe’s whole peeled variety (I used them on my pizza last night!), which you can get either salted or unsalted.
Big thanks to Dan and Fred and everyone over at Razza for having us! Best part after tasting all those tomatoes was having their delicious pizza! They’re hardcore about dough and natural fermentation, so DO NOT skip the bread when you go to Razza. EAT EVERYTHING YOU CAN!
I made some dough four or five days ago using some Ischia starter pretty much just because I had to feed it. It was getting a bit raunchy so I invited my downstairs neighbor Simon up to help me eat it all. The results were solid!
First, the recipe: 175g room temp water 300g King Arthur bread flour 50g Whole Wheat flour [mix to combine and let that hydrate for 30 min or so] 300g Ischia starter (highly active) [mix to combine] 13g salt [knead gently until you don’t feel like kneading anymore, split into 3 and store balls in lightly oiled containers in refrigerator]
Now, the bake method: I’m using a Baking Steel right around the center of the oven. Oven is set to highest (mine goes to 550 degrees F (290 degrees C) but I switch to BROIL after about 3 minutes inside the oven. Last night was the first time in a loooong time I didn’t clock each pie, but they seemed to be about 4-5 minutes.
The dough was a bit tough to stretch, but the third pie pulled easiest (photo on top). Here are the results, using a mix of lo-mo and fresh mozz plus whatever random toppings were laying around. Simon brought 6 or 7 Calamata olives and we stretched them over two pies. I loved the one with the olives copped really fine and sprinkled about. Check them out….
Sweet bubble action but I’m not happy with the stretch on this.
I recently spent 24 hours in Baltimore while in town for an awesome book event at Atomic Books. I hit 6 different pizzerias ranging from hometown classics to late-night fallbacks and a couple in-between. Here’s my road report…
Stop #1 was Matthew’s, a Baltimore landmark that claims to be the oldest in town. They started serving thick pan pizzas in 1943 and continue to this day in a space that looks more like a place senior citizens go for the early bird than it does a pizzeria. Still, there’s a TON of charm in here and Baltimore IS the Charm City, so everything seems to be in order.
I developed a serious hunger during my three-hour drive from Brooklyn and may have had a case of pizza goggles. I ordered two whole pies: one they call the Traditional Tomato Pie and one crab pizza. The Traditional Tomato Pie is listed on the menu as having sauce and hand-grated Reggianito cheese. At first I thought this was a typo meaning ParmigianoReggiano, but it turns out to be a slightly different cheese. It’s a smaller, less aged Parmigiano found mostly in Argentina. It’s not a huge surprise since massive amount of Neapolitans fled to Argentina in the late 19th century. Perhaps the founders of Matthew’s stopped in Argentina before landing in Baltimore.
I wish I could think of a better way to describe the pizza than interesting. That word usually means something isn’t enjoyable but still has academic value. In the case of Matthew’s, interesting means “I’ve never tasted a pizza quite like this and even though I don’t love it I’m really glad I’m trying it.” First of all, the crust is puffy yet heavy. They use lard in the dough and it has a seriously unique effect that really defines this pizza. The next thing I noticed was the cheese. I expected a dusting but it’s more like a full load of Reggianito, so thick it resembled a hard piece of funky low-moisture mozzarella. Pretty odd, but definitely enjoyable. It’s a good pie, but nothing I could eat every day.
The crab pizza was something I just had to order since I was in Maryland and crab is the thing to get. I always feel guilty for being in a city and ignoring the local cuisine in favor of sampling pizza, so this seemed like a good compromise. The crab was mighty tasty, but I found myself picking it off the slice rather than eating it as-is. I’m not against seafood + cheese, it just didn’t work for me in this case. Still, I’m glad I gave it a try.
Next up was Ledo Pizza, another Maryland tradition. Unlike Matthew’s, Ledo has multiple locations around the area and it’s the pizza everyone grew up eating. I really enjoyed it in that it brought me back to the pizza flavor of my youth, but with a twist. This is a square pizza that’s thin and chewy, unlike thick and puffy Sicilian pizza. It’s so thin and the slices are so small you feel like you’re really pigging out when you’re probably just eating the equivalent of 1-2 slices.
The room itself was less than exciting, but I could see myself getting Ledo for take-out if I lived in the hood. It’s a real go-to pizza but nothing worth a special trip.
Stop #3 was a relative newcomer to the scene: Iggie’s Pizza. My sources tell me this place is PACKED at night so it was good we got there early in the evening before things got nutty. Speaking of nutty, we ordered a pizza with pistachios! It’s sort of like the Rosa at Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, AV, which has thinly sliced red onion, Parmigiano Reggiano, rosemary and crushed local pistachios. It’s a great flavor combination and I really dug it! The crust was pretty tame, but I wonder if that changes as the night gets busier and the room gets warmer. Check it out and let me know!
The fourth pizzeria I hit was Joe Squared. These guys installed an Earthstone coal-burning oven that bakes the pizzas in just over a minute. It’s insane. The resulting crust was a bit soft, but suuuuuuper tasty!
We ordered two pies, one Margherita and my second attempt at a Maryland crab pizza. The crab pie at Joe Squared was definitely better than the one at Matthew’s. It had a roasted garlic cream, crab, cilantro, zucchini, red onion, egg, mozzarella, provolone and cheddar. There are three cheeses on this one, but they’re applied perfectly so the crab could sing. I do remember the crab itself tasting better at Matthew’s, but we’re talking about the entire pizza here, not just one component.
The Margherita pizza was really nice and balanced as well. Lovely gobs of fresh mozzarella and a post-oven shredded basil that gave every bite a hint of sweet herby goodness. The only trouble was that since the crust was so soft you really had to grab a corner slice for stability. I bet if I go back when they’re busier and the oven floor is a bit cooler I’ll get some more crunch.
After Joe Squared, we ventured to a newer place called Homeslyce. I was instantly annoyed by the spelling because my searched for a Homeslice in Baltimore kept coming up with no results. I thought the GPS was busted but it turns out they just use a crazy spelling. Our relationship started out on the wrong foot, so I shook it off an went inside. It’s a sports bar with a couple Skeeball machines in the back. The menu looked pretty good but there was a bizarre item on the menu called a Slyce. I figured this was a single slice, but that’s almost nonexistent in Baltimore. It turned out to be a weird boat-shaped pizza that’s pretty much like a calzone that didn’t get sealed on top. Fair enough.
We ordered a small pizza they called the Homeslyce Classic. But this isn’t just a cheese pizza, it has goat and mozzarella cheese, walnuts, eggplant, spinach, caramelized onions, roasted peppers and HomeSlyce sauce. The toppings were fine, although a bit on the salty side. But what caught me was the super heavy greasiness of the crust. Every slice (or is it slyce?) removed from the pie left behind an oily trail. I’m all about the grease, but I prefer it to drip off the top of my slice and not ooze out of the crust.
The final stop on this whirlwind journey was the strangest, which is why I’m giving you three photos…
That’s my friend Phil about to go into a place called Charles Carryout. I’m jut as surprised as you are that they even have a website. It’s a totally weird take-out Indian fast food joint with a conveyor oven and a Chicken Tikka Masala pizza several people recommended to me. But more about the pizza in a bit, now you must take in the grandeur that is Charles Carryout…
Yup. That’s it. Pretty dumpy place, but it’s not like they’re trying to be anything else. After all, the place is called CARRYOUT, so they’re not expecting anyone to stick around. But if you do, there’s a weird secret bar attached to the place and an extremely baron side room with a few table for those who defy the restaurant’s name and dine in.
We chose to defy the name and had our chicken tikka masala pizza right there out of the box. I guess I understand why people talk about this pizza. It’s super weird and unlike anything I’ve ever tried before. But it’s not even close to being something I’d ever tell a sober person they had to try. It’s a late night pie and one that requires several lapses in judgement to attempt and/or enjoy. I know that sounds mean and I do fully support you eating this pizza if it makes you feel good, but I think I’ll just hang out on the sidelines and watch next time.
Baltimore, you truly are one strange pizza town. Next time I’m there I’ll go back to Joe Squared and round out the trip with a visit to the one place I meant to go but didn’t: Verde PIzzeria. It’s a beautiful Neapolitan joint in a lovely part of town. I showed up a couple hours before they opened but had to haul out to Philadelphia so was unable to hang around. Oh well, I’ve already expressed my desire to give some of these spots another try so it looks like I’ll be back soon.