Here’s a reallyyyyyyy early reference to pizza in the December 6, 1903 edition of the New York Tribune. It’s part of a larger article about how much Italians love hot foods (there’s a section that defines pepperoni as hot peppers rather than the later Americanized cured meat) and includes some rather controversial remnants from our lost pizza past. The article doesn’t mention a restaurant name, so it’s unclear whether this is a bakery, pizzeria or somebody’s house. What is clear is that the author directly compares Italian pizza to American pie, making it the earliest reference to pizza as a pie that I have ever seen. We use this slang in the Northeast, but people outside the area always ask me why I call pizza a pie. Here’s why!
But there’s a lot more mind-blowing info in this tiny paragraph. The article indicates a method of dough stretching that is more or less outlawed in both Naples and New York City pizzerias today: the rolling pin. In Naples, all pizza dough is extended by hand with special care taken to preserve the gases of fermentation. New York pizza makers tend to use more muscle with their dough stretching because American flour is much stronger than its European counterpart. But nobody currently making New York or Neapolitan style pizza even owns a rolling pin.
The instructions also say to roll out the dough to an inch thick. WOW, that’s not thin crust at all! Could it have been a typo? A misunderstanding? Lost in translation? Just the wrong person to interview for the article? We may never know, but what’s certain is that pizza has never been a food with strict definition — that’s what makes it so wonderful!
Here’s a chart of last week’s pizza intake. Looks like I overshot my limit of 15 slices.
Sometime last year I started keeping track of how much pizza I was eating. It’s not part of a crazy cleansing diet or anything but I figured it might make sense to limit my intake so I don’t risk burning out. In 2009 alone I visited about 400 different pizzerias and ate over 1300 slices. Probably not the best idea, so now I try to stick to a maximum of 15 slices per week. I chose 15 because there are 16 slices in 2 whole pies, so 15 is less than 2 whole pies. It’s really just a psychological trick to make me think I’m not eating that much pizza.
Until recently, I’ve just been keeping a running tally in my head. That worked pretty well until my homeslice Nick from PizzaRules.com turned me on to Daytum, a sweet data tracking app/website. I use a free version that lets me plug in any data I want and organize it into neat charts and graphs. The data is all public in the free version but you can make it private by upgrading for a small fee.
The above chart shows a a blue graph, which is an enlarged version of the highlighted section of the smaller gray graph below. I only highlighted the last week because I track my slices on a Monday - Friday schedule. You can see a short list of pizzerias I visited with the number of slices consumed to the left. Looks like I ate at 8 pizzerias, logged in the data from each and gobbled 18 total slices. So much for that limit. Keep in mind that I physically enter 15 - 25 pizzerias per week with my New York Pizza Tours so I have to restrain myself all the time. It’s especially hard when I’m going out for extracurricular (ie non-tour) pizza. (5 slices at Speedy Romeo, 4 at Don Antonio, 4 at Roberta’s…. yikes!)
I’ll try to post a weekly slice graph every Monday!
There she is, a Sicilian pie so good I emailed a picture of it to my dad.
Winter is the perfect time for thick crusts and gooey cheese, so I decided to make it a February project to learn how to make the perfect Sicilian pizza. After purchasing a coated black pan from Bari Equipment, my favorite restaurant supply store on the Bowery, I set out to craft a square pie that wouldn’t be the all-too-common heavy rock in the stomachs of all wide-eyed eaters. Here’s a rundown of my journey thus far.
I made a batch of dough using little bits of leftover flour from several different sources. This probably wasn’t the best idea, but I couldn’t bare to see lonely little bags of flour just sitting there in my flour bin. So I mixed 50g whole wheat with 350g bread flour and 196g all purpose. I did a 66% hydration with 110g Ischia starter. That means there was 650g total flour, 55 of which came from a starter. If you don’t have a starter, just use 650g flour and you’ll be set (but you’ll have to use more yeast). The 66% hydration means I used a water with a weight of 66% the 650g flour weight. That’s 429g, but 55g of water were already in the starter so I only had to add 374g water to the mix. Confused? Just remember that most starters are 50/50 water to flour, so a 200g portion of starter is 100g water and 100g flour. To boost the air content, I added 1g active dry yeast. After mixing by hand and a 30 rest period, I kneaded in about 15g salt. After another 30 minute rest, I loaded the finished dough into a lightly-oiled container and let her sit in the fridge for a couple days.
My oiled dough prepping for its final rise on baking day.
I ended up baking my pizza about two days after making the dough. Unlike with Neapolitan pizza, square pies require a long rise after stretching and before baking. Getting the dough into the square pan requires a series of short rises inter-cut by delicate stretching. It took about three hours to get the dough from a ball to this square shape. I’m actually going to try a longer rise and a single stretch next time because this pie came out a bit too dense for me. I should note that this dough is lightly covered with oil, so it won’t dry out during the rise.
Three great calendars from three extremely different pizzerias.
Of all the trends hitting the pizza scene lately, the buzz word of 2012 thus far seems to be calendar. Three of the city’s most varied pizzerias each decided to welcome the new year with their very own custom-made wall calendars. And these aren’t lame calendars either, they’re extremely well designed with as much personality as the pizzerias themselves. Here’s a look at what’s to come in 2012 through the eyes of John’s of Bleecker Street, L’asso and Two Boots.
Each month features a still from a famous New York City movie with one major modification: main characters faces have been replaced with those of the pizzeria staff! There’s even a caption with ever page that ties John’s Pizzeria into the film’s plot. It’s pretty goofy but hilarious, especially if you go there often enough to recognize the staff. A company called Three Room Press has made the calendars for John’s Pizzeria since 2011 and it looks like it’s becoming a tradition.
This caption says: “If only The Warriors had made it back to Coney Island without stopping to eat some John’s of Bleecker Street, they might have had a chance. But on the other hand, what a way to go!”
People always ask me what’s the craziest pizza I’ve ever had and I’m proud to announce a new contender for the big prize. To celebrate its 7th anniversary, Luzzo’s (211 First Ave in Manhattan) debuted a limited edition 7 Sins pizza earlier this week. It features an ingredient for each of the seven deadly sins. There’s mozzarella for sloth, tomato for envy, caramelized eggplant for gluttony, a drizzle of Barolo wine reduction for pride, walnuts (inside the rolled eggplant) for greed and Nutella with shaved dark chocolate for lust. The whole thing gets topped with a Serrano pepper for wrath. YOWZA!
Owner Michele Iuliano prepares his celebratory 7 Sins Pizza.
But how does it taste? I was surprised that such a laundry list of ingredients didn’t get overwhelming or confusing. In fact, my only real complaint is that the Serrano pepper trampled some of the more subtle ingredients. This isn’t the kind of pizza I’d normally order, but it’s definitely a lot of fun to eat!
Get it while it’s on the menu for the next few days… Luzzo’s is located at 211 1st Ave (12th Street).