Everything you need to throw your own tomato party!
Every month I assemble TEAM SPT for some extreme pizza excitement. Last month’s mission was all about the tomato. We talked some tomato history and genetics along with a tasting of several grocery store brand canned plum tomatoes. Pizzerias need the consistency of tomatoes that are canned in season. They use plum tomatoes because they contain less water than the big round guys. That’s why we need to stay on top of the tomato product universe and all that it offers.
Here are two fresh tomatoes, one from my local grocery store (left) and the other from the Union Square Green Market (right). My grocery store carries Canadian tomatoes that are picked green and gassed with ethylene to redden the skin. It was hard, mealy and off-color. The lovely red tomato on the right is from a farm in Pennsylvania. It was picked when ripe and brought to market within 48 hours. It tasted WAY better! Too bad you can only get these in season, otherwise the canned tomato wouldn’t be such a big deal.
We tried a few different tomato brands in a blind tasting similar to the massive ones I did in 2010. I put different products from the same company against each other. These two products from La Valle are different. The can on the left is DOP San Marzano tomatoes and the can on the right is straight peeled plum tomatoes. The DOP tomatoes are more expensive, but is the taste really that different?
Miriam and Joe did the tasting, I prepared the test. They were given a series of white cups, each holding a whole plum tomato straight from the can. I labeled the cups A-E and hid the original cans in the kitchen. These tomatoes were right from the can with no rinsing or anything. I wanted Miriam and Joe to taste everything about the product.
I’m hitting the road this month to bring the pizza box love to a few cities around the US. Each event will feature a talk about pizza and pizza boxes followed by some pizza tasting! I’ll also be eating a bunch of pizza in each city before and after the events to keep in touch by tweeting @scottspizzatour and we’ll meet up!
Monday, November 11 - Chicago Pizza Tour (Chicago, IL) We’re hitting four pizzerias in 3 hours aboard the Dough Force One. This is a rad tour and I’ve been waiting YEARS to take it. Buy tickets here.
Tuesday, November 12 - 57th Street Books (Chicago, IL) Pizza talk + tasting from Edwardo’s Natural Pizza. Details here.
Wednesday, November 13 - Comet Ping Pong (Washington, DC) This one’s going to be extra awesome because we’re doing a pizza box design contest and the winner gets a free bar tab. Plus there’ll be pizza on hand and books for sale via Politics and Prose. Details here.
Tuesday, November 19 - Otto Pizzeria (BU Campus - Boston, MA) No messing around, this event is AT the pizzeria! We’ll have a tasting and talk about pizza, pizza boxes, etc. It’s sponsored by Brookline Booksmith, so books will be available. Details here.
Tuesday, November 26 - New York Public Library (NYC) I’ll be giving a lecture about the history of the pizza box at the Mid-Manhattan branch. Details here.
Check out this episode of my favorite podcast, The Jeff Rubin Jeff Rubin Show, in which Jeff and I discuss my new book Viva La Pizza! The Art of the Pizza Box, available in bookstores and internets everywhere Nov 5. We talk about a lot of specific boxes and I thought it might help to post photos of them here. They’re in the same order talk about on the show. Your life hasn’t been this easy since Jeff released enhanced editions.
We’re talking about a fantastic NYC pizzeria called Ben’s (on Spring St). Try their Sicilian pizza, particularly the Palermo. As for the box, see if you can spot all the differences between their old box and the new one!
This is the historic predecessor to the modern pizza box. The stufa is made of copper and pointed at the top to allow for better steam release than what we use to transport pizzas today.
Here’s a strange box from the Faroe Islands, an actual country north of Scotland that has funny telephone numbers.
As you’ll hear in the show, Luca Ciancio is my favorite Italian pizza box artist. He’s designed over 250 images like this and they are all amazing. Keep in mind this isn’t for any particular pizzeria, it’s a generic stock box! Much better than the “Hot and Tasty” or “Only the Finest Ingredients” we get in the US.
The Walker Lock is the most common box type. I am in awe of its simple elegance. The Walker Lock is essentially the rollover self-locking mechanism that keeps most of the nation’s pizza safe and secure during transport.
The Chicago Folder is a useful box for thick deep-dish pizzas. It’s more rare than the Walker Lock and costs more to produce.
Jeff and I talk about my favorite new pizza box technology and right now I’m super into this VENTiT box from India. It uses standard corrugated boxes with ports cut into the different layers of paper in such a way that they don’t line up - that lets steam out but keeps heat in! Amazing.
*Listen to the Jeff Rubin Jeff Rubin Show for more information about these and other boxes, as well as other non-pizza box related programming.
I wrote a book about pizza boxes. It comes out Tuesday, November 5 (one week from today). I’m super excited about it.
Viva La Pizza! The Art of the Pizza Box presents over 100 amazing pizza boxes from around the world and tells you everything you ever wanted to know about the history, art and technology of mankind’s most under appreciated art form.
Find out more about the book on my website, which has page previews, purchasing information and book events in YOUR TOWN!
Pre-order your copy TODAY from McNally Jackson (signed copies!), Amazon, or get 40% off with promo code PIZZA when purchasing directly from my publisher Melville House! It will also be available in Barnes and Noble bookstores and indie shops everywhere.
I was cleaning out my office today when I found some old blood work documentation. In 2007 I worked a job that kept me mostly at a desk with no constant access to pizza. My TC (total cholesterol) was 182, HDL (good cholesterol) was 52 and LDL (bad cholesterol) was a slightly alarming 116. The results in June 2012, after running pizza tours for a few years and consuming 15-25 slices per week, show TC down to 159, HDL holding at 52 and LDL down below risk level at 95 .
From left: Jared, Miriam, Colin, Joe, Scott (I am not in this photo)
Every month or so, Team SPT gets together for a serious info-session so we can sharpen our collective pizza edge. August’s trip was a no-brainer once I found out pizza guides Miriam and Joe had never been to New Haven, CT. Our tours happen in NYC but cover as much of the pizza spectrum as possible. Rather than sit them down at SPTHQ for a slideshow of the various apizza locations in and around Wooster Street, we piled into the car and made the short drive up I-95. This is our story.
Because of our Saturday tour schedule, we were unable to leave Manhattan until about 3PM. That worked out just fine because Sally’s Apizza doesn’t open until 5PM, so we arrived just on time to join the line at exactly 4:30. Sally’s has the most abbreviated schedule of all the pizzerias in New Haven, so we knew we had to hit it with more precision than the other places. Five of us drove up in my sweet 2004 Nissan Sentra: SPT tour guides Miriam and Joe, guide-in-training Jared and Joe’s husband Scott. We met up with New Haven tour guide and historian Colin Caplan, our spirit guide through the context of each pizzeria and how the city itself impacted the dish’s local variation. He also cleared something up for me: Why do they call it apizza in New Haven? Apparently the Italian population of New Haven is from Amalfi and their dialect includes the term apizza (pronounced ah-beetz). Thanks Colin!
The profile of Sally’s Apizza reveals their oven!
Before we even joined the line outside the pizzeria, I showed Miriam and Joe the building’s profile, which tells a great deal about what’s going on inside. Sally’s uses a coal-fired oven, which was added after the building’s construction. You can see here that the 3-4 story building drops to a single story extension that ends with a tall chimney. That extension is the oven. Coal ovens are large and burn in such a way that the coal gets loaded into the front and exhaust escapes out the back. It’s hard to see this in New York because the buildings are built so close together. New Haven has space, so you can stand in the parking lot and look at a piece of architecture that reveals something about historic pizza technology!
But we didn’t spend all our time in the parking lot. Once inside, we ordered two small pies: one regular (no cheese) and one with mozzarella (mutz). The second was probably my favorite of the entire trip so check it out of you’re looking for one stop in New Haven. The interior is amazing, with a mix of “here are some old photos and articles about us since we opened in 1938” and “we don’t redecorate or clean” that’s both charming and alarming (ie the bathroom). I love this place for all its charm and, of course, for its excellent and honest pizza.
Our next stop was Frank Pepe's, the oldest remaining New Haven pizzeria. Pepe's has two locations right next to each other. The main building is the one everybody goes to, so there's always a long line. The other building - to the left of the main space and set back into the parking lot - is the original bakery Pepe worked at before opening his own place (Colin, correct me if I'm wrong about that) and was at one point a rival pizzeria but now owned by the Pepe family. I usually go to the main building, so this was my first time at The Spot (the former name of this pizza location, although not officially called that anymore). I'd taken photos through the windows but never had the chance to actually go inside!
The pizza was identical to that from the main space of Pepe’s. We had a regular mozzarella pie and the famous white clam pie. Both were excellent, but our group wasn’t all about the clams. That’s fine, more for me!
The journey continued to Modern Apizza, possibly my favorite in New Haven. It opened in 1936 - two years before Sally’s - but has changed hands and names since then. Much to our dismay, Modern was closed for their annual vacation. Watch out for August, Italians love to take a couple weeks off so it could be a mess for your pizza voyage. I regret not looking into this before we went but all turned out OK because we had time to hit Bar, a more recent addition to the New Haven pizza scene.
Bar opened about 18 years ago and it’s a huge brewpub / pizza joint that makes an updated version of New Haven apizza. The place is SO DANG HIP it was almost a 2 hour wait for the pizza, so we got it faster by just taking it to go. We took the pie back to my car and set up shop on the hood.
Along came a lovely couple that had just come from setting up for a friend’s wedding. They asked where they could find a slice of pizza in the area and we all squealed. They could not have approached a better crew. Sadly, there aren’t really any good slice shops in the area so we said the best option is to do what we did and hit up Bar. They looked so sad, it was really heart-breaking. So we invited them to join us! Without missing a beat Mrs Random grabbed a slice and Mr Random was close behind.
Pizza is the ultimate food of friendship. It’s both personal and communal at the same time and that’s what brought this entire group of pizza fans together in the first place. This moment truly defined the entire trip!
Us with the Van Der Beeks. WHAT?!?!
Our new friends were so lovely and of all the random things they could have said, they hit us with a real doozy. “Have you ever heard of James Van Der Beek? We’re his parents!” Yup. So that happened. They had a passerby take this photo and emailed it to me the next day. SO IT WASN’T ALL JUST A DREAM!
We finished up, said farewell and moved along to our return trip down I-95. It was late enough that traffic was light, so we cruised swiftly along the gentle glide of the highway. Only one stop remained in our path: Colony Grill in Stamford, CT. This place is a 1930s Irish pub that started doing pizza somewhere after WWII. It’s a thin pan pizza with cheese all the way out to the edge (it even burns a bit!!!!) and we had to have it as a nightcap.
Half sausage, all hot oil at Colony.
We did a classic order of a small pie with hot oil on the whole thing and sausage on half. The hot oil is a must here so don’t leave Colony without it! It’s a Serrano pepper-infused oil and it is delightful, especially when matched with chunks of sausage. This was a crowd favorite for sure and I’m glad we made the stop.
And so our journey came to an end as we returned to New York City filled with new-found knowledge and bellies filled with delicious pizza.
I was already planning a quick trip to Philadelphia to check out some pizzerias when my friend John called asking if I’d ever been to Marrone’s. John owns a bunch of pizzerias and one of his best customers asked him to replicate Marrone’s since it was the pizza of his youth. So I went on a mission to figure out what was going on with the pizza at Marrone’s and if it was worth reproducing.
The restaurant (more of a bar with a few pizza ovens) is located on a quaint street about 20 minutes outside of Philadelphia proper, right next to a smattering of other old school Italian businesses. Marrone’s opened in 1946, as you can see from the awesome blue sign in their parking lot (first pic). But that’s pretty much all the awesomeness you’ll find at this place.
The pizza is interesting. It’s a cheese-first-sauce-last operation and word on the street is that they use provolone cheese rather than mozzarella. I ordered a regular pie, but lots of folks go for double cheese.
It’s a pretty slow bake, clocking in at 15:30 for a small pie. It’s on the thick side, so a slow bake makes sense. The crust was pretty lame and devoid of much flavor, but the texture was a bit on the flaky side.
I took some measurements and sent them off to John along with a few frozen slices and his reading was the same as mine. This is not a great pizza but sometimes you develop a taste for something and it only grows stronger with memory when you move 2,500 miles away from it.
If Gennaro’s Tomato Pie looks and sounds familiar to New York pizza lovers, it’s because it is essentially a classic turn-of-the-last-century New York pizza. Makes plenty of sense because it was opened by the family that owns Lombardi’s in Soho. Lombardi’s became the first pizzeria in the US when it opened on Spring Street in 1905. It’s currently owned by longtime Lombardi family friend John Brescio and managed by his son Mike, who previously ran a Lombardi’s pizzeria in Philadelphia before the building was demolished to make way for new construction. Mike stockpiled some bits and pieces from Lombardi’s and reentered the Philadelphia pizza scene with Gennaro’s about six months ago. And it’s outstanding.
I met up with some friends to kick the tires at Gennaro’s. On the left is my college roommate Drew and his wife Sara. The guy on the right is my new pal Norman, who had sent me several emails over the past few months telling me about his pizza obsession and love for this new place called Gennaro’s. So we all met up, took a tour of the place and sat down for some pizza.
I’m happy to report that the pizza is wonderful. The crust is baked a bit on the well-done side but comes out perfectly in tune with the sauce and cheese. Instead of dealing with the hassle of a coal-fired oven, Gennaro’s opted for a Swedish-made Bake Master electric oven. It’s easy to manage and gives controls for separate elements on the oven’s top and bottom. But all that matters about the oven is that the pizza that came out of it was fantastic.
We tried several, but my favorites were the standard cheese pizza and the lovely pesto pizza. They’re just perfectly balanced with an even hand on sauce, cheese and additional toppings. Unlike the tricky undependable heat of a coal oven, the electric oven provides a far more consistent bake without having to rotate the pie every few seconds.
The place itself is lovely, styled as a 1930s cafe. There are old radios along the wall and piped-in radio broadcasts from back in the day. But it isn’t over-the-top kitch, it’s done tastefully and not to detract from the food.
Check out the chairs — they’re nearly identical to those found in a photo of the original Lombardi’s from the 1920s!
Gennaro’s Tomato Pie is a serious spot and a welcome addition to the growing Philadelphia pizza scene. While you’re there, be sure to try their classic desserts. There’s a pound cake, a pineapple upside-down cake, and my favorite — the layered ice box cake!
With the recent additions of Nomad, Pizza Brain, Pizzeria Beddia (which I have yet to visit) and Gennaro’s, Philadelphia is really upping its long-abandoned pizza game. Even the old standbys like Marra’s and Tacconelli’s are not loved by all locals. These new spots are exciting and different enough that the town is finally cultivating some diversity in its pizza offerings. And Gennaro’s is certainly a strong piece of that tapestry.
Giorgia Caporuscio Wins First Place in Italian Pizza Competition
Big congratulations to Giorgia Caporuscio for winning first place in the classic pizza category at the 12th annual International Pizza Competition in Italy. Giorgia is head pizzaiola at Kesté Pizza e Vino and also makes pizzas at Don Antonio by Starita, both located in New York City. She’s only been making pizza for just over two years, but clearly she’s already showing her chops.
After all the reports and rumors and even with brown paper up in the windows, I still thought there was a chance for Pizza Box. The typical New York slice shop was part of a dwindling tribe, having been in business since 1957. Box’s owner had assured me on several occasions that they were just renovating and planned to reopen in six weeks with a new layout. I was worried about the pizza changing but he seemed confident that it would just be a cosmetic alteration. About a month ago I heard from another area restauranteur that the pizzeria was not planning to reopen, so hope remained. But this week the sign finally came down and reality set in. Pizza Box is no more.
This marks another blow to the New York slice, which has been struggling against fluctuating ingredient costs and rising rents. A slice of pizza is a great deal at $2.50, but Pizza Box had two $1 slice joints within a block and bar-lined streets like Bleecker are not usually filled with the most discerning palates at 2am. And so the Pizza Box is gone, making way for a fast-food sandwich chain that’s willing to pay more in rent than Pizza Box was bringing in from pizza sales. I can’t blame them, but I certainly can mourn the loss.
I adore this simple box with the misspelled street name.
And what about the pizza? It wasn’t the greatest slice I’ve ever had but it was honest. It’s exactly what a New York slice should be. No fancy flour, no wood fired oven, no cheese blends — no nonsense. Just a solid pie, perfect for folding and eating on the go.
This should be a lesson to us all. Eat good pizza. Support your local pizzeria or it will disappear. Goodbye, Pizza Box. You will be missed.
Scott’s Pizza Tours guide you through the big, messy (and cheesy) world of New York Pizza.
Our sweet Pizza Journals are featured on the Scout Books website! Every person who takes a pizza tour gets a pizza tour survival kit, complete with palate cleansers, emergency pizza, hand wipe and the coolest notebook ever!!!
Mark your calendars for this year’s Slice Out Hunger fundraiser. It’s happening on October 9 at St Anthony’s Church at 154 Sullivan St (at Houston) in New York City. Doors open at 6 and over 35 of your favorite pizzerias will be there. We got Lombardi’s, Difara, Two Boots, John’s, Joe’s, Luzzo’s, NY Pizza Suprema, Sottocasa, Keste, Don Antonio, Forcella, Cowboy Pizza and LOTS MORE!
How does it work? You just show up, buy as many $1 tickets as you want, then exchange tickets for slices, sodas or desserts. Our sponsors have pledged to match every dollar we raise and all the money goes to Food Bank For New York City!
Check out our event website for more details, volunteer information and sponsorship opportunities.
See that tubby mystery layer between crust and sauce/cheese? Gross.
You know when you’re eating a slice of pizza and there’s a gooey area between the base and the topping? It’s a serious problem known in the pizza world as the gum line and it’s ruining pizza everywhere. How can this be if the exterior of my crust is a beautiful golden brown? What is this invader doing in my pizza? Where does it come from? What can we do to stop it? There’s nothing a consumer can do to prevent the dreaded gum line, but the world’s pizza makers should be aware of this common flaw.
WHAT CAUSES THE GUM LINE? There are dozens of potential causes but the bottom line is temperature. Since deck-baked pizza is baking from the bottom up through direct conduction from the oven floor, the underside is baked first. If you top your base with refrigerated sauce, cheese and vegetables, there’s a good chance you’ll form a gum line. Excess moisture from sauce and vegetable toppings also can cause a gum line by penetrating the upper layer of dough and cause it to cook unevenly.
There’s also a huge matter of dough management. Dough is alive and its temperature is super important, so if it’s sealed in a container too quickly post-mix, moisture will condense and the exterior will get sticky. Allowing the dough to sit too long before scaling and rounding it can also be a big issue because the outside warms up before the inside.
An article by Tom “Dough Doctor” Lehmann points out that too little yeast in the dough can cause an uneven bake because the dough will not rise quickly enough during the bake. The first minute or so in the oven dictates the texture of the crust, so a fast spring will produce a more open internal crumb structure. How exciting!
HOW CAN I PREVENT THE GUM LINE? Some pizzerias prevent sauce and topping moisture from seeping into the dough by applying a thin skin of oil to the surface after it has been opened into a skin. It’s the same principle behind spreading mayonnaise on your sandwich bread — fat blocks moisture. Some pizzerias are able to prevent the gum line by swapping the cheese and sauce so the cheese goes down first. I’ve never seen a gum line at Totonno’s, Grimaldi’s, Johns on Bleecker or Arturo’s - all of which apply their cheese first.
On the dough management side of the equation, pizzeria operators can cross-stack their dough trays for the first hour or so of the rise, allowing moisture and heat to escape. It all depends on where you are and how dry it is. Beyond that, it’s all about allowing dough to cool down evenly.
WHY SHOULD I CARE ABOUT THE GUM LINE ANYWAY? First of all, they taste gross. Secondly, it’s undercooked dough and it will likely give you a stomach ache. Finally, improperly baked pizza is giving this food a bad name and MUST BE STOPPED! Too many people are used to the gum line and actually think it’s a normal part of pizza. It is not. Please help spread the word and if we work together we can stop the dreaded gum line.
Check out pizza tour guide Miriam’s amazing pizza blog! The ‘Za Report chronicles Miriam’s personal journey through the pizza universe with photos and reviews of her cheesy adventures. She’s a designer by trade and a true pizzaholic by heart so the blog both looks and reads perfectly.
Just some sexy shots from my first visit to Wheated in the Ditmas Park section of Brooklyn. This place is the product of years of backyard testing and research by owner David Sheridan. Some lucky pizza tours have even had the chance to visit his backyard with me for early testing before he even signed the lease on this space! His dough is made by hand and uses 100% natural fermentation. It’s also a pretty serious bourbon bar! I don’t remember all the names of the pies we had but just show these photos to your server and you’ll be good to go. Enjoy!
Wheated 905 Church Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11218 Open 6-midnight every day except for Monday!
Last week I celebrated my annual “Two Days on the Beach” vacation and somehow managed to spend a significant portion of it visiting pizzerias along the Jersey shore. Here’s a rundown.
My first stop was the famous Vic’s in Bradley Beach. It’s an old school Italian American joint that is most accurately embodied by this beautiful neon sign. The pizza is a pretty typical bar pie and even though it was better than the last one I had (with the Pizza Patrol back in 2009) it wasn’t anything worth traveling for. They advertise “tomato pie,” a term used for pizza in the Trenton area. This makes a ton of sense because I-195 runs a straight route from Trenton to the Monmouth County shore area, so folks often escaped the NJ capitol for sandy serenity in towns like Bradley Beach.
But if you do end up in Bradley Beach looking for a quick slice, Ferraro’s Famous Pizza just a block down the road is an excellent choice! They have a Ferraro’s Favorite (or something like that, not exactly sure what they call it) with cheese on first and chunky tomato on top. It’s excellent. Be sure to ask for basil to be added post-oven, it really brightens up the pie.
Slice at Ferraro’s on Main St in Bradley Beach.
On a drive down to see some friends in Mantoloking, we stumbled upon another “tomato pie” joint simply called Brick Oven. They weren’t open for lunch, but I grabbed a photo of their cool sign because of the amazing appearance of yet another Winking Chef.
The final pizza stop was the most anticipated of the journey. Porta in Asbury Park was recommended to me by Keste/Don Antonio’s Roberto Caporuscio, food meister Don Magee and lots of people via Twitter. Word on the street is it turns into a nightclub so get there before 9pm if you want to eat without drinks being spilled on your pie.
We got there at 6:30 on a Friday and there was already a 30 min wait, so we attempted another run on Saturday at 6 and were seated right away.
Porta in Asbury Park, NJ.
It’s a HUGE place with two Neapolitan Gianni Acunto ovens that reminded me a lot of Antico in Atlanta, but it’s more subdued. They serve pretty typical Neapolitan pizza with a slight tilt toward what Americans might expect. The crust isn’t too soft and toppings were definitely not sparse as they are in Napoli. Our margherita pie tasted great and was clearly made with quality tomatoes and oil, but I could have done with less cheese. I’ll definitely go back on my next visit to Asbury Park.
The Jersey shore is packed with less-than-desirable boardwalk pizza that only tastes good after a day in the sun or a night of intoxication but these spots are solid regardless of your state of mind.
Queens food ambassador Jeff Orlick leading a midnight street food tour.
Last week I went on a Midnight Food Crawl down Roosevelt Ave in Queens with local food ambassador Jeff Orlick. We hit a bunch of food carts, trucks, booths and even a couple semi-legal shopping cart vendors. This isn’t the Manhattan food cart scene, so we’re not talking about grilled cheese and Korean tacos and wood-fired pizza and funky ice cream — these are traditional dishes made by immigrant families just trying to make ends meet. Jeff translates the cuisine to people like me who need a nudge before going off my personal culinary map.
One stop we made was a new Dominican truck and one menu item really stuck out — PIZZATON. It starts with “pizza,” so how bad could it be? This wasn’t my top dish of the night but it ended up being one of the group’s favorites.
"That pizzaton had a smashed green plantain shell, with tomato sauce, cheese (not sure what kind), shrimp [or] chicken, and I believe it had peppers in it too (don’t have a close enough photo). Plantains are something that’s sometimes used instead of bread, like on the patacon, which is basically a sandwich but with plantains instead of the bread (it’s the banana version of a chimichurri)."
The menu. Pizzaton is item 5-6.
It was pretty tasty, but more a bunch of stuff with cheese melted on top than anything. This truck claims to have invented the dish and I have a feeling they’re not making that up. Keep your eyes peeled for more PIZZATON at your local Dominican food purveyor.
Lesson #1: There is a magazine devoted to pizza. Actually, there are several. The one I write for is called Pizza Today. There’s another one called PMQ’s Pizza Magazine. There is also a Canadian pizza magazine called, you guessed it, Canadian Pizza Magazine! Italy has five last time I checked and both China and Australia each have their own version of PMQ’s Pizza Magazine. These magazines are all for the food industry more than they are for people who are just really into pizza, although I’ve been reading them and learning a TON even before I started running pizza tours and judging pizza competitions.
Lesson #2: I write a column for Pizza Today called “Man on the Street.” It has been about 2 years since I started sharing my view as a professional pizza consumer with the magazine’s readership, which consists of some 40,000 pizzerias across the country. My columns let pizza operators know what’s going on inside the minds of their customers. Read it here!
Lesson #3: My monthly column won a prestigious award! The kind folks at Pizza Today entered “Man on the Street” into a competition run by the Trade, Association and Business Publications International (TABPI). I took home a bronze medal in the Best Regular Column category at the 2013 TABBIE awards. A magazine called Elevator World took home the gold for what I’m sure is a thrilling column. My warning to Elevator World: next year YOU’RE GOING DOWN!!!
Folks in LA are definitely getting excited and my brother is even doing a vegan pizza crawl so contact him via Twitter @VeganSnacker for hot vegan pizza action.
Just a quick note on this joyous day: pizza does not need to be cheesy to count as pizza. The original pizza consumers were too poor to afford cheese, so most of the earliest pizzas were completely cheeseless. Besides that historical factoid, I’m just not really into any of the vegan cheese substitutes. It’s nice when pizzerias have a special vegan option with tons of veggies and all that but a great Pizza Marinara at a Neapolitan pizzeria will not have any animal products. The dough is flour, salt, water and yeast. No egg or milk or anything. The topping is just tomato, garlic, oil and herbs. It’s incredibly delicious without the need to pile heaps of ingredients on top. Check it out!
I first met Pete Genovese in 2006 when I was a member of a day-long pizza quest for New Jersey’s largest newspaper, The Star Ledger. Every summer Saturday, Pete loads the car, dubbed the Munchmobile, with a group of carefully-selected eaters to test a specific food within the state. This guy knows every angle of NJ and he’s very selective when it comes to food. He has a special love for pizza, which led to a 6 month long pizza-only stretch of adventuring at the tail end of 2009. I was fortunate enough to be on the team for over 300 pizzerias across the Garden State. Pete dropped a book called A Slice of Jersey with stories and reviews of all the pizzerias we visited. But his thirst was not quenched. Pete undertook a mission of epic proportions with a book project about New York City pizza and that book is finally here in the form of Pizza City: The Ultimate Guide to New York’s Favorite Food.
There are plenty of book about pizza. Trust me, I have at least one copy of each of them. Most go into the funky quirky tidbits of pizza history and folklore but Pizza City cuts right to what’s most interesting: the people behind the pizza. It covers the most popular slice shops and pie palaces but also takes the time to profile lesser-known pizzerias. Take John’s in Elmhurst, Queens. It’s a small place on the corner run by a mother-daughter team. I’ve had the pizza and wasn’t blown away by it, but the place has a real charm you can’t duplicate.
There’s also a review section of 250 pizzerias but it’s more for context than reviews of the pizza. Pete writes about what was going on while he was eating his slice. I like that. Everyone has different taste and you can’t base your opinion on his, so Pete gives you the info and lets you find out for yourself whether or not it’s the greatest slice on Earth.
Full disclosure: there’s a section about me and my pizza tour. But regardless of that, the book’s still good! He also profiles other pizza enthusiasts and bloggers so you get a real sense of how crazy the pizza scene gets.
This book belongs on the shelf of every pizza fan… actually every human, because it shakes a food we take for granted down to what’s important: people, pride and heart.
I had some dough left over from Tuesday but didn’t get a chance to use it until yesterday. Pretty good excuse to experiment with 3 day cold rise dough on my new Baking Steel! The dough is my standard formula:
315g water 500 g flour 4g yeast 10g salt
Last time I used the Steel I had it up at the top rack but the pizza got a bit too charred so I lowered it for this round. I technically split the difference between the top rack and the center rack by inserting some of my baking tiles in between. The result was pretty good! Underside of the crust was more even but I could still use more char up top.
Last week’s pizza, baked higher in the oven. Basil, grape tomato, mozzarella di bufala.Fancy!
This ain’t no Hallmark holiday, this is actually a real thing based in history. Today marks the 124th anniversary of the naming of the Pizza Margherita! On June 11, 1889 the Italian “Department of the Mouth” issued a letter on behalf of her majesty Queen Margherita, consort of King Umberto I, to thank pizzaiolo (pizza maker) Raphaele Esposito for presenting “three quality pizzas” in honor of the royal couple’s trip to Naples. The purpose of the trip was to dedicate a road (Corso Umberto I) but the most memorable event was clearly this peasant meal. Legend has it the queen’s favorite was a pizza with mozzarella, tomato and basil — a pizza featuring the freshest seasonal ingredients. This dish now carries the queen’s name and helped pull pizza out of the slums and into the mainstream.
Check out photos of the letter and the pizzeria where it all happened in my post from 2011.
Miriam and Joe came over to make pizza with me LAST NIGHT!!!
My company is called Scott’s Pizza Tours because I never envisioned anyone but me leading these cultural-culinary adventures around NYC. Turns out I was wrong. Miriam and Joe have been on board for the past couple of months after an exhaustive search for fun and exciting pizza enthusiasts to help lead folks through the city’s ever-changing pizza landscape.
Both Joe and Miriam lead normal lives with normal jobs, but pizza is their passion so they scored some NYC Sightseeing Guide licenses and now they’re cruising the streets looking for great slices. I’m beyond excited for anyone who gets to experience their tours.
Schedules aren’t set in stone but Joe will be taking on Sunday walking tours through Greenwich Village and Soho, Miriam will have most Friday Crosstown Pizza Walks and I will still be doing every Sunday NYC Pizza Bus tour as well as walking tours and private tours most other days. We now have evening tours on Mondays and Thursdays plus more to come toward the end of the summer. Stay tuned!
You’re lost. You’re hungry. You need pizza. You have a wi-fi equipped mobile device. You are saved! Everybody knows about general food-locating apps like Yelp, Foursquare and Foodspotting but there are several apps dedicated solely to helping you find nearby pizzerias. Here’s a quick rundown of four of them.
NAME: Pizza Finder PRICE: FREE (you just have to deal with the ad at the bottom) TERRITORY: Entire USA DEVICES: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad
Pizza Finder opens with a list of pizzerias in close proximity. You get exact distance, address and phone number right there on the main page. Clicking through to any pizzeria gives you its Yelp page for more details and reviews. You can even enter any location in the US and get a list of pizzerias if you want to plan ahead rather than wait until you’re standing sliceless at an unfamiliar intersection. It’s pretty much just a “pizza” search in the Yellow Pages.
Not a bad app if you’re in a new apartment and want to order a couple pies for all the friends you roped into helping you move, but keep in mind you’re depending on Yelp reviews to light the way to the right spot. Choose the wrong pizzeria and you’ll have to find new friends for the next move.
NAME: Cheazza PRICE: $0.99 TERRITORY: NYC DEVICES: Compatible with iPad, iTouch and iPhone
As its name (sort of) indicates, Cheazza is all about helping you find cheap pizza. It lists chains, dollar slice shops and pizza deals by neighborhood or via a geo-location feature. In the screenshot above, you’ll see Papa John’s (#3 chain in the US), 2 Bros. Pizza (dollar slice chain around NYC), Crocodile Lounge (one of several NYC bars that offer a free personal pizza with every drink) and a couple other dollar slice joints. Come to think of it, Cheazza is technically an app that lists pizzerias you’ll want to avoid! It amazes me that anyone New York would go out of their way to find a bad slice, but I suppose desperate times call for desperate measures. Use at your own risk!
Who is Jeff Orlick? He’s a guy who lives in Queens and really likes good food. He’s constantly searching for authenticity, honesty and general realness in eateries of all sorts but this app concentrates specifically on Jeff’s personal pizza recommendations. Instead of searching based on proximity, Real Pizza suggests pizzerias based on user-selected filters (right screenshot above) such as borough, oven type and pizza style. There are also options to sort by price and neighborhood if you don’t want to go with straight alphabetical order.
This is easily my favorite pizza-finding app because it features something none of the other ones have: curation. Orlick has clearly spent countless hours, days, months, years culling his list and it is constantly being revised and expanded. His app shows you photos he took and reviews he wrote with extra info you can’t get from a simple phone book listing.
Real Pizza’s only real downfall is that there’s so much information that the app tends to run a bit slow and the navigation is a bit clunky. I also wish it had a geo-location function but my fingers are crossed that’s coming with the next update. That being said, this is the only app for serious pizza enthusiasts and it’s well worth the price of admission. (Full disclosure: My tour is listed on the app, but I’d dig it even if it wasn’t.)
NAME: Pizza Compass PRICE: $0.99 TERRITORY: Earth DEVICES: Compatible with iPhone 3GS and later, iPod touch 3rd generation and later, iPad running iOS 6.0 or later
This one just came out and its release gave me an excuse to finally review the pizza apps that have been sitting on my phone for the past few years. It is without a doubt the most attractive and user-friendly of all selections in this post but at the same time one of the most basic.
The Pizza Compass website is brilliant in its simplicity. It has links to just a few of the massive number of press pieces written when the app dropped as well as a simple video of the app’s “creator” Zeus Gorham Munkist (he’s not listed as a copyright holder) giving a spiel about the app. I was really taken in by the video because it lays out that the app is simply for finding the closest pizzeria and not interested in cultivating an elite list of authentic options. In that sense, it’s a lot like Pizza Finder (and the many other location apps I chose not to include since they’re all the same) but Pizza Compass actually looks like a compass as it points you toward slice salvation. It has smart features like a smoke indicator to let you know when you’re getting close and a red-green bar that tells you whether or not the place is currently open. It’s a really clean design, perfect for helping you find those late-night (READ AS: drunk) desperation slices.
But is it the greatest app ever? Will it change your life? Is it a “tool…to help us celebrate life…love…adventure,” as the video claims? No. No. Maybe. Because sometimes pizza isn’t about historic coal ovens or 48 hour fermentation or mozzarella di bufala; it’s about the comfort of a warm slice without having walked very far.