Posts from the ‘Pizza’ Category

Deliver Me This, Pizzaman

Sweet sauce with onion for my mom. Ain't she a beauty?

Some of you might be thinking, big deal, a pizza, I see that on Serious Eats everyday, and eat it all the time.  I see it on a computer everyday too, but I am sure not getting any face-to-face time with it in Seattle. None like this anyway. This one is from Gerry’s Pizza in Wilkes-Barre, PA. It’s right around the corner from my mom’s house, yet we always drive ten minutes to get pizza from Angelo’s. Their pizza is similar, which is not so strange. They are brothers. Their father  owns Ricci’s Pizza, which is Sicilian deep-fried wonderfulness, and I was lucky enough to have very good friends who lived across the street, so their $1 slices were a blessing on our young adulthood incomes, and young adulthood laziness.

Angelo’s happened to be closed for vacation when we had our stomachs all set on warm gooey cheese, and there was no turning back. Nothing else was going to fill that triangle void. So we decided to give Gerry’s a try. They even have a drive-thru. Very convenient. Especially when you are in your pajamas relaxing at an early hour, and still want delicious pizza.

I thought I’d kick off my Pennsylvania food series with pizza, because in addition to bars, and churches, we probably have more pizza places per capita then just about anybody, and it’s one of the things you miss most when you leave our little valley. Although rectangle “Old Forge” style pizza has most of our heart, New York  style still has a home in there. I know everybody says the pizza from their hometown is the best, but mine really is.  Seattle is not a pizza town. Yes brick oven pizza places  are popping up everywhere, but that is kind of my point. It’s more of a novelty, not a multi-generational family business. Pizza is a newer phenomenon in the Emerald City, and it shows.  It’s missing the love. There is one exception: Hot Mama’s- the only New York style that comes close. Oh my, their pesto pizza is pretty magnificent also. Madame K’s is good Seattle pizza (pizza with yummy things like chicken, blue cheese, and onions with balsamic to accent it), although it isn’t as good as it used to be. Cafe Lago, and Serious Pie are delicious, but aren’t pizza pizza. They are more bistro pizza. How much do you think that delicious fresh pizza above is? You’re wrong, $9. Nine dollars. Seattle equivalent, not less than twenty at most places.

Our delivery options are between a and b. So it is inevitable, there is going to be a night where I want someone to bring me something warm, good, and in a box. That place will have to be one of our two choices, Pagliacci. Somehow when Jim and I order Pagliacci’s pizza we end up spending $45. Which I usually don’t mind paying, and here is why: they deliver, they have one of my favorite salads. I know weird, but it’s really good, even when delivered. There are chickpeas, and salami, roasted red peppers, and they never screw up and give me raw onions. They have locations in many neighborhoods in Seattle, but are a local business, and you can eat in-house if you so choose at most locations. This is no Domino’s. No cheesy bread, and certainly no dessert pizza (a peeve of mine). Instead they carry bread sticks from a local bakery, Macrina, and gelato from Gelatiamo, a local gelato slinger. They use local, or artisan-made products, including Salumi’s meats, and Mama Lil’s peppers, which seem to be on a lot of menus in the area. They are great on almost anything, and they sell them by the gallon at a ridiculously affordable price, especially for Delaurenti, our only Italian specialty store. They offer seasonal specials, and carry my favorite drink in the world, San Pellegrino Limonata. Did I forget to mention their staff is silly nice. Genuinely.

If that wasn’t enough, a few days before pay-day, and running low on food in the house, we ordered pizza, writing a check we knew wouldn’t be cashed until payday (another plus, no one takes checks anymore), we were met at the door with a free pizza for just being loyal customers, and a smiling delivery guy. Jim’s shock as he shut the door was met with shame, as his tip was written into the check, and we couldn’t tip him. Of course the delivery guy said no worries, and of course we felt terrible. I think we both held back tears. Pizza angel we needed you. Money struggles have a way of dampering just about everything in life, but when it messes with our food budget, grrr. Random kindness does wonders for putting things into perspective. The world was good again.

Don’t go thinking I base all my pizza love on emotions. I would take a lack of service for just about any pizza in my hometown. See below for some of the reasons. Yeah these two were mine. More isn’t always less, sometimes more is necessary.

There are all meatballs on this pizza. Meatballs people. Regular sauce, thick crust.

This make-your-own seemed to be to much for everyone else. They were wrong. Fresh garlic, sweet and hot peppers, mushrooms, extra cheese, regular sauce, thick crust.

Thick crust.

Thin crust.

Pizzettas, and loving the meal you just cooked

I grew up in a Northeastern Pennsylvania area about ten or so miles of where the self-proclaimed pizza capital of the world resides.

Old Forge.

Population: around 8,524.

Land area: 3.45 square miles.

Ancestries: Italian (42.3%), Polish (26.2%), Irish (15.4%), German (9.1%), Welsh (5.8%), Russian (5.6%).

Although we have many great pizza places in the surrounding areas, “Old Forge” pizza is revered like a penny used to be. I saw the new show Food Wars advertise, and thought an Old Forge pizza challenge would be perfect for it. Everyone has their favorite, and thinks their favorite should be your favorite. Three of my favorites have always been Revello’s (add a salad with pizza cheese and creamy Italian+ small pitcher of birch beer= heaven), Ghigiarelli’s, and Salerno’s. Except for when I want the best white, then I go to Vince’s.

Old Forge pizza is rectangular in shape. You order by tray, half-tray, or by the slice. Red, white, and broccoli are my favorites. Ooh, and meatball from Salerno’s. Their meatballs are the best. Then you put them on pizza, and well… Broccoli is a stuffed white pizza. Yum.

a slice of white

Hillary Clinton enjoying a slice or red from Revello's

After moving to Seattle ten years ago, Old Forge pizza is one of the food-things I miss most from home. So much so, my mother, unprompted mind you, packed a par-baked tray of Revello’s in her suitcase that traveled for 6 1/2 hours on a plane, and then to my smiling face and appreciative belly, on one of her visit’s to Seattle.

Best- mom- ever.

People who don’t enjoy Old Forge pizza usually compare it to New York-style pizza, which is like comparing Cary Grant to Jimmy Stewart. They are both great actors, but everyone always has a preference.

Then there are people with no taste.

Alright, that may be a bit harsh.  Maybe they just went on an off day. Do you see what Old Forge pizza can do to a person? I went into mother bear mode for a moment. It is really more than just pizza. It’s family, tradition,  the place you take “outsiders,” special occasions, and cheese that sticks to the roof of your mouth oh so well.

These wonderful little pizzettas have no resemblance to Old Forge pizza, because, well you cannot duplicate Old Forge pizza at home. So the next best thing is to find the next best pizza, and I think I have done it.

I know it may sound strange, but sometimes after cooking a wonderful meal, I just don’t enjoy it as much as whomever I am eating it with. It tastes good, just not great. Or, it may be great, but maybe like music: a musician enjoys making  music, be it for themselves or someone else, but only the musician can enjoy his music in his own way, while millions of people can enjoy his music in countless ways. But this recipe is not one of those:

I enjoyed it.

I was in awe of it.

I was proud of it.

Hope you enjoy.

Pizzettas

makes 8 6-7 inch rounds

Dough:

adapted from The River Run Cookbook

1 cup warm water (*105-*115)

1 Tbls. honey

1  1/4 packet active dry yeast

3 cups bread flour

1 tsp. salt

1 tbls. oil (olive or vegetable)

Pre-heat oven as high as it will go. Mine is *550. I used my broiler pan turned upside down because I do not have a pizza stone. But you can use any heavy duty pan upside down. Put your pizza pan choice in the oven to pre-heat.

In a small bowl, mix the honey and water. Sprinkle the yeast on top and let sit for 5-10 minutes, or until it starts to bubble.

In a separate large bowl mix flour and salt. Add the yeast mixture and olive oil. Mix well with your hands, kneading the dough in bowl until all ingredients come together. Cover with plastic wrap, and let sit for about two hours, until doubled in size.

While dough is rising…

Sauce:

1 28o can crushed tomato in puree (I use Di Napoli brand)

Scant 1/2 tsp. dried thyme

1/2 tsp. dried basil

1/2 tsp. marjoram

Scant 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper

1/4 tsp. oregano

1 1/2 tbls. sugar

1/2 tsp sea salt

4 tbls.  freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper

2 large cloves garlic, minced finely

2 1/2 tbls. finely chopped onion

In a medium saucepan, saute onion until soft in 1 tbls. of butter. Add garlic, and another 1/2 tbls. of butter, and saute for 1 minute. Add tomatoes and all other ingredients. Simmer on medium-low heat for about 1 hour. Turn down to low if bubbling too much. Let sauce cool while dough is finishing its rise.

When dough has risen, knead a little in the bowl, then pinch off a piece of dough, and form into a ball a little bigger than a golf ball. Work into a circle with your hands, and then roll out into a 6 or 7 inch circle.

Dough can be cooked through first stage, and topped the next day.

picture by Jim

picture by Jim

Put in oven until desired crispness. Don’t forget, pizzettas will brown more when topping are added and cheese is melted, undercook a little.

Jim and I watched these bubble like two little kids getting a double scoop. They are almost like pita, so versatile. If they puff up don’t worry, you can squeeze them flat.

Then comes the fun part: toppings.

Sauce accordingly. More sauce equals less crispy pizza. I like mine to bite back. Crunchy, a little blackened. Jim likes his a little chewy. Another reason I love this recipe: you can control the dough to your liking.

photo by Jim

For cheese I chose white American and provolone.

Toppings included onion for Jim, Speck (my new favorite, affordable prosciutto substitute), and potato sausage. Feel free to choose your own. I sprinkled chopped parsley and ripped fresh basil on after the pizzettas were out of the oven.