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Jeff Varasano's Famous New York Pizza Recipe
April 20, 2010 11:17 AM   Subscribe


 
Posted a few years ago but the old link is dead. Obsessive pizza focus, makes one VERY hungry to read it through.
posted by cgc373 at 11:22 AM on April 20, 2010


omghungry.
posted by HumanComplex at 11:24 AM on April 20, 2010


I've been to his restaurant in Atlanta, dude makes a good pie
posted by ghharr at 11:24 AM on April 20, 2010


You know I heard so much about his place that I was very excited to try it. I have to say the crust was undercooked and kind of flabby with not so much flavor. The sauce was disappointing too. I went with 3 friends and no one thought it lived up to the hype. Sadly, the service was really bad so we are very hesitant to go back.
The salad as a starter was very good, though.
posted by pointystick at 11:24 AM on April 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


The best pizza in NYC is the classic brick oven Margherita pizza. The pizza you buy at the late-night places on the corner isn't that different from the stuff you buy anywhere else, except it's been sitting on the glass shelf for hours and comes in bigger slices.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:25 AM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Bake at 825°"?
This is not something I even want to try at home.
posted by Toekneesan at 11:27 AM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Holy mackerel, that page is 80 pages long at 8.5x11!
posted by Xoebe at 11:27 AM on April 20, 2010


I just made pizza a couple nights ago. It was thoroughly mediocre. This is very timely.
posted by gurple at 11:28 AM on April 20, 2010


Old news...but an essential multi-leveled technique--not so much recipe--that revolutionized my culinary life. Jeff is the man! Good luck on your bidness!
posted by unwordy at 11:28 AM on April 20, 2010


I've been very pleased with my pizza stone at 500° and a lot less chest thumping.
posted by monospace at 11:29 AM on April 20, 2010


isn't that different from the stuff you buy anywhere else, except it's been sitting on the glass shelf for hours and comes in bigger slices

I pine for that crappy pizza. Good pizza in NYC is really good, but the cheap stuff is its own thing, and I haven't been able to find it outside of the NY/NJ area.
posted by JoanArkham at 11:32 AM on April 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Anyone who tries to make a pizza by following a recipe this detailed is doomed to failure, or at the very least mediocrity. Pizza is a technique, learned through years of trial and error, fine tuned to each cook's equipment, environment, and taste. What works for one kitchen may not work for another.

This recipe is a decent starting point and offers some good advice, but one should be very careful about following any pizza recipe exactly. It's just not going to work consistently.

Absorb as much information as you can from as many different reliable sources as you can and make your own damn pizza.

That said, this post has made me hungry for some motherfuckin' pizza.
posted by bondcliff at 11:33 AM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh and just to start an argument, I can honestly say that as a long time resident of Chicago, I find New York pizza superior. I think it had something to do with the fact that I lived in New York in 1987 and was dating a total hottie. We ate at Rays nearly every day. Call me biased but I stand by my opinion.
posted by Kskomsvold at 11:33 AM on April 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


A pizza with unbrowned cheese is an undercooked pizza.
posted by DU at 11:33 AM on April 20, 2010 [10 favorites]


exchange from Cat and Girl:

Boy: This pizza is lousy but it's free.
Girl: This pizza is ten times better then anything available in Tucson.
posted by The Whelk at 11:34 AM on April 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Wait, why is it cubeRoot(arasano's)?
posted by DU at 11:35 AM on April 20, 2010


I am curious though about trying it with a sourdough. Here's how I make a pizza without melting the glass on the oven door.
posted by Toekneesan at 11:36 AM on April 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh and just to start an argument, I can honestly say that as a long time resident of Chicago, I find New York pizza superior.

I don't think anyone who knows anything at all about pizza is going to argue with that statement.
posted by bondcliff at 11:37 AM on April 20, 2010 [9 favorites]


This recipe is a decent starting point and offers some good advice, but one should be very careful about following any pizza recipe exactly. It's just not going to work consistently.

So, you didn't read the page, right? Because he doesn't give a "follow this exactly for consistent success"-style recipe.

See? It's not even very far down when you get the hints: "If you use Caputo or any 00 flour, you may find that it takes a lot more flour for the given amount of water. Probably a baker's % of 60% or so. One reason I like to feel the dough rather than strictly measure the percent hydration is that with feel you don't have to worry about the type of flour so much. A Caputo and a Bread will feel the same when they are done, even though one might have 60% water and the other 65%. It's the feel that I shoot for, not the number."

Look, he even puts "DON'T BE A SLAVE TO RECIPES AND PERCENTAGES" in all caps and red type!

It's nice, though, that you decided that he offered "a recipe this detailed" (yes, it has details, but not the kind you can follow) and warned us away.
posted by kenko at 11:39 AM on April 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


I don't think anyone who knows anything at all about pizza is going to argue with that statement.

Right here.

As everyone who knows anything at all about anything knows, there's really no comparison, not because one is so much better than the other but because they're so different as to make the comparison meaningless. I mean it's fine if you just don't like one or the other, but they simply aren't commensurable.
posted by kenko at 11:41 AM on April 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


These cross sections are pretty good. The crust is well defined and high.
This is an oxymoron.

I'm sorry, but that crust looks way too thick. The dough portion of a pizza is merely a vehicle for conveying the sauce and toppings into the mouth. It is most emphatically not the main event. It should be as thin as possible while still maintaining the functionality of moving the other ingredients into your mouth without disintegrating and letting everything run down your arm.

However, the grease is supposed to run down your arm. That's part of the pizza experience. Fold the point over if you must, but if there's not the potential for arm grease runoff, it's not a proper pizza.

They do seem to understand the importance of not drowning the pizza in cheese, though. The cheese is also an accessory, and shouldn't be so heavy that it overpowers the sauce.
posted by MexicanYenta at 11:45 AM on April 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


I have to agree with kenko here...you might as well compare bagels to English muffins as compare Chicago and New York pizza.

That said, New York pizza is better.
posted by JaredSeth at 11:46 AM on April 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Bake at 825°"?
This is not something I even want to try at home.


Somehow, I bet you can back it off to just 800° and you'll be fine.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:46 AM on April 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


As everyone who knows anything at all about anything knows, there's really no comparison, not because one is so much better than the other but because they're so different as to make the comparison meaningless.

I agree: Chicago "pizza" is not comparable to pizza because it is not actually pizza. My working hypothesis is that it is lasagna that got spilled onto a flattened pound cake.
posted by DU at 11:47 AM on April 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


And don't get me started about what constitutes a proper bagel. Two words: NO FRUIT.
posted by MexicanYenta at 11:47 AM on April 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


If any of you want really great pizza at home, absorb everything Jeff writes and remember the most important things I've learned from it, and trial and error, over the years:

Follow the technique moreso than the recipe.

The AUTOLYZE and WET KNEAD steps are essential to a good dough. Nobody else ever tells you that giant nugget to homemade success.

Second is the pizza sauce--never buy a sauce, never cook a sauce first--just don't. You'll see how much better it tastes when you let it cook along with the dough.
posted by unwordy at 11:49 AM on April 20, 2010


Bake at 825°"?
This is not something I even want to try at home.


Dont BBQs go that high? If they do, I wonder if you could "bake" it in the BBQ.
Indirect heat or something?
Any BBQ experts care to chime in?
posted by bitteroldman at 11:49 AM on April 20, 2010


Oh and just to start an argument, I can honestly say that as a long time resident of Chicago, I find New York pizza superior.

I don't think anyone who knows anything at all about pizza is going to argue with that statement.


As a Chicagoland native, I heartily agree -- when it comes to "Chicago-style" pizza, which is sort of like a massive loaf of bread with some pizza ingredients smeared on it.

However, the pizza you get in many Chicago suburbs is usually not "Chicago style" but a lot more like "New York style" (only cut in a crosswise grid rather than humongous slices). And it is frequently delicious.

Handy test: does the sausage the place puts on its pizzas have fennel seeds? If so, that's a good sign regardless of whether you plan to have sausage on your particular pizza.
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:50 AM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


The best pizza is either the pizza of your youth, or the first decent pizza you ever ate, whichever came first.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:51 AM on April 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


MexicanYenta: The dough IS important. It's vital. If it isn't, and the cheese is merely an accessory as you say, then I take it you make sauce the main event. You must make a damned good sauce, there!
posted by unwordy at 11:52 AM on April 20, 2010


I have to agree with pointystick. Varasano was hyped in local food media for a good while before he opened the restaurant, and I was very excited to go. However, the pizza committed the cardinal sin of being...boring. The crust was underbaked and the sauce tasted like off-season tomatoes. The cocktail menu was good, though.
posted by catlet at 11:52 AM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


And I'll have to third Kenko. You might as well compare a flimsy scrap of dough to a robust, sit-down feast as compare New York and Chicago pizza.

That said, New York donuts are better.

On preview: Yes to Chicagoan thin crust! The wonder of the Chicago pizza scene is its variety.
posted by Iridic at 11:52 AM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


oh yikes, I just read he runs the oven cleaning cycle, which gets the oven up to about 900 degrees, and he disables the locks to get access to the oven.
posted by bitteroldman at 11:52 AM on April 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


The fundamental problem with all these "make X Pizza Place pizza at home" recipes is that those mass quantity dough and sauce batches just never turn out the same when you scale them down to 1, 3, 5 pizza level.
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:56 AM on April 20, 2010


cut in a crosswise grid rather than humongous slices

Also not pizza.
posted by DU at 11:58 AM on April 20, 2010 [10 favorites]


For a perfect pizza, I can't get past what I consider step 1: buy a coal fired masonry oven.

But I've had some success with a slow rise sourdough crust rolled out ridiculously thin, very lightly greased with olive oil, scantly topped and put right on a 500 degree pizza stone that's been sitting in my oven for 20-30 minutes.

You must have the right flour though, the perfect crust is straddling that border between chewy and crackery, an even medium brown with spots of almost burnt.

The sauce I think should be understated, tomatoes have to be rich in flavor, without being watery or cooked past the point of submission of all freshness.

The cheese needs a little caramelization on top, but not so much that it isn't moist.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:59 AM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I tried the BBQ method many different ways, to more or less no avail. I even constructed a dome made of unglazed quarry tiles in a big Weber a couple Summers ago . In a nutshell: the bottom cooks VERY fast and there's no time to cook the top without blackening the bottom.

HOWEVER, you can quickly throw just the dough on, flip it as soon as there are black lines, then when the other side's done, top it off and bake it in the oven on a stone. THAT, my friends, is awesome. Also you don't have to preheat for over an hour this way.
posted by unwordy at 11:59 AM on April 20, 2010


I like Chicago style (stuffed, deep-dish and thin styles) and New York style. I guess I'm omnipizza-ual. Though, these days, if I'm having pizza I would probably prefer New York style if only because Chicago stuffed/deep-dish is just so damned filling.

Back in my younger much worse eating days, I even loved Totino's Party Pizza. Not as something that's supposed to be pizza, but something in its own super cheap super artificial transfat laden category.
posted by kmz at 12:00 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's nice, though, that you decided that he offered "a recipe this detailed" (yes, it has details, but not the kind you can follow) and warned us away.

I don't recall warning anyone away. I simply warned anyone from reading too much into any one source. I've read this before, it's good, but it's also 80 pages about how to make a pizza.

Here is how you make a pizza:

1) Learn to make good rustic bread. Learn what good dough is supposed to feel like.
2) Adapt these skills to make pizza dough. You can even use a recipe, but you need the bread skills as a foundation.
3) Find some tomatoes (canned or fresh) that you love. Crush 'em and put them on the flattened dough.
4) Same with cheese. Try mozzarella to start with. Not too much. In time, you'll learn some others.
5) Maybe put some other stuff on it, but do it sparingly and keep it simple until you know what you're doing.
6) Cook that shit on a stone in the hottest oven you can find. Advanced users can use a charcoal grill.
7) Eat.
8) Repeat and adapt as many times as necessary until you're satisfied you have the ultimate pizza*.

I know I've overly-simplified things but my point is that pizza is relatively simple once you know a couple basic skills. I think following 80 pages of anything is a great way to get frustrated and decide that pizza is best left to someone else.

not because one is so much better than the other but because they're so different as to make the comparison meaningless.

I'm pretty sure pizza is exempted from this rule but I don't have a source to cite so we'll just have to agree to disagree. (ok, you got me on that one)

*nobody will ever reach this point.
posted by bondcliff at 12:03 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Now I have to eat some decent pizza today, but my blood sugars are too high. METAFILTER IS MAKING ME A BAD DIABETIC*.

*slightly worse anyway
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:07 PM on April 20, 2010


Looks delicious, but man can that guy turn pizza into a plate o' beans!
posted by TedW at 12:08 PM on April 20, 2010


The dough portion of a pizza is merely a vehicle for conveying the sauce and toppings into the mouth.

And beer is just a vehicle for delivering CO2 to the gut.
posted by uncleozzy at 12:10 PM on April 20, 2010 [6 favorites]




HEY, I AM TRYING TO LOSE WEIGHT HERE.

This post isn't helping.

Now I have to order lunch from Big Nick's, dammit.

It's all your fault

Thanks. :)
posted by zarq at 12:15 PM on April 20, 2010





Now I have to order lunch from Big Nick's, dammit.


I had this today with these people.
posted by The Whelk at 12:17 PM on April 20, 2010


I just popped a Hot Pocket in the microwave (don't judge me - I'm home, sick, and there's nothing else I can crawl to. Must. Have. Life giving sustenance). Step 3 of the instructions is to enjoy the sandwich. This is a brilliant instruction. Now I can't complain about it. "Holy Mother of God, how can you even call this food?!" I might ask. "Pffft. RTFA! It's right there. Step 3. 'Enjoy the sandwich.' Don't come whining to us if you can't even be bothered to follow 3 simple directions." Indeed.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:21 PM on April 20, 2010


Anyone know where I can get the best bagel pizza in NYC?
posted by Burhanistan at 12:25 PM on April 20, 2010


Don't make us poke your eyes our Burhanistan.
posted by The Whelk at 12:26 PM on April 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


I agree, Jeff is the man when it comes to pizza.

Lifehacker had a recent bit about pizza on the grill, and with it many links to past Lifehacker bits on pizza ovens. Pizza on the grill is fantastic by the way.
posted by caddis at 12:45 PM on April 20, 2010


Every time I read a pizza thread, I am saddened that I live in the Northwest.
posted by madajb at 12:46 PM on April 20, 2010


Fuck all y'all Chicago pizza haters.
posted by adamdschneider at 12:47 PM on April 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Every time I read a pizza thread, I am saddened that I live in the Northwest.
posted by madajb


Tried Delancy's in Ballard yet?
posted by Keith Talent at 12:53 PM on April 20, 2010


The dough portion of a pizza is merely a vehicle for conveying the sauce and toppings into the mouth.

Yeah? So is a fork! This sort of blasphemy ends friendships.
posted by invitapriore at 12:56 PM on April 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


One thing I have learned about pizza: everyone, everywhere, is very knowledgable when it comes to what is the best pizza and in which city it is to be found...and any answer that says otherwise reveals ignorance of small town localized know-nothingness. For me: thanks god for old age. Lost my taste buds so it tastes yummy. So long as crust not bit through.
posted by Postroad at 1:01 PM on April 20, 2010


The best pizza is either the pizza of your youth, or the first decent pizza you ever ate, whichever came first.

Nope. The best pizza is in New Haven.
posted by palliser at 1:04 PM on April 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Anyone know where I can get the best bagel pizza in NYC?

Blasphemy.
posted by zarq at 1:06 PM on April 20, 2010


If you didn't skim all the way down to the bottom, he rates pizza joints around the world. Apparently, he hasn't been to Apizza Scholl's yet. The Northwest is not entirely pizza-deprived.
posted by kipmanley at 1:13 PM on April 20, 2010


Tried Delancy's in Ballard yet?

That's a bit of a drive. heh.

But it sort of underscores my point.
In the Northeast, you can find good pizza (not world-class, but honest, decent pizza) just about everywhere. It's not an event, it's just food.

Here in the Northwest, we have an abundance of crap pizza with a few very good pizza places scattered about (mostly in large cities). Unfortunately, in such places eating there becomes "a thing" and it's less food and more food fetish.
posted by madajb at 1:24 PM on April 20, 2010


I like the Pizza Hut pan pizza. Is that what this "New York" pizza tastes like?
posted by Bonzai at 1:26 PM on April 20, 2010


Fuck all y'all Chicago pizza haters.

This. Not only are you bad people, but in all likelihood you are evil people.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:29 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


10+ year New Yorker born in CT here. NYC pizza used to be the end-all for me, but I have an undeniable affinity for New Haven pizza as well. These days, it just excites me more than NYC pizza and it's consistently delicious, if not interesting. Sally's, Patsy's, Bar and many more--they're just damn tasty & charred to perfection.

It's actually and fortunately difficult to order a bad pizza in that city (excluding chains, of course, and slice-shops). Luckily a Patsy's opened up in Fairfield a few years ago, and MAN it's gooooood (and of course closer than New Haven).
posted by unwordy at 1:31 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hey! Unwordy!
what about Modern and Pepes? my god, they swing. Bar great joint but pie not up to those others.
By the way: I am old enough to remember that in New Haven, you went to a place to get pie and you said Ah Beets (not pizza), which I imagine was A-Pizza, sort of. Got shortened after some years and now even in those places you hear "pizza."
posted by Postroad at 1:47 PM on April 20, 2010


Der, I meant Pepe's. Duh. Patsy's is here in NYC, of course, and is the pizza Varasano "reverse-engineered" to create his version. Also when I spoke of the one in Fairfield, I meant Pepe's. Haven't tried modern, but I intend to.
posted by unwordy at 1:51 PM on April 20, 2010


I think the thing I don't like about Chicago pizza (or any city/region that does pizza in that style) is that I've had some pretty nasty experiences with it. Someone mentioned a loaf of bread covered in red sauce. My experience was a thick crust with fist-sized hanks of "sausage". It was nasty. It was as if the pizza was lying there yelling "Go ahead fuckers - I DARE you to eat me!" Every time I've been at a party where deep-dish is being served, if it's got meat, you can pretty much guarantee it's going to be a lot of meat. More meat than a small village could eat in a week.

I do love Pizza Hut thin crust or any thin crust as long as it's simple. New York seems to do that better than anywhere I've been. Some of the more specialized places here in Chicago make spectacular pizza because they don't overdo it.
posted by Kskomsvold at 2:13 PM on April 20, 2010


As an aspiring home pizza chef, this really sets the bar high and gives me all kinds of great ideas.
BOYCOTT SAL'S!
posted by porn in the woods at 2:27 PM on April 20, 2010


If you want brothers on the wall then get your own place.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:33 PM on April 20, 2010


Every time I've been at a party where deep-dish is being served, if it's got meat, you can pretty much guarantee it's going to be a lot of meat. More meat than a small village could eat in a week.

I hereby cordially invite you to a Sunday afternoon at Pequod's with myself, my wife, and several pitchers of Goose Island.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:41 PM on April 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Metafilter does pizza very well.
posted by longsleeves at 2:48 PM on April 20, 2010


mmmmmmm pequod's. . . . . .
posted by crush-onastick at 3:04 PM on April 20, 2010


Every time I've been at a party where deep-dish is being served, if it's got meat, you can pretty much guarantee it's going to be a lot of meat. More meat than a small village could eat in a week.

Have you ever tried deep-dish with spinach instead of meat, kskomsvold? Damn near ambrosial.

[Makes reservation at Bacino's.]
posted by Iridic at 3:04 PM on April 20, 2010


I tried the BBQ method many different ways, to more or less no avail. I even constructed a dome made of unglazed quarry tiles in a big Weber a couple Summers ago . In a nutshell: the bottom cooks VERY fast and there's no time to cook the top without blackening the bottom.

The secret is to make a ring of coals with no coals in the center. The pizza dough goes over the center. The coals also should be low (or the grill high depending on how your bbq works). Put the dough on, flip after a minute or two, remove after another minute or two, put the toppings on the most well done side and then back onto the grill to finish.
posted by caddis at 3:08 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


1) Learn to make good rustic bread. Learn what good dough is supposed to feel like.
2) Adapt these skills to make pizza dough. You can even use a recipe, but you need the bread skills as a foundation.


I think pizza dough is an easier dough to learn about yeasted doughs on than most breads. It's very forgiving -- even bad homemade pizza dough is delicious. Plus, it's pizza. I made the nicest chevre and apple and mango jam dessert pizza and I think I need to make pizza again this week.
posted by jeather at 3:24 PM on April 20, 2010


I've been to his restaurant here in Atlanta, and I have to admit, he does make a damn fine pie. Somewhat coincidentally, Jeff and I were acquainted from our old neighbourhood in the Bronx - he was a bit of a local celebrity back in the early 80s for having set a record for solving Rubik's Cube.
posted by deadmessenger at 3:24 PM on April 20, 2010


you can pretty much guarantee it's going to be a lot of meat. More meat than a small village could eat in a week.

Oh, shit, that's what I like about it. Lou Malnati's with the sausage slab that covers the entire pie? Love it.

I hereby cordially invite you to a Sunday afternoon at Pequod's with myself, my wife, and several pitchers of Goose Island.

Hey, that sounds like fun. Can I come, too?
posted by adamdschneider at 3:27 PM on April 20, 2010


Mostly famous because it's been posted so many times already.
posted by w0mbat at 3:36 PM on April 20, 2010


About ten years ago Pizza Hut in Australia for a limited time introduced the "New York-style pizza", and I'm sorry to say that it is still the most amazing pizza experience I have ever had in this country. I've paid for luxury "authentic" $30 "pies", as you strange people call them, at gourmet "BEST PIZZA IN THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE!" places, and still nothing has come close. Oh, I miss it so.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:03 PM on April 20, 2010


I have no problem with deep dish, I'm just not going to call it pizza. it's some hybrid cheese pie thing with dough and I'm OKAY with that. Spinach and meat in it are great. Hearty!


But it's not pizza.
posted by The Whelk at 4:08 PM on April 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hey, that sounds like fun. Can I come, too?

PEQUOD'S MEETUP
posted by shakespeherian at 4:09 PM on April 20, 2010


About ten years ago Pizza Hut in Australia for a limited time introduced the "New York-style pizza", and I'm sorry to say that it is still the most amazing pizza experience I have ever had in this country. I've paid for luxury "authentic" $30 "pies", as you strange people call them, at gourmet "BEST PIZZA IN THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE!" places, and still nothing has come close. Oh, I miss it so.

Is it the same in the UK as it is in Australia? Where Pizza Hut is a kind of higher-end chain place with napkins and shit, cause here in the U.S Pizza Hut is That Horrible Place On The Highway that just has a counter and nothing else but when I'm in London it's a big sit-down deal.

Although in England you have Pizza Express, which is an o.k simulacrum of a "nice" pizza joint. The seasonings are all off tho.
posted by The Whelk at 4:14 PM on April 20, 2010


Was the Cob oven posted to MeFi the other day? Mud, straw, a bit of fire brick? 'cause that'd be the way to do it right on the cheap.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:31 PM on April 20, 2010


I live in the NYC area. I was in Chicago last year, and went to a pizzeria of some renown and ate something called, The Meaty Legend.

That gig is long over, but when I write my former employers from that time, we end all emails with, "We'll always have The Meaty Legend!"

Um, that's all I got. Except Pizza is good. And there's one good place in Midtown, but I'm not telling where.
posted by digitalprimate at 4:53 PM on April 20, 2010


Ok, so. Grew up a ways from Chicago but close enough to inherit some ideas of What Food Should Be. Currently in NYC.

NYC pizza and Chicago deep-dish are totally different foodstuffs. The former is thin-crust, simple, brilliant world-moving sky-opening stuff -- provided it's made from awesome simple ingredients and no more than three minutes out of the oven. Otherwise? Poison and fuck you.

The latter has more in common with a very bready tart than it does with pizza. But with good (non-grease-leaking) crust, lovely dollops of fresh uncooked (before the pizza oven, anyway) tomato sauce, not too much fresh mozzarella, maybe some admixed piperade, and fresh basil? It's life-moving awesome. It's just not 'pizza' how most understand it. Not even a little bit. Oh, and if the ingredients and craft aren't awesome? Poison and fuck you.

Still, on a long February night with good friends settled around that cast-iron pizza pan, two inch high slices sizzling merrily away, you and yours fortified with bitterly cold beer? That's life, right there.

I want both right now. Especially a 30-second-old Margherita, all hissing and spitting and tiny-crusted and scorched and delicious. Oh man.
posted by amery at 5:02 PM on April 20, 2010


FYI: If you ever find yourself in Portland, ME, the best pizza (NY-style) is Otto's and the best pizza (fancy) is Bonobo.

Any of you Mainers that counter with "Bu…bu…but Flatbread!" deserve to be shot in the stomach and have all the blood squeezed out the hole like an orange with a bullet-hole in it.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:07 PM on April 20, 2010


Is it the same in the UK as it is in Australia? Where Pizza Hut is a kind of higher-end chain place with napkins and shit...

It used to be, but I haven't seen a sit-down Pizza Hut for a long long time. Now it's strictly delivery. Or you could get it at the little kiosk and eat it in an alley. The pizza these days is a lot like baked sick on a sort of recycled paper. But once it was grand.

Hell Pizza for about six months were the go-to pizza people because they delivered it in a hearse and you could break down the pizza box into a little cardboard coffin marked "For Your Remains" but it's crap now too. If you want a good pizza in Australia you have to find a locally-recommended Italian greasy spoon, or I guess Pizza Capers if you're desperate to spend a lot of money.
posted by turgid dahlia at 6:05 PM on April 20, 2010


If you want a good pizza in Australia you have to find a locally-recommended Italian greasy spoon

Meh, I tried pizza a number of times in NYC because I'd heard so much about it, from regular places & reputed ones (though not Lombardi's or Grimaldi's) & from an admittedly small sample, I'd say that I have a far better strike rate from random pizza joints in Melbourne. One place had so much cheese it was like eating a fondue, the one that had a good sauce & a restrained amount of cheese managed to burn the crust & a lot of the base; simple mistakes. The "average" pizza standard seems a lot better here.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:42 PM on April 20, 2010


Ah, chicagoland grid pizza. That presentation leaves a lot of people with ungrippable gooey squares that wait until someone is hungry/drunk enough to go for it.
posted by drowsy at 6:46 PM on April 20, 2010


So what I'm hearing here is "Open a good pizza shop in Australia and make money fast."
posted by five fresh fish at 6:53 PM on April 20, 2010


For values of "good" that include a kilo of oily cheese, sweet sauce, burnt crust, and extra cost for any topping beyond one? The only way you'll be making money is if your pizza joint is a front for a drug dealing operation.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:00 PM on April 20, 2010


The best food is served in side streets in tiny little hole-in-the-walls that seat a maximum 12. There's this little pizza place in Little Italy of Toronto called Bitondo's that I kept going back to with the best dough - slight yeasty aftertaste, chewy, crusty and almost burned in some spots, with a crust that you can eat without slathering in dip.

*DROOOOL*

Since I learned how to make bread I just take a batch of my risen sour dough and stretch it. That whole book worth of instructions are too complicated. Just make bread, stretch it out, don't forget to let it rise a bit again, clad scantily, and bake as hot as possible.

btw, that cheese in the picture isn't browned because it's fresh mozzarella. It's very high in water content (the stuff you get at the supermarket is salted and most of the moisture removed) so even if you bake it for 30 minutes and the crust blackens the cheese would still be white.

Great, now I'm hungry for pizza and there's no dough in the fridge.
posted by Sallysings at 8:00 PM on April 20, 2010


shakespeherian: "Every time I've been at a party where deep-dish is being served, if it's got meat, you can pretty much guarantee it's going to be a lot of meat. More meat than a small village could eat in a week.

I hereby cordially invite you to a Sunday afternoon at Pequod's with myself, my wife, and several pitchers of Goose Island.
"


That is so nice! I've eaten there before but a long time ago. A meetup? Count me in.
posted by Kskomsvold at 8:41 PM on April 20, 2010


HOWEVER, you can quickly throw just the dough on, flip it as soon as there are black lines, then when the other side's done, top it off and bake it in the oven on a stone. THAT, my friends, is awesome. Also you don't have to preheat for over an hour this way.

We put our stone ON the grill - You miss the flame under the dough, but it's hotter than our range, and gives a subtle smokey flavor.

As to places? Frank Pepe's in New Haven, period - Partially because it's amazing, partially because of its prominent role in my family history (my wife's grandparents had their first date there in 1926).
posted by jalexei at 9:16 PM on April 20, 2010


People in Chicago, please, please treasure your pizza, both the stuffed and thin crust varieties. I live in Boston now. I've tried like ten different pizza places. The sauce is always bland, there's almost always pools of orange oil, and it's never crispy. The disappointments were so severe that I've taken to making my own.

Cue Cat Stevens's Wild World
posted by ignignokt at 9:20 PM on April 20, 2010


Although the aforementioned cheap NYC slice is "pizza" to me (since it's the pizza of my youth, I suppose) I also like Chicago style, and yuppie gorgonzola and pear-style, and California Pizza Kitchen style, and that super-cheesy Greek style. I've never had New Haven style, but I think I need to now.

Chain pizza can suck it though. All of them. Although I'm glad that's what they get for "team building" around here since it's easy to resist.
posted by JoanArkham at 5:32 AM on April 21, 2010


New Yorkers, let's make a deal. I'll agree that New York City has the best pizza in the U.S. if you guys agree to not fucking whine like a baby if you are "forced" to eat non-NYC pizza. Deal? Oh, and in addition, enough of the "you're missing out!" comments to non-NYCers.

Glad we got that settled.
posted by zardoz at 5:38 AM on April 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Growing up, the best pizza I ever had was in NJ
posted by The Whelk at 5:48 AM on April 21, 2010


I think I'm definitely going to give his advice on the dough a shot; I've always been disappointed with my doughs, but perhaps I've just been kneading them too dry. The "wet knead" does seem like it'd be much more effective in building gluten than the banging-around-the-bowl thing that my Kitchen Aid ends up doing to dough.

No way am I going to try the clean-cycle trick that he does. First, because I have a gas oven and it doesn't have a cleaning cycle, second because it's insane.

Also, I've never been a fan of charred crust. I like mine browned, but once it starts to blacken and char I consider it burned. And burned-to-black food doesn't taste good; I don't care if it's crust, marshmallows, or meat. Food should be brown, not black. It's all about the Maillard reaction.

Quarry tiles in a 500F oven have gotten me good results: a nicely browned crust on the bottom and cheese that's just starting to brown around the edges on top. I think I'm going to stick with that, but maybe work on improving the dough.

Also the best pizza in New Haven is Modern Apizza. IMO Pepe's is overrated, full of hipsters, and not worth the time you spend standing around the entrance compared to Modern, which you can usually walk right into and sit down. It's still coal-fired brick oven and everything, but they don't burn it quite so badly and the staff is less openly hostile.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:19 AM on April 21, 2010


I want to see someone re-caption the photos in the style of the "Look at these fucking peppers" meme.
posted by anthom at 10:41 AM on April 21, 2010


People in Chicago, please, please treasure your pizza, both the stuffed and thin crust varieties. I live in Boston now. I've tried like ten different pizza places. The sauce is always bland, there's almost always pools of orange oil, and it's never crispy. The disappointments were so severe that I've taken to making my own.

Check out Bertucci's and Figs.
posted by caddis at 2:03 PM on April 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Every has their theory on great pizza. Some say the sauce, others the dough, still more the water but my theory is that it's the oven. The best pizza places in NY are still the ones with the oldest ovens - they just don't make 'em like they used to. Whenever I'm in the boroughs and looking for a slice I just look for the place with the sign that hasn't been changed since the 70's and more often than not I'll get an amazing slice.
posted by any major dude at 6:57 PM on April 21, 2010


Can tell by looking at it that it's ho-hum.
posted by Muirwylde at 1:52 AM on April 22, 2010


Anyone who tries to make a pizza by following a recipe this detailed is doomed to failure

I first tried Jeff's recipe a couple of years ago and was completely blown away. It's now my go-to recipe for large gatherings, and everyone who eats the resulting pies is also blown away. It's not a detailed recipe - it's a very simple recipe backed up by a lot of detail.

So there.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:56 AM on April 22, 2010


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