Author Topic: Pizzamaking Fanatics 2012 NJ Tour Amano, Lodi, Pizza Town, Vesta, Brunos  (Read 10999 times)

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scott123

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Re: Pizzamaking Fanatics 2012 NJ Tour Amano, Lodi, Pizza Town, Vesta, Brunos
« Reply #20 on: January 31, 2012, 04:30:23 PM »
Pizza Town

Pizza Town was pure magic.  I've been in there a bunch of times and I've never seen the owners this friendly.  They tend to be a pretty cranky bunch.  In all fairness, though, if you owned a pizzeria with this kind of volume in one of the most populated areas of the U.S., you, too, would be a little cranky.  I can only imagine the number of idiots they have to put up with. I have to give some credit to Larry here, he poured on the charm and they became more and more jovial.

Larry: How do you get your cheese like that?
Owner: We slice it.

Larry: If I was making pizza dough at home, would I add some oil?
Owner:  You can if you like.

They also busted Larry's balls (in a very friendly way) about being from Ohio and the way he pronounced zeppole. It was such a fun time.

We talked about toppings- they trashed CPK and the sister talked about all the special toppings she adds to their pizza when she brings it home. We talked about other locations they had in the past and how they changed hands, cut corners and eventually shut their doors.

We were also able to get their tomato out of them- San Marzano. I'm not sure, but I think they let their guard down and this slipped out.

If the pizza would have been mediocre, the interaction alone would have made it my favorite stop out of both trips, but, trust me, the pizza was unbelievable.  You saw how agile the owner is in the video.  They're pulling one gorgeous looking pizza out of the oven after another.  When PapaJon posted his review of Pizza Town here:

http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,13112.0.html

I hadn't been yet, and thought that he had maybe gotten one of their better looking pizzas.  They all look like that.  Every single one.

The taste was it's usual tremendous, although, I did have one small nit.  Her brother, at least when he makes pies during the day, has a more even oregano toss :D She should work on that  :-D

Kidding aside, between her (usually) hard emotional outer shell and soft jovial mushy center, pie making virtuosity and history, this woman (and her family) are true pizza legends.  Screw DiFara's- this is where you have to go.

Btw, were those zeppolis really on the house? I can't even comprehend that.
« Last Edit: January 31, 2012, 07:14:48 PM by scott123 »


Online TXCraig1

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Re: Pizzamaking Fanatics 2012 NJ Tour Amano, Lodi, Pizza Town, Vesta, Brunos
« Reply #21 on: January 31, 2012, 04:34:50 PM »
Neapolitan crusts, on the other hand, are extremely similar to each other- at least from the perspective I have now. 

You haven't been to enough places that suck then. Believe me, they are not all the same.

Sounds like an awesome trip all. I wish I could have been there!

Craig
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scott123

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Re: Pizzamaking Fanatics 2012 NJ Tour Amano, Lodi, Pizza Town, Vesta, Brunos
« Reply #22 on: January 31, 2012, 04:49:53 PM »
Craig, we definitely missed having you, Norma and Steve.  FWIW, you can see the train station from Amano- it's a pretty easy trip out of the city  ;D

Offline pizzablogger

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Re: Pizzamaking Fanatics 2012 NJ Tour Amano, Lodi, Pizza Town, Vesta, Brunos
« Reply #23 on: January 31, 2012, 05:42:30 PM »
It's official. I am now enough of a pizza eating snob that re-heated slices don't do it for me in any way.

Welcome to the club.  :D
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Offline Jet_deck

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Re: Pizzamaking Fanatics 2012 NJ Tour Amano, Lodi, Pizza Town, Vesta, Brunos
« Reply #24 on: January 31, 2012, 06:16:30 PM »
The Pizza Town Stretch is like a master class on stretching NY style. 

Scott, the sauce was as thin as water.  Did it meet/ pass your expectations?

Thanks.  You all looked to have a great time!
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scott123

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Re: Pizzamaking Fanatics 2012 NJ Tour Amano, Lodi, Pizza Town, Vesta, Brunos
« Reply #25 on: January 31, 2012, 06:31:15 PM »
Scott, the sauce was as thin as water.  Did it meet/ pass your expectations?

I noticed the thinness of the sauce as well- dramatically thinner than my own.  They use a lot less cheese at p-town, so I'm guessing that less cheese coverage translates into more evaporation during the 4ish minute bake. I definitely don't notice any watery-ness in the final pizza or any lack of tomato flavor.

I'm not running out to thin my sauce or reduce my cheese, though. It was one of many aspects of the trip that I've filed away in my head and am going to allow to incubate a bit. It has to ferment  ;D

Offline norma427

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Re: Pizzamaking Fanatics 2012 NJ Tour Amano, Lodi, Pizza Town, Vesta, Brunos
« Reply #26 on: January 31, 2012, 09:42:11 PM »
Thanks everyone for the nice write-ups, videos, and pictures.  ;D I sure would have liked to taste all those pizzas.  Awesome pizza trip!  :)  :pizza:

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Offline communist

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Re: Pizzamaking Fanatics 2012 NJ Tour Amano, Lodi, Pizza Town, Vesta, Brunos
« Reply #27 on: February 01, 2012, 10:52:22 AM »
Impressive field work gentlemen!  And that footage of dough stretch is amazing.  I have a couple challenges with my dough stretch for a .07 New York Pie.  When I get near 14 inches for my 16 inch pie, I get some really thin spots with some thicker spots around it.  Sometimes when I have guests, I will panic and settle for a 15 inch pie that just does not have the thinness I want.  Scott, your video shows an already flattened disc about 10 inches in diameter.  How do you think she gets to that point?  A sheeter?  And what can I do to get to that starting point.  Do you think her hydration is lower than 63%?  I ask that because when I try to push my All Trumps 63% dough around to stretch it on the table, I need a lot of flour on the surface, and it still does not slide likes hers.  Looks like she dashes some semolina on the peel at the beginning of the video.  Those cheese slices look interesting, and seems more efficient than hand grating.  Any experience out there with use of a deli/meat slicer for cheese, and changes in outcome?Thanks again for the videos and reviews.  Mark

Offline dellavecchia

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Re: Pizzamaking Fanatics 2012 NJ Tour Amano, Lodi, Pizza Town, Vesta, Brunos
« Reply #28 on: February 01, 2012, 11:38:46 AM »
Scott - What do you think the hydration is on the Pizza Town dough? High 50's?

I must say, that is one amazing pie maker and product.

John

scott123

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Re: Pizzamaking Fanatics 2012 NJ Tour Amano, Lodi, Pizza Town, Vesta, Brunos
« Reply #29 on: February 01, 2012, 04:52:46 PM »
I have a couple challenges with my dough stretch for a .07 New York Pie.  When I get near 14 inches for my 16 inch pie, I get some really thin spots with some thicker spots around it.  Sometimes when I have guests, I will panic and settle for a 15 inch pie that just does not have the thinness I want.  Scott, your video shows an already flattened disc about 10 inches in diameter.  How do you think she gets to that point?  A sheeter?  And what can I do to get to that starting point.  Do you think her hydration is lower than 63%?  I ask that because when I try to push my All Trumps 63% dough around to stretch it on the table, I need a lot of flour on the surface, and it still does not slide likes hers.  Looks like she dashes some semolina on the peel at the beginning of the video.  Those cheese slices look interesting, and seems more efficient than hand grating.  Any experience out there with use of a deli/meat slicer for cheese, and changes in outcome?

Mark, there's no sheeter here.  If you have a wide enough container or proofing pan, the dough, as it ferments, will spread. We can't see inside her proofing pan, but I think it's obvious that she has them arranged in such a way that the dough balls don't touch during fermentation.  I think she also gives herself enough space for easy extraction with a dough scraper. My proofing pans are 7.5" wide and the fully fermented dough creeps up the side about 1.5". If I had open proofing pans, I think my fermented dough balls would spread as much as hers- proportionately, of course, as my dough balls are for 16" pizzas, while hers are 18".

Are your thin spots in the center or are they spread across the skin?  Are you re-balling at all? Thin spots can be a bit difficult to diagnose.  Usually it comes down to proper fermentation of the dough and good balling technique.  Are you careful about making sure the dough ball is pinched shut?  Also, I know I'm a big proponent of minimal kneading, but perhaps your underkneading too aggressively and getting weak areas.  I do know, for a fact, that 63% All Trumps shouldn't be very tacky at all and should require a very small amount of flour to form- as much flour as she's using. If you are underkneading, then not only could it be giving you thin spots, but it could be giving you tackiness also.

The other possibility is overfermentation.  If you push the dough too far/too many days, it will develop weak areas and give off moisture/get tacky. Fermentation time can get pretty subjective, but if you want to maximize handling ability, I would stick to no more than a 2 day cold ferment.

John's on Bleeker has almost identical cheese slices, although, because of their coal oven, they put the cheese below the sauce. That cut of cheese probably does save some time when topping (less number of pieces should translate into less time arranging), but I'm not sold on it.  As you get into larger pieces of cheese, it's harder to melt.  This cheese melts well because it's a high quality pizzeria cheese (some kind of grande clone made specifically for pizza town) and because it's so sparse. In a home setting, with a retail cheese and a more liberal approach, this cut would be a recipe for disaster.

It could be semolina that she's using to dust the peel or it could be corn meal.  John seems to think it's corn meal, and, as he's been doing reconnaissance for years, I'm apt to go with his assessment.  I can usually taste the difference, but it's something I have to focus on while eating the pizza- and in this instance, there was too much going on.


scott123

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Re: Pizzamaking Fanatics 2012 NJ Tour Amano, Lodi, Pizza Town, Vesta, Brunos
« Reply #30 on: February 01, 2012, 05:14:52 PM »
Scott - What do you think the hydration is on the Pizza Town dough? High 50's?

John, it's depends on the flour.  Pizza Town is chewy enough that it could be 14%, but, at the same time, it goes back to an age where all purpose might have still been in use.  I'm not saying it's all purpose (it definitely isn't), but I get the feeling older pizzerias lean more towards lower protein flours- maybe.  John Conklin has seen a bag of flour and knows the brand- something Capri- he's told me twice now and I keep forgetting. Like the cheese, the flour is bagged for them.  All the famous coal places in NY have their own flours- usually packaged somewhere in northern NJ, so this is a very similar deal. A couple months back I tried calling Patsy's flour distributor. They would sell me flour, even a small amount, but the person I spoke to didn't know protein specs. If John could chime in with the flour brand (I promise, John, I won't forget again :) ), then perhaps a phone call to the distributor might prove fruitful. Maybe.

If it is 14% protein, then it's not below 60% hydration. If it's 12.5% (the other most likely possibility), then it could be as low as 58%.  The dough looks like it could be a bit lower on the hydration scale, but it could also be a bit cool/not that long out of the refrigerator- assuming, of course, it is refrigerated.

I go back and forth on whether the few seconds of rest during stretching is on purpose or just because she's pulled away to tend the oven. John seems to think it's on purpose.  I don't recall the brother pausing mid stretch.  I'm also not sure if that short of rest is having any kind of impact on the dough. The dough looks extensible enough to be able to be formed without it.

Offline communist

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Re: Pizzamaking Fanatics 2012 NJ Tour Amano, Lodi, Pizza Town, Vesta, Brunos
« Reply #31 on: February 01, 2012, 07:49:49 PM »
Scott, Good information.  I  have been using the Pyrex glass containers you recommended last year, but they are about 6 inches on the bottom, and it may be time to move up to a wider container.  My dough balls now weigh 14 ounces for a 16 inch pie.  Is that close to your 16 inch pie dough weight?  I do not reball, but will make sure I pinch my dough balls carefully closed on the bottom.  They are still a bit cool after 2 hours outside my cold refrigerator ( temp at 34 degrees) and I think this leads to some dough stiffness and uneven stretching.  Thanks for the helpful advice!  Mark

Offline thezaman

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Re: Pizzamaking Fanatics 2012 NJ Tour Amano, Lodi, Pizza Town, Vesta, Brunos
« Reply #32 on: February 02, 2012, 06:33:06 PM »
 i am back to work today,had a great time in jersey and nyc. the jersey pizza tour was a blast. john,scott,and mike were into the experience,and the jersey owners have a amazing amount of pride in what they do. it is different from a new york business where there are public relation firms driving reviews that go world wide . these reviews effect businesses in a big way and make their audience multinational.in jersey it is more state wide bragging rites to the best pizza of a particular style. it has the same effect of increasing business,but not on such a big level.
 where Scott learned more about Neapolitan i learned a lot about ny style. 
  our first stop was amano and we had two great pizzas.i usually just do a margherita,buy after tasting the delicious sausage and broccoli rabe  i now realize i am missing the complete experience. john and i were able to roll a few dough balls with the crew, and if they would of let us would have knocked the full batch out.practice makes perfect.the owner was very nice to us and is interested in spreading neapolitan pizza to as many people as possible.i was invited to work the line anytime i want and will take advantage of the offer very soon. the way they make their dough is a thirty minute bulk rise then it is balled at 265 to 270 grams.it rises all night and is put into the cooler at the end of the night for the next day use.john and i disagree on the next point.i believe the dough is pretty cold when it is formed, he thinks it is room proofed.on the baking the pizza is up in the air off of the floor for most of the baking period.the balance of char was not overdone top or bottom. the last thing i noticed is the oven makes it possible for the cook to get the oven from idle to cooking temperatures in seconds.the rolling smoke layer is always there. and the pie is raised into it thru out the cooking process.
this is something that a high domed home oven has a hard time doing.
 the second stop was lodi pizza. this pizza was stretched then placed in a pan till an order came in.this gave the dough time to proof and softened the finished product.it was reheated to order on the stone floor. the heavy use of oregano on top of the cheese took away from the flavor of the pizza.it had a standard taste to it.
 pizza town was a fabulous experience the pizza was delicious . the two girls running it, sister and co owners were my favorie kind of people. gruff but sweet at the same time.a lot more sweet than they let on to being.this was my idea of a great pie,good crust lots of tomato flavor with the accompaniment of a lite hit if oregano and creamy mozzarella. scott,that is the pie i want to duplicate
 the next stop was frank at vesta.this is a beautiful restaurant. frank was a gracious and knowledgeable host.his pizza was a blend of Neapolitan and American style. he cooks at a little lower temperature than Neapolitan and uses American flour to make his crust. this was another example of missing the full experience if only ordering a margherita.the margherita was good he used a lot of grated cheese which i personally love on my pizzas.i like a little more sauce than he used but no big deal. now if i stopped there i would have been happy.i would have missed a great pizza his vodka sauce pizza with blackened shrimp was a killer pie.the combination of buffalo mozzarella, vodka sauce, blackened shrimp, grated cheese and i think basil made me cry. frank gave us a tour,answered our questions,talked pizza and his personal reasons as to why he developed the recipes he uses.the visit finished with a wonderful fried dough filled with fresh banana and accompanied by gelato .thanks so much frank!!
 the last visit was a Sicilian slice from mr. bruno's. this was voted the best Sicilian in jersey and the owners took a lot of pride in their pizza.we could not get much out of them on the pizza. mt take it was a low protein flour with some oil layerd with mozzarella topped with a crushed tomato finished with Romano ,oil ,and oregano.nothing fancy just good ingredients assembled and cooked with pride.
i will post pictures tonight.thanks to scott and john for putting this together.a really fun and pizza educational day!!!

scott123

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Re: Pizzamaking Fanatics 2012 NJ Tour Amano, Lodi, Pizza Town, Vesta, Brunos
« Reply #33 on: February 03, 2012, 06:02:36 AM »
scott,that is the pie i want to duplicate

We'll get you there, Larry.  I haven't completely broken the microblister code, but our conversation with Frank at Vesta gave me some more clues.

Very nice write up.

scott123

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Re: Pizzamaking Fanatics 2012 NJ Tour Amano, Lodi, Pizza Town, Vesta, Brunos
« Reply #34 on: February 03, 2012, 06:09:22 AM »
Vesta

As everyone is aware, the terms 'coal' pizza and 'Neo-NY' are interchangeable. Coal pizza is a hybrid. The problem that I have with most coal oven pizza, though, is that they tend to marry the bad elements of Neapolitan and NY, not the good ones- the wetness and occasionally excessive Char of Neapolitan, along with the excessive approach to toppings of NY. In a perfect world, someone could come along and marry the best elements of Neapolitan and the best elements of NY.  Vesta is that perfect world. They marry that gorgeous puffy chewy crispy NY crust with the wonderfully refined and elevated toppings of Neapolitan pizza.

I have to be honest, a few years ago, I was pretty skeptical of NY pizza done in a WFO- there were (and are) a lot of places that do it poorly.  For a period, I was leaning towards the idea that great NY in a WFO might not even be feasible.  And then Chau did his NY WFO thing, I went to Best, and now I see what Frank at Vesta is doing.  I still think it's difficult to do NY in a WFO well, but, in the right hands, it can be transcendent. 

As much as I love the Pizza Town experience, the pizza there is far from what I consider to be perfect. I'm pretty sure it's either cold fermented or extended room temp fermented- either way, it could use a longer ferment, the cheese is a bit sparse and it's a far cry from a Chau crumb.  I have the occasional issue with quality control, but, at my best, my pizzas are better than Pizza Town.  I have one or two nits with Frank's pizza, but, at the end of the day, he gives my best showing a run for the money. This is a pizza that should be winning awards. This is a guy that should be on TV getting interviewed by Anthony Bourdain.

Frank's a pretty humble guy, so he might not say that his pizza is better than Pizza Town, just different.  While we are kind of talking about oranges and tangerines, and a hugely subjective component, if I've got a Vesta slice, a Pizza Town slice and a Best slice (the three best NYish pies I've had in this area) in front of me, I'm grabbing the Vesta slice.

As impressed as I was by Frank's pizza, I was equally impressed with Frank the person.  People like Chris Bianco, Brian Spangler and Jeff Varasano understand the science of pizzamaking, but you mention terms like hydration or absorption value to a typical NY area pizzeria guy and they're going to give you a blank stare. I'm not calling them idiots, just not obsessively scientific about the process. Frank is a geek. He's one of us. He's playing around with different flours, hacking a Stefano Ferrara, installing special ventilation and dreaming up unique topping combinations. We all know guys that have been making pizza for decades who measure with an old coffee can that do a pretty good job, but, let's face it, in this millenium, the people with heads on their shoulders- the guys who try to understand as much as they can about their dough- they're usually going to come out on top. These days, you have to be left and right brained- to be able to, like Da Vinci, paint the Mona Lisa AND invent the Helicopter.

Nits? Well... While I found his crust almost impossibly tender when warm, but when it had a chance to cool, it toughened up a tiny bit. He didn't divulge any precise details about his recipe, but he is experimenting with different flours, so hopefully he can work this out. Ideally, I hope he can keep that incredible tenderness all the way from hot to cold. I also found it a bit amusing that the ladies at p-town were all trash talking CPKs bbq chicken pizza, and, when we walked into Vesta, the special was bbq chicken. I've said elsewhere how I generally don't find California pizza's toppings all that offensive, but, for someone with his palette, I think he can do better. As far as nits go, though, these are all very small.

I wouldn't call this a nit, because it's really my own kind of warped perspective, but I grew up in pizzerias with formica tables and white tiles and have always generally felt that pizza should be a cheap meal- and then I starting enjoying Neapolitan :D  I know that Frank's culinary training, his wisdom, his passion and his ingredients should all command a higher price, but it's going to take some time for me to view pizza in a more upscale light. Let me just say that I'm really glad that Vesta is a half hour away- if it was closer, I'd be spending a LOT more money on pizza.

In conclusion, I don't write for a newspaper or a blog, and I'm not part of any special pizza patrol, but, until I open my own place (10 years from now?), I consider Vesta to be the best pizza in NJ.

P.S. What can I say, it's nice to know people that know people  ;D Just as Larry's relationship with Roberto made for an awe inspiring experience at Keste, John's friendship with Frank got us the better-than-VIP treatment at Vesta. Thanks, John- and thanks, again, Larry.

scott123

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Re: Pizzamaking Fanatics 2012 NJ Tour Amano, Lodi, Pizza Town, Vesta, Brunos
« Reply #35 on: February 03, 2012, 06:28:29 AM »
Scott, Good information.  I  have been using the Pyrex glass containers you recommended last year, but they are about 6 inches on the bottom, and it may be time to move up to a wider container.  My dough balls now weigh 14 ounces for a 16 inch pie.  Is that close to your 16 inch pie dough weight?  I do not reball, but will make sure I pinch my dough balls carefully closed on the bottom.  They are still a bit cool after 2 hours outside my cold refrigerator ( temp at 34 degrees) and I think this leads to some dough stiffness and uneven stretching.  Thanks for the helpful advice!  Mark

Mark, the pyrex containers, as I mentioned a while back, are training wheels, so you can get a good view of the bottom of the dough. I think you're ready to take the training wheels off. I'm relatively happy about the stacking plastic proofing pans I use, but I've been mulling over getting the artisan doughmate trays.

I tip my hat to your aggressively thin thickness factor.  While I spend so much effort trying to get people to give .08 and .075 a shot, here you are, tackling an even thinner pie. I missed it before, but .07 is an incredibly hard thickness factor to stretch. I'm working, right now, with .08 and that's no walk in the park. Have you been doing .07 for a while? It might just be a matter of practice.

Depending on the hydration you're working with, the quantity of the kneading you're doing and the final consistency of the proofed dough, sometimes a little less warm up time/a little extra stiffness can be beneficial in helping the dough be a little less slack. Sometimes slack doughs can get away from you and thin out in areas. If the dough is fighting you/bucky, then maybe a longer warm up might be in order (3 hours)- don't forget, thick pyrex glass is very insulating, so it's going to take a while for the dough to warm up. I've done some experimenting with slightly chilled doughs vs. warmer ones, and, while slightly chilled has it's proponents, I'm not seeing any benefits.

scott123

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Re: Pizzamaking Fanatics 2012 NJ Tour Amano, Lodi, Pizza Town, Vesta, Brunos
« Reply #36 on: February 03, 2012, 06:33:53 AM »
Bruno's

Bruno's was a bit of a wash.  While I could definitely see the pizza having the potential to be on par (or possibly even better) than L&B, the owner stressed over and over again that the only way to judge it properly was right out of the oven and not re-warmed. I believe him- so I have no choice but to make a return trip  ;D

scott123

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Re: Pizzamaking Fanatics 2012 NJ Tour Amano, Lodi, Pizza Town, Vesta, Brunos
« Reply #37 on: February 03, 2012, 06:48:18 AM »
Lorenzo's

Wait a sec- when did we go to Lorenzo's?  Well... Larry brought some of his pizzas along with him and graciously shared them with John and I.

First off, let me just say, I tried my best to do justice to the re-heat, but with both pies, I dropped the ball and ended up with a little burning on the rim.  Fortunately, there was enough non burned areas that I was able to enjoy most of the pizza- and enjoy it I did.  I know how passionate Larry is about pizza and this passion shines through with every bite.  I can only imagine how amazing this pizza would be straight from the oven. The cheese melts flawlessly and there's lots of it and the crust is rich, crusty and flavorful.

I grew up eating NY style pizza, so I've never really been one for pan pizzas, but I'm telling you, one bite of this and I'm a convert.  I could eat a lot of these.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2012, 01:15:54 AM by scott123 »

Offline communist

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Re: Pizzamaking Fanatics 2012 NJ Tour Amano, Lodi, Pizza Town, Vesta, Brunos
« Reply #38 on: February 03, 2012, 09:12:54 AM »
. Have you been doing .07 for a while? It might just be a matter of practice.
     Yes Scott, I have increased my pie size to 16 inches on my 17 inch steel, and I have dropped my thickness factor from  .08 to .07.  I think a large part is a matter of practice, but your advice will help me achieve my goals quicker.  Thanks!  Mark

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Re: Pizzamaking Fanatics 2012 NJ Tour Amano, Lodi, Pizza Town, Vesta, Brunos
« Reply #39 on: February 03, 2012, 06:49:36 PM »
Nice work Scott! and a great write up on all! I told you Frank had it going on. So glad I did not let you down. From the second I broke out the Ipad on my first visit we have been friends I also consider him a great pizza man /geek as well  ;)
I also really enjoyed Larrys Pizza from Lorenzos I will post my review in review section here. :P
http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,17601.msg170657.html
« Last Edit: February 03, 2012, 11:13:19 PM by JConk007 »
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