Earlier today I was thinking about things that might help explain why Tommy's pizza is so much different today than it was 25 years ago.
The one clear difference that anyone can see just by walking through the door is that Tommy's uses conveyor ovens today, as opposed to the deck ovens they used 25 years ago. How much does that change the product? I don't know, but I do know something like that could potentially start a chain reaction that ends up changing a product considerably over the span of 25 years.
Now that I've mentioned the one thing I know has changed, there's another very important question to answer: Is Tommy's pizza actually different today than it was 25 years ago?
Well, I think it's different, and chrisgraff thinks it's different in the same ways I think it's different
. I couldn't tell from thezaman's comment
if he agrees. (I just asked my mom about this stuff, and she's on the same page as Chris and I.) So based on what I know from our little sample group, I'm gonna have to assume Chris and I are correct in saying today's Tommy's is way different than Tommy's from 25 years ago.
So here's a short list of factors that may have caused Tommy's pizza to change so much over time:
1) All restaurants evolve over time
. I know that if I opened a pizzeria today, the pizza would evolve over 25 or 50 years, just like the pizza I make at home is not the same as the pizza I made 5 or 10 years ago. If I owned a pizzeria, I would spend at least part of almost every day trying to improve the pizza, just as I have for the past 15 years at home. (I can't avoid it; that's just how I operate.) So yeah, it's gonna change over time, even without making a conscious effort to create a noticeably different pizza.
. The oven example definitely fits into this list item. Once upon a time, a new technology (conveyor ovens) came along. These ovens made it easier to bake pizzas, and at a faster rate to boot, but at the expense of quality. Tommy's chose to embrace the new, easier technology over the older technology. (There was probably a big-time snowball effect just from this single decision.)
Also, there may have been other technological advances that led to changes, such as different kinds of refrigeration units. Or maybe refrigeration became more affordable. If so, that could account for a drastic change in dough management.
3) The availability of information
. Maybe refrigeration was already affordable, but the owners of Tommy's learned how refrigeration could make dough management a lot easier. Maybe they learned that refrigeration could lead to higher production because refrigeration enables you to proactively sheet most of the day's dough ahead of time, instead of reactively waiting to sheet the dough only after the order has been placed.
So maybe 25 years ago Tommy's kept the dough at room temperature all day and wouldn't sheet a skin until a pizza was ordered. If so, that would have required extra labor during busy times of the day, and it also would mean longer wait times for pizzas, as well as an inability to meet high demand at busy times. Because if you wait until every order is taken to sheet the dough for that order, you have to pay an extra person to sheet the dough. And then someone has to make the pizza, instead of just pulling out a sauce-and-cheesed skin and throwing it on the conveyor belt. So in addition to extra labor, the room-temperature dough management system also requires a few extra minutes of prep time for every pizza that is ordered. Very inefficient.
Which makes me think they probably used to roll only one skin at a time, rather than producing a long sheet of dough from the sheeter, creating several dough skins at a time. (I don't know how they do it; I just know there's more than one way of sheeting dough.)
In Reply #81
, jweaver64 said something about the original pic of Tommy's looking like a “toasted lasagna noodle.” Although I like this observation, I don't feel like talking about it right now because I think it's a characteristic of present-day Tommy's. (Just wanted to say something about it, though, for future reference.)
To me it looks like the ownership of Tommy's has made many operational decisions that value ease, efficiency, and cost over quality. I mean, look at their pizza box and their menu
. When's the last time you saw a pizza box like that? If you don't think too hard about it, you'd probably assume they still use those boxes for nostalgic effect. But my guess is that they use them because that box is cheap. Every direction you look, it appears that Tommy's management bases most of their decisions on cost, not quality. Which is a shame because they used to make some good stuff, and now they don't.
I guess that's what I'm here for.
So I'm gonna try to use this insight to guide me as I continue trying to clone Tommy's pizza. For example, in the future I'll probably lean toward using the dough very soon after I roll it because it makes sense that Tommy's may have done that 25 years ago. I'll also consider trying to come up with a dough formula that will work for dough that's made in the morning and used throughout the day. Or maybe dough that's good for 6 hours or so, that you could make both before lunch and before dinner.
Because I want to make a pizza that's crispy, with a crust that breaks up into hundreds of little paper-thin flakes inside the box, without blistering.
Pizza hiatus may have to wait a while.