Do I feel lucky?
It is a suitable title for this post I think.
Chris Bianco crafts the only commercial pizza I have ever eaten which properly nails the big three of no defects, designer-like execution, and stunning synergy of ultra-high quality ingredients. In short, he gives his patrons the Wow Factor! The man is a pizza genius. Kindly allow me to explore each point for it is part and parcel to my direction in home pizza making.
Bianco’s pizzas are devoid of noticeable defects of any kind. There is a clear purpose why his menu is constructed in the manner it is. Repetition may be the mother of learning but no other pizzeria I have eaten at has mastered the menu quite like Chris has.
Designer like execution. Order the Rosa and then let me know if you could “feel” Chris sitting at the table with you as I did. That pizza is the epitome of Chris tapping his guests on the shoulder with a message of I’ve got you and I’m not letting you go till I’m ready. I was powerless.
Unsurpassed synergy of crust, sauce, & toppings. The first bite of a Bianco pizza makes one scratch their head in search of answers to two overarching questions. Where is all the flavor is coming from? And did I just experience something so advanced that I can confidently rule out sheer luck of the draw?
Two other highly touted pizzerias don’t even come close; though they both claim they do and manage to incorporate some of the same winning elements. First up is UPN with its limited menu of just four pizzas. Sounds good so far but the crust offered little flavor to my palate, no oven spring but he does have a new oven which might help, and overall Anthony’s pizzas exhibited not a single original facet which shouted: you are eating something unavailable anywhere else at any price. Believe me; I searched hard to find something, anything which could be remotely considered Anthony specific. My sense was he sold a clone product which I was supposed to believe was just as good as the pizza in Naples. Never having been, I still couldn’t imagine how that may even remotely be the case.
How about Luzzo’s? From time to time Luzzo’s has created perfect texture but unfortunately it’s always accompanied with a noticeable lack of flavor due to the absence of proper amounts of salt in the dough. And what about the coal oven which also burns wood? What is he trying to do? How does the presence of wood help his product? I’m clueless on this point. A probable explanation could be that he is trying to compete with UPN around the corner. You can fool some of the people some of the time but…well you get the point. Finally, the sauce was bitter with a citric acid taste which threw balance out the window.
The only critical comments I could possibly make about Chris’s pies are:
- I wish the form factor was a little larger (even 13” could make the cut in my mind)
- I wish the crust was a little less intentionally brittle. While nowhere near as crunchy as a Pizzeria Mozza pie, my preference is slightly less crunch
- Finally, I wish he had wondered to Tampa instead of Phoenix years ago so I could learn from him
So how about a little scorecard of my efforts now that I have practiced with a wood burning oven and the ultimate home kneader? How do my humble home pizza making efforts stack up? Sadly, I have to admit I am completely satisfied with only one pizza. That being Pizza Raquel in her Margherita form only.
Though Pizza Sophia, in her marinara form, may have just graduated. But she still needs to build a consistent track record. The big breakthrough for Pizza Sophia was switching from freshly picked oregano to drying out the oregano on the TEC’s black grill cover which reaches upwards of 135F in the hot Florida sun. Then crumbling the stemless oregano in-between my thumb and index finger. Somehow the flavor which I knew was in there, but was muted in all other previous versions, came bellowing through. I just need to do it again and again to be sure.
Come to think about it, I could live quite happily for the rest of my life on just Pizza Raquel and Sophia. But something inside me is telling me to go further. We’ll see.
So after years of tinkering, I might have finally managed to strike the right balance with EVOO, oregano, sauce, crust, garlic, and cheese. Pizza Sophia may be just a marinara, but one bite will have you scratching your head with a couple of questions. Where is all the flavor coming from? And was it luck?
I'll let Harry Callahan pick up the conversation for me...
Well, I know what you’re thinking.
Did he wood-fire six pies or only five?
Well to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I almost lost track myself. But being that these were baked in the Raquel Oven, the most powerful pizza specific oven made, and will blow your head clean off with pizza joy, you’ve got to ask yourself one question.
Do I feel lucky?
Well do ya, punk?