Author Topic: Re: Evolution of the NY Style Pizza (Split Topic)  (Read 14221 times)

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Offline pizzablogger

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Re: Evolution of the NY Style Pizza (Split Topic)
« on: July 27, 2011, 01:29:23 PM »
I have always been intrigued by the evolution of NY pizza to the point where I found myself researching the invention of the planetary mixer (Hobart), deck ovens and refrigeration, and when they were commercialized on a fairly wide scale, and also the evolution of flours, from the early all-purpose flours, bread flours, and finally high-gluten flours. I doubt that that there are many pizza operators today in the metro NYC area who are making their doughs by hand but I would imagine that there are many who are still using same day doughs made with all-purpose flours (scott123 may be able to comment on this). It was also interesting to read about when sugar and oil were added to the NY doughs, after deck ovens were commercialized for baking pizzas.

Peter

Peter, I have been thinking about this a lot over the past couple of months and maybe you could shed some light based on your previous studies.

One of the biggest sea changes, as far as I can tell, in the New York pizza scene was the creation and wide spread use of the commercial gas fired deck oven (Hobart was rocking mixers before 1920).  It seems there may be a combination of events involved here:

1.Several sources have cited one of the drivers for increased pizzeria demand was the return of soldiers stationed in Italy after World War II. US troops were in and around the Campania region and Naples beginning around March ’43 and remained in Italy for a couple of years. So that means war veterans were returning home in ’45 onward and wanting some of that pizza action.

I know Baker’s Pride had the first deck oven in 1945, but when exactly did their use become widespread?

One of the earlier surviving examples of a NY-Style gas deck oven pizzeria is Ray’s on Prince Street, which opened in 1959. Surely there were other places which were operating gas deck ovens before Ray’s? Eddie’s in Long Island was.

2.The coal oven “ban” in New York City. I have heard several different versions of what this actually is, but as of yet have not been able to determine when this went into effect.

Was the “coal oven ban (COB)” instituted before or around the time gas fired deck ovens became available? If so, the increased demand for pizza from Southern Italian based WWII soldiers (if this is in fact true), coupled with a real challenge in opening up the more traditional coal oven pizzerias, would have paved the way for deck ovens with little to no competition.

About the CBO. Some have said certain pizzerias are grandfathered in...meaning a coal fired pizzeria in existance before the CBO is allowed to continue using their ovens and open new restaurants. I do not subscribe to this.

From what I can tell from asking various NY pizza enthusiasts and some shop owners, the CBO “grandfathering” issue surrounds the actual coal oven itself. For example, if an old bakery had a coal-fired oven, which is still in the space, but is either not functioning any longer or was converted to another fuel source (gas, oil, etc), the oven itself is grandfathered and can be refurbished to use coal. If a person renovating an old building discovered that there is an old coal-fired oven hidden behind newer walls, etc, that oven is grandfathered in and could be put back into service as a coal fired oven. Still, I have never confirmed if this is the case (although this very thing happened in the Village years ago...a person renovated an old bakery space and refurbished the coal oven for pizza making).

I still may call the NY Department of Health or the NY Dept of Environment (or applicable legislative body) to find out more about this. There is even some confusion as to what parts of the city the CBO applies to....with some citing Manhattan as the only affected borough.

Long story short, such a ban would certainly have sky rocketed the demand for gas fired deck ovens if it was in effect before the availability of the deck oven (the relative slow rate of opening coal oven pizzerias in NYC in the earlier days may hint that the CBO was implemented earlier on???).

The cheapening of the process
From books like Ed Levine’s A Slice of Heaven and from me asking Domenico DeMarco some questions when I first visited him (eating literally with only one other person in the shop with the doors locked for the end of lunch break) and again during subsequent visits (all during off-peak non crowded hours), the pizzerias “back in the day” used ingredients much more like what the original New York-Neapolitan coal fired joints (Lombardi’s, Totonno’s, John’s and Patsy’s were all open by 1933) were using. ...whole milk mozzarella, uncooked sauce made from good tomatoes, olive oil, house made or locally produced sausage, etc. It makes sense earlier deck-oven joints likely started down this path as well, being that is what the best thought of pizzerias in NYC at the time were already doing.

DeMarco has been in Brooklyn since 1959 and making pies at DiFara since 1964. He mentioned pretty much any corner pizzeria in Brooklyn back then was likely to be making their own sauce, not using sugar, whole milk cheese, etc. And these pizzerias were using deck ovens. He mentioned the change in generations from original immigrants to younger family removed from tradition may have been a factor.

So somewhere along the way the whole process devolved into the NY-Style (street slice) horsecrap it is today. Often too much sugar in the dough, darker tasting marinara-ish sauces or sauces with a noticeable sugar note to it in many parts of the country and the use of just bad tasting, rubbery cheese. Even in NYC the use of pre-shredded part-skim mozzarella in many instances....which is just quite frankly an inferior product I cannot stand.

NYC is so lucky. Pizza enthusiasts get into the nitty-gritty over which of the coal-oven pizzerias is “the best” (always ultimately a subjective endeavor). That Lombardi’s is a “tourist trap” (it is) making over-hyped pizza (it does), Grimaldi’s has “slipped” (it has), Patsy’s “blows away” Totonno’s (actually a coin flip on a given day) etc, etc. This has especially accelerated with the focus and growth (and somewhat waning of popularity of coal oven joints) of high quality Neapolitan or Neapolitan-inspired pizzerias, with Franny’s in Brooklyn and Una Pizza Napoletana being two of the earlier examples that really pushed the envelope just before the whole Neapolitan boom exploded.

Yet when I eat a slice or pizza from Lombardi’s, or Totonno’s, etc....often I laugh at myself and the sometimes heated arguments I have had with friends in NYC about such places. Because say what you want, the original New York-Neapolitan coal-oven pizzerias are making a product that is still better than what 95% (if not higher than that)of the pizzerias in America are cranking out.

So I am always intrigued about this type of history and know people like Pete-zza, ScottR, Scott123, etc have much more knowledge about this than I do.

And I get very excited when I see people like Chau and others here making pies more influeced by the New York-Neapolitan style pizzas. Pizzas in this style reflect the birthplace of pizza in this country, the grit and pride of the earliest trendsetters and earliest pie-men (not pizzaiolos)we have to reflect on in America.  I love dearly Neapolitan style pizza.....I make pizzas in that vein and crave visiting retail establishments selling that style more than any other. And yet I have always had an itch in the back of my throat....to see more people take the techniques and passion displayed on this forum and re-envigorate this style (NY-Neapolitan) to new heights.

Blah, blah, blah
« Last Edit: July 27, 2011, 03:41:30 PM by Pete-zza »
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Offline scott r

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Re: Evolution of the NY Style Pizza (Split Topic)
« Reply #1 on: July 27, 2011, 03:26:02 PM »
I wish I had more knowledge about he history!    I know im definitely rocking the NY coal oven style pies now, but I definitely would love to hear more about the history of it and how it evolved...and devolved.   Someone contacted me recently about a book they were writing on regional pizza styles.   Hopefully this is going to shed some light on the evolution.     

Offline TXCraig1

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Re: Evolution of the NY Style Pizza (Split Topic)
« Reply #2 on: July 27, 2011, 03:31:58 PM »
If you find an answer Chau please let us know.  I have always been curious what the "coal" that they burn is also.  I had always decided it was anthracite, but that was only a speculation.


That is correct. Grimaldi's even states as much on their website: http://www.grimaldispizzeria.com/pizza

CL
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Offline pizzablogger

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Re: Evolution of the NY Style Pizza (Split Topic)
« Reply #3 on: July 27, 2011, 03:34:27 PM »
That is correct. Grimaldi's even states as much on their website: http://www.grimaldispizzeria.com/pizza

CL


Yes, at least the coal oven joints here in Baltimore are burning this too.

You may see a growing rise in the incidence of "Reforested Coal". Coal which is being mined from an area where there is a covenant for the land to be re-forested once the coal has been extracted from the site. --K
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Offline Jet_deck

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Re: Evolution of the NY Style Pizza (Split Topic)
« Reply #4 on: July 27, 2011, 03:36:07 PM »

.....  About the CBO. Some have said certain pizzerias are grandfathered in...meaning a coal fired pizzeria in existance before the CBO is allowed to continue using their ovens and open new restaurants. I do not subscribe to this.....



I enjoy Chau's enthusiam also.  I hope Peter decides to split this topic so we can visit more about the physical nature of the ovens and exactly what they burned.

Kelly, I don't get why you would not want a coal fired oven to be grandfathered in.  Are you saying they weren't as good, or didn't produce good pizza?  Explain it really slowly, Im from the South, and we don't know what NY pizza is genrally. ;D
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Offline Jet_deck

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Re: Evolution of the NY Style Pizza (Split Topic)
« Reply #5 on: July 27, 2011, 03:40:43 PM »
URBN Pizza, Vista, Ca.  Reading (PA) Anthricite Coal
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Offline TXCraig1

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Re: Evolution of the NY Style Pizza (Split Topic)
« Reply #6 on: July 27, 2011, 03:47:19 PM »
2.The coal oven “ban” in New York City. I have heard several different versions of what this actually is, but as of yet have not been able to determine when this went into effect.

About the CBO. Some have said certain pizzerias are grandfathered in...meaning a coal fired pizzeria in existance before the CBO is allowed to continue using their ovens and open new restaurants. I do not subscribe to this.

From what I can tell from asking various NY pizza enthusiasts and some shop owners, the CBO “grandfathering” issue surrounds the actual coal oven itself. For example, if an old bakery had a coal-fired oven, which is still in the space, but is either not functioning any longer or was converted to another fuel source (gas, oil, etc), the oven itself is grandfathered and can be refurbished to use coal. If a person renovating an old building discovered that there is an old coal-fired oven hidden behind newer walls, etc, that oven is grandfathered in and could be put back into service as a coal fired oven. Still, I have never confirmed if this is the case (although this very thing happened in the Village years ago...a person renovated an old bakery space and refurbished the coal oven for pizza making).

I still may call the NY Department of Health or the NY Dept of Environment (or applicable legislative body) to find out more about this. There is even some confusion as to what parts of the city the CBO applies to....with some citing Manhattan as the only affected borough.

It may be that the coal oven ban is little more than a myth perpetrated by the operators of coal ovens who would like to keep the competition down. I have a friend in Manhattan who is in a position to know and he has told me as much. If you call the health department, I would be interested to hear what they say, though I would only believe the answer if I actually read it written in the city code.

CL
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Offline pizzablogger

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Re: Evolution of the NY Style Pizza (Split Topic)
« Reply #7 on: July 27, 2011, 04:04:52 PM »
I enjoy Chau's enthusiam also.  I hope Peter decides to split this topic so we can visit more about the physical nature of the ovens and exactly what they burned.

Kelly, I don't get why you would not want a coal fired oven to be grandfathered in.  Are you saying they weren't as good, or didn't produce good pizza?  Explain it really slowly, Im from the South, and we don't know what NY pizza is genrally. ;D

I meant that I don't believe that explanation for what the "grandfathering" issue refers to.

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Offline chickenparm

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Re: Evolution of the NY Style Pizza (Split Topic)
« Reply #8 on: July 27, 2011, 04:31:39 PM »
A Frank Pepe's opened up in Yonkers not too long ago.They have a coal burning oven there.Then again that is part of Westchester County,not NY City.Just thought some of you may like to know.
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Offline pizzablogger

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Re: Evolution of the NY Style Pizza (Split Topic)
« Reply #9 on: July 27, 2011, 05:10:25 PM »
It is a city issue.
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Offline Jet_deck

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Re: Evolution of the NY Style Pizza (Split Topic)
« Reply #10 on: July 28, 2011, 10:29:53 AM »
I just got off the phone with Scott Klein at Reading Anthracite Coal.  He said their sales to pizzerias had increased alot in the last 5 years.  He had no specifics on exactly what the outcome was, but that his company had helped WoodStone develop a proprietary grate for their coal to sit on inside their ovens.  The grate lets a specific amout of air to the coals and lets the smaller burned stuff fall down into the ash catcher.

The minimum order is 1 ton (quantity 40; 50# bags stretched wrapped on a pallet)  the coal is $200 for 1 ton, plus freight.  Anybody want to trade coal for some New York AP flour?

http://www.woodstone-corp.com/products_ovens_firedeck_9660_coal.htm
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Offline Jackie Tran

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Re: Evolution of the NY Style Pizza (Split Topic)
« Reply #11 on: July 28, 2011, 10:45:59 AM »
Nice work Gene.  Damn, that would be a great deal if shipping is reasonable.
Anyone see any issues with making NP style pies with coal?

Chau

Offline communist

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Re: Evolution of the NY Style Pizza (Split Topic)
« Reply #12 on: July 28, 2011, 10:58:24 AM »
The Woodstone coal oven retails for 84,000 :o

Offline pizzablogger

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Re: Evolution of the NY Style Pizza (Split Topic)
« Reply #13 on: July 28, 2011, 11:02:51 AM »
Nice work Gene.  Damn, that would be a great deal if shipping is reasonable.
Anyone see any issues with making NP style pies with coal?

Chau

No.

Although I remember Anthony Mangieri citing in a video that coal was too dry of a heat source to make good pizza with. He added something along the lines of it is like cooking pizza in a locomotive or something like that.

To be fair, I think the dimensions and shape of most of the coal fired pizza ovens in NYC (usually more rectangularly shaped ovens, some of them quite long) have as much to do with that as anything else.
--K
« Last Edit: July 28, 2011, 11:13:09 AM by pizzablogger »
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Offline pizzablogger

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Re: Evolution of the NY Style Pizza (Split Topic)
« Reply #14 on: July 28, 2011, 11:08:00 AM »
The Woodstone coal oven retails for 84,000 :o

WoodStone is quite expensive. And their performance is questionable in light of the cost.

Coal burns very, very hot. Joe Squared in Baltimore is burning coal in an EarthStone oven. He had to have a titanium grate to protect the floor of the oven where the coal pile goes. If I recall correctly, I think that grate warped at one point. I'll check with Joe to confirm. Keep in mind titanium, even though in everything from bike frames to rings now, was initially not easy to obtain and was primarilly used in things like the leading edges of the wings and control surfaces of supersonic fighter aircraft....slicing through the atmosphere at multiples of the speed of sound heats things up very much (not to mention the incredible g forces placed on control surfaces and the airframe during combat maneuvers...strong stuff).....so coal (potentially) warping a titanium grate is hot, hot stuff!
« Last Edit: July 28, 2011, 11:12:43 AM by pizzablogger »
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Offline Jet_deck

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Re: Evolution of the NY Style Pizza (Split Topic)
« Reply #15 on: July 28, 2011, 12:00:06 PM »
At the end of this article, in the white box, Vic Amato says he build Lombardi's and Tottono.  I'll bet this guy could tell a few stories.

http://www.pizzamarketplace.com/article/99105/Interest-in-coal-fired-ovens-heats-up

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Offline Jackie Tran

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Re: Evolution of the NY Style Pizza (Split Topic)
« Reply #16 on: July 28, 2011, 12:04:02 PM »
Good to know Kelly.  I'm thinking I could lay down a layer of firebrick on the side of the coals.  Hot is good, especially up at 5000ft where the air is thinner.

Chau

Offline pizzablogger

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Re: Evolution of the NY Style Pizza (Split Topic)
« Reply #17 on: July 28, 2011, 12:15:26 PM »
Hey Craig.....

Quote
Contrary to lore that the city prohibits the use of coal-fired ovens, a spokeswoman for the city Department of Environmental Protection said they were not banned.


EDIT: Would still like clarification if she is referring to already existing ovens or if one could build a new one.

Jackie, this coal oven is so hot it cracked the sidewalk above it....and is able to melt snow:

http://articles.nydailynews.com/2011-04-13/local/29434373_1_bushwick-construction-office-coal-fired-ovens

I forget which pizzeria it was, but years ago a NYC coal oven partially melted a steel support beam under the brick and caused a portion of the oven to sag. Hot!  :)
« Last Edit: July 28, 2011, 12:41:17 PM by pizzablogger »
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Offline TXCraig1

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Re: Evolution of the NY Style Pizza (Split Topic)
« Reply #18 on: July 28, 2011, 12:16:04 PM »
WoodStone is quite expensive. And their performance is questionable in light of the cost.

Coal burns very, very hot. Joe Squared in Baltimore is burning coal in an EarthStone oven. He had to have a titanium grate to protect the floor of the oven where the coal pile goes. If I recall correctly, I think that grate warped at one point. I'll check with Joe to confirm. Keep in mind titanium, even though in everything from bike frames to rings now, was initially not easy to obtain and was primarilly used in things like the leading edges of the wings and control surfaces of supersonic fighter aircraft....slicing through the atmosphere at multiples of the speed of sound heats things up very much (not to mention the incredible g forces placed on control surfaces and the airframe during combat maneuvers...strong stuff).....so coal (potentially) warping a titanium grate is hot, hot stuff!

The melting point of titanium is about 3000F vs 2700F for steel or iron (not cast iron which is closer to 2200F). It's the strength/weight ratio not the melting point why it is used in aerospace applications. I'd be surprised if you could get anywhere near 2000F with coal in a WFO. I would think closer to 1000-1200F at the base of the fire. You just don't have the necessary airflow in a WFO. I bet if you tried to put on too much coal trying to get the oven temp up near 1000, you could actually smother the fire. With pea-sized coal and proper airflow, coal-fired boilers reach ~2000-2200F at the base of the fire. Larger coal chunks and limited airflow would be much less hot.  The temperature above the coal fire would be a couple hundred degrees less than the base. In a WFO, fire and ash management are both going to be a problem with coal. I think burning coal in a WFO is inadvisable at best - but not necessarily because of the temperature.

CL
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Offline pizzablogger

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Re: Evolution of the NY Style Pizza (Split Topic)
« Reply #19 on: July 28, 2011, 12:26:41 PM »
The melting point of titanium is about 3000F vs 2700F for steel or iron (not cast iron which is closer to 2200F). It's the strength/weight ratio not the melting point why it is used in aerospace applications.
CL

Correct

It's not a round shaped WFO, but the new joint in town, Chazz:A Bronx Original has a coal chamber on the right side feeding heat into the cooking area on the left. The pizza maker cited the coal pile itself can get to 2200°F.

The oven was made in Australia and has an additional temperature regulator in the cooking side that is essentially a steel pipe which shoots flame towards the ceiling of the chamber if temps go below a certain level. The rocketing flames shooting out of it is pretty intense and is highly reminiscent of a KISS concert happening inside of the oven.
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