Dear friends, I verily took delight in being with all of you at the Summit. It was not just a summit, but a celebration
of our friendship, hard-earned achievements, and, above all, taking interest in the existence
of one another. Dear Craig, I convey to you—and your wife—my deepest gratitude for allowing us to enjoy the warmth, comfort, and hospitality of your home. We are boundlessly grateful to you and your wife.
Finally, I had the chance to feel and taste Craig's dough. He was certainly the master of his dough on the bench, meaning that, he shaped the destiny
of the dough—not the other way around. I clearly and repeatedly observed how unhesitatingly Craig manipulated, with certainty of thought and action, his dough on the bench, although the surrounding conditions were unpropitious. The ambient temperature was excessive (about 106°F); the air was highly humid; and Craig and the rest of us had plenty to drink. I remember that the flour on the bench felt markedly hotter than the humid atmosphere inside the garage, causing the damped bench flour to coagulate and become gluey on the fingers and palms. The problem was further aggravated if the hands started to sweat in that hot and humid environment.
When I proceeded to draft one of Craig's dough balls into a disc, I did not know what to expect. Upon the initial touch, I immediately perceived a buoyant and delicate dough ball, more delicate than I really preferred under the extant conditions. Hence, I instantaneously resolved to treat it with extra gentleness, but shortly I perceived in the dough a needed strength
that was finely in tune with the dough's delicate temperament. At that point, I knew that the dough was no accident, but well-calculated. In other words, it possessed, at least for me, the right degree of extensibility and elasticity. In my estimation, a dough like that, in a commercial environment, won't allow the bancone to be turned into a battleground and the oven floor into a graveyard!
For me, Craig's mahogany pizza peel was complementary to the dough disc that I shaped and garnished with toppings. The wooden peel, which was handcrafted by Bill (Wheelman), faithfully consigned the pizza to the hearth.
With regard to the flavor, it is difficult for me to clothe it in words. Considering that Craig used sourdough culture as the single fermentative agent for his dough, suffice it to say that astute hints of sourness subtly embellished the overall flavor of the pizza base. Yet, it was not obvious that he used sourdough starter since the baked dough did not taste sour. Paradoxically, it was obvious that he did not use any kind of commercial yeast since the dough did not taste one- or two-dimensional. It had all the three dimensions: length, breadth, and depth. Exquisite!
With respect to Craig's Acunto oven, it is a beauty and beast in one package! In my opinion, it performed quite well under the aforementioned conditions. A number of things I noticed about the Acunto in relation to the Ferrara oven that I work with at Pizzeria Bruno (keep in mind that the former has an internal floor diameter of 120cm and the latter 130cm):
1. In contrast to the Ferrara at Bruno, Craig's Acunto has a distinctly narrower vent, which starts right above the oven door and leads up all the way to the chimney. Looking through the vent, I could see much less of the surface of the dome's arch below the chimney.
2. In contrast to the Ferrara at Bruno, Craig's Acunto seems to have a thicker wall encircling the floor.
3. In contrast to the Ferrara at Bruno, Craig's Acunto appears to have a thicker floor and foundation (put together as one whole), at least by 2 to 3 inches.
4. In contrast to the Ferrara at Bruno, I clearly felt that Craig's Acunto has a smaller door in both the vertical and horizontal planes.
5. In contrast to the Ferrara at Bruno, it appears that Craig's Acunto has a flatter surface on the central zone of the dome.
6. In contrast to the Ferrara at Bruno, the Acunto's dome and floor are composed of what appears to be different types of bricks. They are of different color (grayish) and dimensions (larger in size, if I am not mistaken).
7. In contrast to the Ferrara at Bruno, the Acunto's four floor tiles have different color and texture, judging by what is visible on their surface. The Ferrara's floor at Bruno has a light clayish color, whereas the Acunto's floor is gray in color, like a polished, ordinary rock. Moreover, The Ferrara's floor at Bruno seems to have a softer clayish texture, with multitude of very tiny holes all over the surface. The Acunto's floor appeared to have a harder rocky texture, with less tiny holes residing on its surface. I should mention that I have seen Ferrara ovens that are equipped exactly with the same type of floor tiles as Craig's Acunto. The Ferrara oven, which is a permanent one, at Caffe Calabria in San Diego is an example.
It is obviously premature for me to conclusively judge the long-term performance of Craig's Acunto; nonetheless, based on my limited observations and the personal experience that I had with Craig's Acunto last Saturday and Sunday, it appears that both ovens are compatible with one another. By the way, Craig and I checked out the wood-fired oven at Pizaro's Pizza last Monday. See the 1st picture below. The oven operator at Pizaro kindly allowed me to take a brief look inside the oven, which was built by Forno Napoletano. At the first glance, the interior of the oven looked different, in terms of construction and the materials, than Craig's Acunto and Bruno's Ferrara, to a lesser or greater degree. I could not gaze at the oven interior long enough as the oven operator began to feel uncomfortable with my presence there. Pizaro is the only Neapolitan pizzeria in all of Houston, which is supposed to be the 4th largest city in the US. (http://www.pizarospizza.com
) The owner declared that he is already in the process of opening up a second branch soon in Houston. I wish him success.
I thank you guys for posting all the preceding pictures. I think more pictures would have been posted here if some camera operators had used tripods!
Unfortunately, I shot no more than 3 pizza pictures; I was too preoccupied with chatting and stuffing myself. Below are the few pictures that I shot.
I would like to sincerely thank Chau for the fresh mozzarella that he prepared for us, Diana for the wonderful cheese selection, Gene for the tasty ice cream, Hunt brothers for the delicious Detroit-style pizzas which I had never experienced before, Tom for the breakfast pizzas (of which I got only one leftover slice because I woke up too late), Bill for the wine and for kindly picking me up at the airport, Norma for the heartfelt hug she gave me upon my arrival there, Peter and Scott for accompanying me at the kitchen sink (I washed, Scott rinsed, and Peter dried), Peter for the wine, John (Serpentelli) who was there in spirit (i.e., Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey), and Java (a puppy-sapien) who mitigated the pain of being away from my puppy. Please, forgive me if I have forgotten anyone. I thank all
the Texas Pizza Summit participants for their care and friendship. I look forward to seeing you all again. Happy 4th of July!