I can support Evelyne 100% on her position that officially Patsy's does not employ a starter. I have probably spent more time at the original Patsy's than most of the employees who have worked there over the years. I have also explored every square inch of the original location in East Harlem with the owner even venturing into the basement beneath the current retail location where the original store was located.
In numerous discussions with the owner, John, suffice to say that I am privy to the exact recipe and dough procedure they use. The only yeast Patsy's uses is fresh.
The original confusion on the matter came up when varasano stated his belief that Patsy's uses a starter of some sort. Kindly re-read the original Reverse Engineering Patsy's Pizza thread where I conclusively determined that no starter was ever used. That confirmation came from the horses mouth who couldn't even spell preferment and dismissed the notion as nonsense. According to the current owner, if Patsy Lancieri used such a thing it would of cost him much more than what he paid for the joint. And then John would of turned around and charged much more for the licensing fees for the mini chain of Patsy's Pizzerias that now dot the Manhattan landscape. And finally with John being the good businessman he is, he would of jumped on the marketing edge it would give him relative to the other elite coal-fired pizzerias in NYC.
So there is no official starter used in the process. Unofficially though, the dough might be boosted by wild yeast. Confused? So was I at first. Now here is a really wild stretch. I am willing to bet that a wild yeast strain does, in fact, invade the batches of dough which are made on a daily basis. To what extent I have no idea but it is in there. My thinking on this is that since dough has been made in the same location for so long (since 1933) that a strain of wild neighboorhood yeast has set up camp at Patsy's and it now infiltrates the batches of dough as they are made.
What basis do I have to support this theory? My nose. When John and I ventured into the basement where the original pizza shop was set up, the fragrent odor of fermented yeast filled my nostrils immediately. It was powerful and smelled exactly like what the famed varasano preferment smells like.
And that's the rest of the story.