A recent article by Ed Levine in the November 2006 edition of Details magazine was recently brought to my attention. It also appears, with photos (click on intro
at the bottom of the page) at http://men.style.com/details/features/full?id=content_5091
. I have copied and pasted the article below.
I spent a year eating a thousand slices of pizza in 20 states and three foreign countries while researching a book. You think that's an easy job? I've eaten pizza in places where Hamburger Helper-style ground beef is the preferred topping. I've eaten pizza in places where cubed pig blood is the snack of choice. But I've also eaten pizza so fine that I could have written a sonnet about it. These pies, baked by discerning pizzaioli across the country, are the ones I want to tell you about: pizza with crisp but tender crusts, fresh (white, not yellow) mozzarella, high-quality tomatoes, and perhaps a touch of salt (table or sea).
623 East Adams Street, Phoenix,
Chris Bianco, whose shop is in Heritage Square, describes his artistry in quasi-Buddhist terms: "Great pizza, like anything else, is all about balance." Of course, if it were simple, anyone could do what Bianco does, which is make the best pizza in the world. His mozzarella-which he and his staff turn out twice a day using a recipe he learned while working at a Bronx deli-is creamy and slightly tart. The sauce tastes like a distillation of the ripest tomatoes.
1424 Avenue J, Brooklyn,
In the 42 years since this unassuming slice joint opened, only one person has made pizza here: Domenico DeMarco. (His daughters sometimes take the orders.) From the fresh herbs DeMarco gathers from his windowsill to the imported buffala mozzarella to the fresh baby artichokes offered as a topping (when they're in season), a Di Fara slice has a one-of-a-kind flavor. But be patient-it can take a few hours to get a pie.
1524 Neptune Avenue, Brooklyn
Lawrence Ciminieri and his mother, Cookie, don't order customers out onto the sidewalk whenever there's a family argument, the way Cookie's late father, Jerry Pero, once did. And they never run out of dough like he did, either. But everything else at this Coney Island storefront is the same: the coal-fired oven, the local mozzarella and sweet sausage, and the sassy service. Order the white pie, made with ricotta, mozzarella, and enough fresh garlic to ward off a roomful of vampires.
UNA PIZZA NAPOLETANA
349 East 12th Street, New York,
Thirtysomething Anthony Mangieri, who has shoulder-to-wrist tattoos on both arms, learned to make pizza on family trips to Naples. Today, he has an unchanging menu of four pies: a marinara, with sauce only; a margherita, with basil and fresh buffala mozzarella; an al fileto, with buffala and cherry tomatoes; and a bianca, with buffala and garlic. (You want pepperoni or mushrooms? Go somewhere else.) The magic lies in the puffy dough, made without packaged yeast; the premium extra-virgin olive oil; and the Sicilian sea salt.
FRANK PEPE PIZZERIA NAPOLETANA
157 Wooster Street, New Haven, Connecticut,
The internecine disputes among the nine Pepe descendants who inherited this shop are more compelling than any episode of Desperate Housewives. But thankfully, such struggles haven't gotten in the way of the pizza. Frank Pepe has a beautiful white igloo-shaped brick oven, an awe-inspiring clam pie befitting the local shellfish, and, naturally, interminable weekend waits.
237 Wooster Street, New Haven, Connecticut,
The late Sally Consiglio learned his craft at his uncle Frank Pepe's joint down the block before opening his own place in 1938. Over the next 68 years, only Consiglio and his sons, Richard and Robert, made the pizza. The pies-made with or without mozzarella, a dusting of Romano cheese, and, in the summer, slices of local tomato-are works of art. Lucky loyalists skip the slow-moving line and dial the secret reservations number, handed down through generations like Giants season tickets. How do I know about the number? I plead the Fifth.
577 South Main Street, Providence,
Chef-owners George Germon and Johanne Killeen grill pizza over a 1,000-degree wood fire. (Why it doesn't incinerate the dough is beyond me.) The supermodel-thin pizzas are discs of crunchy, smoky pleasure topped with items like fresh-picked Rhode Island corn, homemade sausage, and just enough cheese to remind you it's a pizza.
513 Tremont Street, Boston,
Rick Katz, a former pastry chef, hit upon a winning formula that's familiar to any 4-year-old who's attended a decent birthday party: pizza and ice cream. But it's not what you think. A full meal here means a highly appealing puffy-crusted pizza adorned with fresh mozzarella-a rarity in Boston, where aged yellow cheese is the norm-followed by a phenomenal array of ice-cream flavors. Even in a town obsessed with ice cream, Katz's selection rivals anything you might find there.
2 AMYS 3715 Macomb Street NW, Washington, D.C.,
2 Amys (named after the two owners' wives) has introduced world-class pizza to the nation's capital. Co-owner Tim Giamette's pizza-making philosophy: "Everything is in the dough." He also credits his pizzaiolo, Edan MacQuaid, who, he says, "probably came out of his mother's womb making great pizza." MacQuaid's pies have crust with the fine hole structure found in great bread, plus the right amount of char.
PUNCH NEAPOLITAN PIZZA
704 Cleveland Avenue South, St. Paul (and three other locations),
Owner John Sorrano was born in Boston but spent his formative years in Milan, where he begged the owner of a Neapolitan-style pizzeria to teach him his secrets. When Sorrano moved to Minnesota, he brought terrific pies. His mozzarella comes from New York and Campana, his sauce is made of crushed San Marzano tomatoes, and his sea salt took him half a year to track down.
1401 SE Morrison, Portland, Oregon,
Nostrana's inspiration? A Roman pizzeria in Trastevere. Chef-owners Cathy Whims and Deb Accuardi are doing superb work with pork sausage made from heritage breeds of pigs, creamy house-made mozzarella, and a 750-degree wood-burning oven fueled in part by dried oak from Accuardi's farm in the Willamette Valley.
316 Virginia Street, Seattle,
206-838-7388 Chef Tom Douglas, star of several Seattle hot spots including Palace Kitchen, sent his baker, Gwen Grande, around the nation to pick up pizza pointers before she fired up her own oven. Armed with this knowledge, she makes, as the restaurant's name suggests, a pie to be reckoned with. The crust is ultra-crispy, with plenty of air bubbles, and it has a splash of olive oil that gives it a glossy, caramelized exterior.
MOZZA BAR 641 North Highland Avenue, Los Angeles, 323-297-0101 What do you get when you pair Nancy Silverton, one of the nation's greatest bakers, with Mario Batali, one of its best Italian chefs? Mozza Bar, the first excellent pizza in pie-starved Southern California (it opens October 24). Silverton spent a year perfecting the dough. Her breadlike crust is two inches high, but unlike that of Chicago deep-dish, it has a light, crisp exterior and a tender, moist interior.
320 Magnolia Avenue, Larkspur, California,
Chef-owner Bruce Hill spent a long time cooking fusion food in the Bay Area; thank God he's come to his senses. His pizza is lightweight and properly pliant. He even par-bakes pies before blast-freezing them so his customers can pick up where he left off at home. Hill has created the first frozen pizza I've ever loved-just for that, the man deserves a MacArthur "genius" grant.
5008 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland,
Charlie Hallowell discovered his métier when he worked the pizza station at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Before opening Pizzaiolo, he studied the food of master Chris Bianco of Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix. It wasn't exactly a formal apprenticeship, but based on edible evidence, Hallowell learned a lot. Made in a wood-burning oven with first-rate California ingredients, his pies may well be up to Bianco's standards. In any case, they're certainly up to mine.