Link and text...
The New York Timeshttp://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/05/dining/05pizza.html?ref=dining
November 5, 2008
Pizza From Scratch: First, Get Bricks and a Trailer
By BRETT MARTIN
THESE days, when you find a chef with the urge to tinker, he will most likely be embroiled in such delicate work as teasing out the covalent bonds of mayonnaise or synthesizing panko gelatin. But what about the rougher breeds of food geek, those who, if not for a culinary passion, would have wound up in their yard, building rockets out of scrap wood and old nails?
One of them, Dave Sclarow, has been spotted in recent weeks at the Brooklyn Flea in Fort Greene, toting a homemade brick-and-concrete oven mounted on a boat trailer. It’s a crude, lumpy, fire-blackened machine for a crude, lumpy, fire-blackened product: piping hot hand-size brick-oven pizzas. And it suits the backyard builders as well as, say, chervil foam would suit their white-jacket-wearing counterparts.
“I wanted to find one thing to do really, really well,” said Mr. Sclarow, who is the chef de cuisine at Lunetta in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. “It wasn’t going to be basil-flavored tapioca.”
Mr. Sclarow, 34, learned his pizza craft at Franny’s, in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, and by backpacking through Italy. He honed his construction skills as an architecture student and an apprentice boat builder. His oven, nicknamed Pizza Moto, was christened over the summer at the wedding reception of his friends Betsy Devine and Rachel Mark (themselves partners in a do-it-yourself food business, Salvatore Bklyn, which makes and markets ricotta cheese). He built it on weekends in his parents’ driveway in Philadelphia.
The pizza trailer is not without precedent. Two years ago Joel Baecker, a veteran of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., and his wife, Naomi Crawford, began hauling a wood-fired oven to farmers’ markets in the Bay Area and Sonoma County.
Farther north, another couple, Marshall and Errin Byrd Jett, operate a fleet of mobile ovens for Veraci Pizza, which is based in Seattle. The company’s dome-shaped devices, emblazoned with diamond-shaped tiles and given affectionate nicknames like Fat Boy and Queen Mary, prove that ugliness is no prerequisite for portable ovens.
Both couples say their businesses provide a satisfying way to join the farmers’ market movement without doing anything as radical as farming. (Mr. Baecker often incorporates whatever is fresh at the market into impromptu special pies.) And they say the ovens are natural crowd attractors. “It’s a giant hearth where people want to gather,” Ms. Crawford said. “It’s got heat, light and pizza: the street food trifecta.”
As for Pizza Moto, it performed well at the reception, but on its next outing collapsed half a block from Mr. Sclarow’s home in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn. The reconstructed version resides, when not turning out pizza, beside dump trucks and piles of bricks in a parking lot nearby. Recently, Mr. Sclarow agreed to fire it up.
He stretched a softball-size glob of dough, slack as a half-deflated water balloon, into a rough circle. Somewhere in the nascent crust’s DNA was a sourdough starter that he had procured from a baker in Naples, Italy.
He painted the pie with a swirl of tomato sauce, put on a few leaves of basil and some clumps of fresh mozzarella, and added a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Then it was into the oven, where a pyre of wood had been blazing for two hours, bringing the temperature to about 800 degrees.
Mr. Sclarow is wary of pizza fetishists. “Pizza’s one of those things that everybody knows, so everybody has an opinion,” he said. But he proved a perfectionist himself, requiring three tries before proclaiming a pizza up to snuff.
By classical standards of beauty — symmetry and proportion, for example — that pie, which had spent a mere two minutes in the oven, was not a contest winner. But to a lover of pizza it was ideal: charred on the bottom and the edges, chewy inside. On one side of the crust was one blackened bubble, the pizza equivalent of Marilyn Monroe’s beauty mark.
“You should see when it really gets going, after 50 or 60 pies,” Mr. Sclarow said. “It’s like the crust has poison ivy: blisters on top of blisters.”
Music to some ears, though not a slogan he necessarily should put on a sign.
Just then, another tenant of the lot arrived, a Japanese musician hauling a pickup filled with taiko drums. “Hey, you want a pizza?” Mr. Sclarow said.
Two minutes later the man drove off with a fresh pie and a huge grin.
“That’s what I like about pizza,” Mr. Sclarow said, watching him go. “Everybody knows exactly what it is and what to do with it.”
Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company