Norma and Pete-zza,
I (and my family) believe that I've successfully recreated Mack & Manco's in Ocean City, NJ tonight. I've been eating their pizza for 35 years but only in the last 15 years have I become obsessed with trying to recreate it. This past weekend my wife and kids and I stayed in OC for the New Years Eve events they have there and ate several times of course at Manco's. My wife pressed several of their staff members to give up some info on both the dough and the cheese. The dough is a closely guarded secret but I uncovered (with your and Pete's help) that added vital wheat gluten (VWG) is 1 of the 2 secret ingredients. The other secret dough ingredient I'm not certain about. Gluten was confirmed with a wink and nod, but I was told there is one more second secret ingredient that helps the elasticity. He told me if I googled it I'd find it, but after many hours on the web, I'm still not sure. My educated guess is that it's either guar gum or xantham gum. Both are thickening agents, but also binding agents which would help prevent dough from tearing when under stress of throwing. Coincidentally, guar and xantham are both used by people allergic to gluten as a solid alternative to gluten's binding characteristics. So using both (or all three) to make the dough extra strong makes perfect sense to me.
So I went to the store and bought VWG and guar gum, leaving the xantham experiment for another day. I made one dough ball with just the VWG and a second ball with both ingredients. The second ball with both VWG and guar gum was MUCH stronger of a raw dough than the first and it's consistency when cooked was better than the first as well. Both were thin, strong, and crispy on the bottom, but moist on the inside, but the second was a significant cut above. A perfect recreation in my opinion (and my family's who by now are skilled test tasters of my experiments). As for my recipe tonight, I'll give you approximations because I always only loosely measure. I judge hydration with my hands as I'm kneading and I never measure salt and oil. I don't like to knead any more than it takes to get a nice silky ball and once I have that, I rub the ball in olive oil and let it sit for no less than 20 minutes, but no more than 30. I don't punch down and all that. I've experimented with all that and have found that the shorter the time between scratch and the oven works best for me. I simply take the 20-30 min proofed dough straight from bowl to pizza peal and begin prepping to toss. My approximate ingredients tonight were: 1/2 cup warm water with just a sprinkle of sugar and 1/3 pack of yeast. I let the yeast bubble, then I stir in about 1-2 TBSP of olive oil, a few pinches of salt, 1/2 cup of flour, 1 TBSP of VWG, and 1 TSP of guar gum. After I get a nicely mixed batter, I stir in a second 1/2 cup of flour, then begin to use my hands to slowly mix in the 3rd 1/2 cup of flour (all flour was all purpose flour) being very careful to only add flour as I knead it (and need it) it to keep it from sticking to my fingers.
After it proofs and is still glistening with oil as it does at Mancos, I coat the dough and my pizza peal with flour and also like they do at Manco's I push my finger tips all over the dough being careful to leave a peak in the center (there is no rolling pin on their premises!) Once I have it flattened to a thick disk (with almost twice the thickness in center) I begin to throw it up and twirl it. Once the center is at the desired thinness, I use my fists to stretch the outer perimeter and I have a nice thin silky blanket of dough.
Cheese: I'm 99% certain after my visit and chat with Manco's that they use 100% Wisconsin mild cheddar cheese. As several folks here chimed in, they buy huge blocks of it and grate it as they go. My cheese tonight was NY mild cheddar and we loved it. It was not quite as stringy as Manco's but close enough for me. We think Manco's might buy their blocks of mild cheddar with a slight mixture of mozzarella thrown in to give it that stringy-ness but not sure. Either way, I can't believe for all these years I thought it was mozzarella!!
As for the sauce, that importance to a Manco pizza is a far second to the dough and cheese. Manco's is not sweet but has a high basil/oregano content. For that reason I used Ragu traditional pizza sauce but...... I learned that you have to water it down!!! Manco's sauce is very watery which allows it to spread and ooze as the cheese melts. For both of my pizza's tonight I put the cheese down first as do they. But my first pizza's sauce straight from the jar just sat in the same place I drizzled it before the oven, even after the cheese bubbled and melted. So I added a significant amount of water to the sauce for my second pizza and got a nice distribution of cheezy saucy mixture after it was cooked. Another riddle solved!!
Thanks again for starting this post and for helping me uncover the secrets. The cat and mouse game this past weekend with Manco's staff who couldn't legally reveal secrets but who could tell me to try to the internet to confirm my suspicions, led me to this site. I'm not 100% certain I have their secret dough ingredients but based on my experience tonight, I may have something BETTER!
Happy New Year