While I was in Arizona last month visiting my son and his family, I had occasion to try out a pizza from Grimaldi’s in the Old Town section of Scottsdale, AZ. Grimaldi’s is best known for its pizzeria in Brooklyn, NY (http://www.grimaldis.com/
), but it has recently been expanding in other parts of the country. Arizona now has three locations in the Phoenix area. From what I have read, the Arizona locations were the idea of Joe (Joey) Ciolli, a member of the Ciolli family that bought out the original Grimaldi’s and name and who attended college in Arizona. That apparently explains the Arizona presence. There apparently are many other store openings in the works. One opened recently in Dallas, and several others are apparently scheduled in Texas over the next several years.
As pretty much everyone knows, I am a sucker for reverse engineering popular pizzas and dough formulations. So I attempted to do the same at the Scottsdale Grimaldi’s. I managed to strike up a conversation with one of the store managers who quite surprisingly answered most of the questions I posed to him about their pizzas. Based on his answers and some follow-up research on my part, this is what I learned about their dough and pizzas:
Flour/Dough. The flour is a high-gluten proprietary flour produced exclusively for Grimaldi’s but sourced through Roma, a VISTAR foodservice subsidiary located in Tempe, AZ. Some time ago, when pizzagirl posted in this thread on one of the Arizona Grimaldi’s, I saw the Grimaldi flour listed at the Roma/Tempe website at http://www.vistarvsa.com/tempe/products.cfm?keyword=flour&ptype=search&dist_id=12
. I spoke to a Roma rep in Dallas not too long ago who was not familiar with the Grimaldi's flour per se
but said that it was common for them to carry products like that along with other pizza ingredients that a customer like Grimaldi's might decide to purchase from them. I was told that proprietary flour blends can be created with all kinds of variations, including type of wheat to be used (e.g, hard red spring wheat), types and amounts of additives, conditioners, etc.
To determine the thickness of the skins made by Grimald’s, I asked the manager what amount of dough was used to make an 18” pizza (their largest size). He didn’t know the answer but went into the kitchen to find out. As I waited, I guessed 14 ounces based on looking at the dough balls in the make line area. When the manager returned, he said 14 ounces, confirming my guess. Based on that weight, I calculated a thickness factor of 0.055. I suspect that the same thickness factor applies to the other Grimaldi’s pizza sizes as well. The Grimaldi’s dough is made in the evening (using one of the larger size Hobarts), and cold fermented for close to 24 hours (I was told that it is actually less than 24 hours). When ready to be used, the dough balls (warmed up) are dropped into a container of flour, initially pressed with the fingers to several inches, stretched further by using the palms while turning the skins (a common technique), and then stretching and tossing. Clearly the skins had a good gluten structure. The pizza makers I observed were able to toss and spin the skins on one finger.
Yeast. The yeast used to make the dough is fresh yeast. The manager said he didn’t know for sure but added that the yeast came in blocks, which ruled out dry yeasts. (It later occurred to me that the block could have been a vacuum-packed bag of dry yeast that looks like a block.)
Cheese. I was told that the mozzarella cheese is a fresh mozzarella cheese sourced out of NY by Aiello. The Grimaldi’s menu says that the cheese is made from milk of “free range cows”. After doing some research, the closest I could come as a possible source is the Aiello Cheese Company in Brooklyn (possibly http://www.findownersearch.com/owner-keith-aiello-2592461.html
), which is where the original Grimaldi’s is located. I did not find a website for Aiello but I exchanged voice mails with an Aiello employee who said that they did not source anyone in Arizona to the best of his knowledge but it is possible that one of their customers did. This may shortly be a moot point since I have read that Grimaldi’s is looking to buy a cheese company. The only other cheese I saw at Grimaldi’s was ricotta cheese from Polly-O.
Sauce. The pizza sauce used at Grimaldi’s is based on pureed Carmelina San Marzano tomatoes. As noted at the Carmelina website, at http://carmelinabrands.com/index.php?page=san-marzano
, their “San Marzano” tomatoes are not of the DOP type but are nonetheless believed to be of high quality. The Carmelina website has a link to some retail sources for their tomatoes. I could not detect a lot of herbs in the sauce. It seemed to be quite basic, although there appeared to be too much salt in the pizza I had.
Pepperoni: Since I ordered a pepperoni pizza (18”), I checked out the pepperoni. I did not think to ask the brand, but the slices were smaller and thicker than most pepperoni slices I use (e.g., Hormel). The menu lists Hormel as a supplier so it is possible that the source of the pepperoni is Hormel but with a smaller, thicker cut.
Oven. The Grimaldi coal-fired oven is typically stoked to achieve a temperature of around 1000 degrees F. However, based on the pizza I had the temperature was lower, resulting in low degree of char. The manager said that during the peak times the temperature of the oven gets down to around 700 degrees F because of the increased volume of pizzas.
An interesting piece of information I got from the manager is that all of the Grimaldi’s locations use the same ingredients for their pizzas and from the same sources. I was told that Grimaldi’s wants their pizzas to be the same no matter where they are sold. I did not think to ask whether that comment covered the Brooklyn Grimaldi’s.
It strikes me that the members who have LBE or 2stone units or modified-clean cycle ovens (or high-temperature wood-fired ovens) should be able to come up with something close to the Grimaldi’s pizza. I think a basic NY style dough, such as the Lehmann dough, but without oil or sugar, a hydration of around 58% (or higher for old master elite authenticity), and using a thickness factor of 0.055, should come pretty close. I would recommend using a good high-gluten flour such as All Trumps, Kyrol or KASL. The yeast can be cake yeast, but it is easy enough to substitute ADY or IDY. FWIW, the Grimaldi pizza sizes are 12”, 16” and 18”. For the 2stone and maybe the LBE, the 12” size would seem to be the size to use.
EDIT (3/8/13): Updated the Carmelina link.