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Author Topic: Re-Engineering Buffalo, NY style  (Read 22917 times)

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Offline Ogwoodfire

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Re-Engineering Buffalo, NY style
« on: March 12, 2016, 10:00:56 PM »
As regional cuisine and Pizza grows within our current state of food culture, I often wonder what happened to true Buffalo, New York style pizza. No, I am not talking about pizza with blue cheese, hot sauce and chicken but something entirely different that I grew fond of as a child. Nowadays, as a food truck owner that serves Neapolitan style wood-fired pizza, I rarely grab a slice of what I was once so find of. It's not that I don't like it anymore, it's just that owner/operators have taken so many shortcuts and ruined a product that was once something truly unique and amazing.

For this study I will focus on 3 establishments that I consider THE ONLY 3 pizzerias paying any respect to what was once truly great pizza. While nearly every pizzeria in the Buffalo area claims to serve authentic Buffalo Style pizza, it is a sad bastardized version of what it once was. The 3 locations that continue to pay homage to our beloved Western New York Pizza, which I will focus on to recreate original Buffalo style pizza, are Bocce Club, Imperial, and Leonardis.

The goal of this investigation will not necessarily re-create what current establishments are serving, but what once was, while we eliminate short cuts and convenience products used over time. I will use my connections in the local pizza industry to dig deep into the early days of Bocce Club which is believe to be the predecessor to both Leonardis and Imperial. 

Bocce Club Pizza: 3 locations, while only 2 are listed on the website there is a 3rd that is still run by family members but not recognized as an official Bocce Club. I have some ties to this location as I worked there many years ago and am hoping the owners will give me some inside information on the "older days"

Bocce Club is stated to have opened in 1946 by Dino Pacciotti and his sister Melvina Sacco who purchased a restaurant that served sandwiches and cocktails named the Bocce Club where Bocce ball was often played. The birth of what we now know as Buffalo style pizza came when Dino found an old pizza oven in the restaurant's basement and began attempting to re-create the pizza which he had grown fond of during World War 2 while in Italy.

There is little information about Imperial pizza available on its website. It is believed by many that the recipes were are similar to Bocce club and may have been a castoff from the original Bocce Club. Hopefully through this process I can learn more about Imperial pizza as it it considered the best of the best by many.

Leonardis is a traditional Buffalo Style pizzeria owned by the Leonardi family opened in 1972. It is also believed to hold similar recipes to Bocce club and again to be opened by a castoff from the Original Bocce Club. Due to the limited hours, this seems to be the least popular of the 3 establishments in this investigation but certainly has value in being looked into.

Going off of the story listed on the Bocce Club website, it can be assumed that Buffalo style pizza has roots to the pizza Dino Pacciotti enjoyed while in Italy during World War 2. While I have yet to gather any information about Dino's whereabouts while in Italy, I am for now going to assume it was not Naples as there is little resemblance to Neapolitan Pizza. Dino himself was a 2nd generation immigrant whose parents came directly from Italy. While I cannot say for certain, a quick Google search provided that the surname Pacciotti is most common among Northern and Central Italian Immigrants; perhaps this has some influence on the style of pizza as well. While I have yet to find any factual information that supports this, I have long theorized that Buffalo style pizza is a descendant of Roman style and Italian Grandma style pizza which has slightly morphed over the years. The moderate thickness of the crust is the first direct relation to roman style pizza as well as the technique of cooking in a pan. I could easily imagine an early American pizza maker learning techniques from a pan style roman pizza but adopting to what had become the norm in America and shaping it round even though situated in a rectangular pan.

In more recent times it seems nearly anything passes as "Buffalo" style pizza. People often say the medium thickness of the crust is due to Buffalo being located in between New York City and Chicago; quite frankly this has nothing to do with it. Years ago the crust on Buffalo style pizza was significantly thinner and toppings less; as time has passed, it seems to be a more loaded up pie that after eating you feel like you were punched in the gut. This is not what I remember or what it was intended to be. Many modern places use round pans, frozen dough, cup and char pepperoni and very sweet sauce. While these characteristics slightly resemble what once was a closer look reveals this is an imposter.

Preparation- Buffalo style pizza is made in a rectangular sheet pan coated with lard and sometimes olive oil. The dough is stretched and topped with sauce, then a hard aged cheese, shredded whole milk mozzarella, oregano, then toppings. The pizza should be made right to the edge. There is no crust or cornicione, the entire pizza is the same thickness. This is the preparation I learned and seems to be consistent with the information I have available.

Dough/Crust- it seems that this is most certainly one of the characteristics that has evolved the most over time. Today it seems all locations making this pizza use some form of high gluten flour and it states the same in a 1972 article I found about Bocce Club. The article states that high gluten flour is used to obtain a crisp bottom crust, I don't necessarily find this to be true and it is unlikely Bocce Club was using high gluten flour in 1946. When I learned to make Bocce style dough, I recall the hydration to be in the high 50s, salt was around 2%, sugar around 1% and IDY around 1% as well. The desired end product should have a crispy bottom and light and airy body. I have found the desired texture to be very spongy on the top, cooked and not doughy. I believe the route I will take in the re-creation is through a bread flour, cake yeast and combination of refrigerated and unrefrigerated dough. In my recreation I will look into Italian Grandma style recipes as well as roman style recipes to develop the desired characteristics.

Sauce- Modern day Buffalo style pizza most commonly uses Red Pack sauce with water and a blend of spices, sugar and salt. The only other sauces that are commonly used seem to be Full Red and Bonta brand (Escalon). In the article I found located in Bocce Club, it stated that either seasoned crushed tomatoes or cooked down whole peeled tomatoes were used. Characteristics of a typical Buffalo style sauce are often a rich cooked down and sweeter sauce, so it seems the cooked down version may be the way to go in re-creating original Buffalo Style pizza

Cheese- Cheese seems to be the most straightforward of the process. Shredded whole milk mozzarella seems to be the norm. I'm not sure if at one point fresh mozzarella was used but it seems unlikely. For the layer of hard cheese that goes on top of the sauce during preparation I will use Parmigiana.

Toppings- While it seems most toppings are typical, pepperoni stands out to me as being special on this style. Modern pizzerias often use pre-prepared cup and char pepperoni in a a collagen casing which causes the pepperoni to "cup and char". Some of the better places locally use a combination of cup and char pepperoni and pepperoni sliced right off the stick. The best places use strictly pepperoni sliced off the stick, which is what I will use for this re-creation.
 
Cooking- In my experience most pizzerias producing this style pizza are now cooking in the 450-500 range. The article I have found from 1972 states pizzas were cooked between 600-630 degrees with a cook time under 10 minutes.

For this experiment I will start with several types of fermentation and a dough with bread flour that will start at 60% hydration; I believe they may have cut hydration for ease of use over time. The initial sauce will be a heavily cooked-down sauce of peeled Italian tomatoes with traditional seasonings of Buffalo style pizza. Cheese will be hand shredded whole milk mozzarella and imported Parmigiana hand grated over the sauce. For quality reasons, Sicilian oregano will be used over the top of the cheese layer. Pepperoni will be hand cut on a bias off of the stick of locally produced Battistoni meats.

I am hoping for any input which may be available on this forum as I continue to re-engineer great Buffalo style pizza. This is a fluid recipe and the more information I obtain from research and sources the better.

Offline Ogwoodfire

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Re: Re-Engineering Buffalo, NY style
« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2016, 10:27:51 PM »
My first stop in doing some research was at Bocce Club on Bailey Avenue. I ordered a quarter pie, cheese and pep (it came one small round pie used to be literally a quarter of a 17" pie). It was good but I've certainly had better from this location and the past and more recently Imperial Pizza. The bottom of the pie was cooked nicley but overall the crust was a bit stiff, perhaps not properly proofed. This pie just didn't have the soft spongy top of the dough I beleive to be a signature characteristic. The cheese was most definetly Sorrento Whole Milk Mozzarella possibly shredded on site. As I have noted in the past the sauce tasted like heavy Red Pack not as seasoned as I recall during my last visit. The pepperoni was decent as well which seemed to be a blend of Margherita brand cup and char pepperoni and cut Margherita stick pepperoni. Overall I thought they did a solid job of representing what a good Buffalo NY style pie should be and wasn't disappointed; however we can do much better. Attached is a picture of the "1/4" pie I had and an old picture I found in the place. I also have the article referenced in my first post if anyone is interested. My next stop will most likely be Leonardis for some more R and D.

Jay
« Last Edit: March 12, 2016, 10:43:45 PM by Ogwoodfire »

Online Pete-zza

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Re: Re-Engineering Buffalo, NY style
« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2016, 11:16:51 PM »
Jay,

Maybe I mentioned this to you before but several years ago I helped a member (Rocky) from the Buffalo, NY area try to recreate a Buffalo style pizza, at:

https://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=2631.msg22750#msg22750.

Unfortunately, the link to the PMQ Think Tank post that I referenced in the above thread no longer exists inasmuch as the PMQTT changed its forum software and did not preserve the posts that were entered before the software change. Nonetheless, Rocky took a stab at converting the PMQTT recipe to baker's percent format.

Maybe there is something in the above thread that will help you in some way.

Peter

Offline Ogwoodfire

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Re: Re-Engineering Buffalo, NY style
« Reply #3 on: March 13, 2016, 08:27:47 AM »
Peter,

I actually haven't seen that thread it has some interesting stuff. My first Job in the industry was making dough for Bocce Club which is truly the originator of Buffalo style pizza and I can say for certain the recipe is 50lbs HG flour, 58% hydration, 2% salt, 1% sugar, and <1% IDY, no oil or lard. The ferment is a combination of RT and Cold used over the next 12-36 hours. A good friend of mine also owns one of the larger dough producers in the area which many of the people on the forum have mentioned pizzerias using his dough. While I wont give away his recipe I can say that it is similar to the Bocce Recipe but does use an amount of Lard not Oil. I think the big question mark about this project is not what the places are currently doing, it's more of where did they go wrong. The farther you go back the more and more places were doing good Buffalo Style pizza, in all honestly now most places are just terrible. Pic 1 is a good example of Buffalo style pizza, pic 2 not so much. While the differences may seem subtle, I can see a number of corners which were cut.
« Last Edit: March 13, 2016, 08:30:06 AM by Ogwoodfire »

Offline gator24

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Re: Re-Engineering Buffalo, NY style
« Reply #4 on: March 13, 2016, 10:37:00 PM »
Can you explain in detail your proper way to proof? BTW, great info! Please keep it going!

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Offline Ogwoodfire

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Re: Re-Engineering Buffalo, NY style
« Reply #5 on: March 14, 2016, 08:08:41 AM »
Gator 24,

Thanks for bringing that up I totally forgot to mention that part of the process. I'm going to try a few different ways once I get a chance to start making my own recipes (Iam hoping to try once every two weeks). I'll do my best to explain what I remember from 15 years ago while at Bocce Club (the not affiliated location). Once the dough was mixed we would pull out and rest on the dough table for 20 mins, we would than weight out 28oz for the 17" pizza. The balls would than be slightly flattened out by hand and go through a 2 level dough sheeter, and then placed on well seasoned oiled pans at this location (I beleive the other locations use lard). The sheeted pizzas would than sit on the seasoned pan at room temperature on a covered baking rack for 1-2 hours before being placed in the cooler for a few hours or up till the next day. I often recall either myself or the owner would spray the top of the sheeted pizzas with warm water while in the racks, I don't recall if this was pre or post removal from the cooler or perhaps both. I always thought at the time it was to keep the dough from drying out but in retrospect I beleive this is really what makes the crispy bottom and ultra light top which is what I find so appealing about the desired texture this pizza should have but so often does not. The owner never spoke of why he did this, he just said to do it. I'm hoping to catch him at the location soon and see if he can shed any light on what he learned growing up in the family buisness.

For my first try at the recipe I'm thinking now it makes most sense to ball the dough and do a refrigerated ferment (24 hours). Stretch the dough on a seasoned pan upon removal from the fridge, than spray with warm water and proof for approximately 2-4 hours. I'm also now thinking a dryer dough may be th way to go if the water spraying element is key (this seems to add hydration to the top while obtaining a crispy bottom). I still want to stick with bread flour for the time being but hydration will now start at 55%. Iam hoping to run my first trial this week but with buisness picking up in the food truck it may not be till the following week.


Offline Ogwoodfire

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Re: Re-Engineering Buffalo, NY style
« Reply #6 on: March 14, 2016, 08:20:19 AM »
I have a picture of the baking rack and I'll post the 1972 article, you can make some of it out if your interested. In the older pictures the dough seems really flat I wonder if it was stretched and baked immeaditely. This now has me wondering if perhaps originally the dough was more hydrated and baked immeaditely at higher temps leading to a cris bottom and airyer structure. I'll try this at some point as well.
« Last Edit: March 14, 2016, 08:34:16 AM by Ogwoodfire »

Offline Ogwoodfire

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Re: Re-Engineering Buffalo, NY style
« Reply #7 on: March 14, 2016, 08:36:28 AM »
I also found some old Leonardis pictures on the website. At first glance appears here they are stretching the dough right before topping and baking but if you look closely there appears to be some body to the dough like is was risen post stretch. It's hard to tell from the pictures but you can see some bubbles in the stretched dough it also appears to have a soft texture which would support th water spraying method . Another photo clearly shows the use of Redpack sauce as well. I believe these pictures to be from the 1980s.
« Last Edit: March 14, 2016, 08:39:52 AM by Ogwoodfire »

Offline gator24

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Re: Re-Engineering Buffalo, NY style
« Reply #8 on: March 14, 2016, 08:34:35 PM »
I just found this video on Imperial Pizza today. Look at 0:26. It looks like white specs in their sauce. Could that be garlic?

Offline Ogwoodfire

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Re: Re-Engineering Buffalo, NY style
« Reply #9 on: March 14, 2016, 10:26:31 PM »
Cool video, I've never seen that. Im not sure what that is in the sauce could be a reflection from the lights above, could be garlic but I've never detected it in the sauce before (I had some last week and it was very good). Hard to tell from the video alone but the sauce is very thick and most Likley Red Pack possibly Bonta. I've been cooking down some really good Italian tomatoes tonight to try and get the correct consistency before I season to taste. The one thing I can say for sure about imperial is they is the most dough of the 3 places I'm looking at. I calculated the thickness factor to be .115 based on the 28oz ball Bocce uses on their 17-18" pie. Thanks for your input Gator, every piece of information will be useful in making this the best it can be. Hoping to swing by Bocce this week the owners are always willing to tell me stories about the past.

Jay

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Offline Ogwoodfire

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Re: Re-Engineering Buffalo, NY style
« Reply #10 on: March 14, 2016, 10:44:58 PM »


Here's avideo where near the end the pizza makes streches the dough right before topping. I'm starting to think this was probably the original method of preparation and the spraying was just to keep pre sheeted dough moist with no intent on changing the texture.

Attempt one I'm going to go 56% hydration and the spray method. Attempt 2 I'm going to increase the hydration considerably to 66% and stretch, top and bake immeadietly. I'll Note the effects and go from there.

Offline gator24

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Re: Re-Engineering Buffalo, NY style
« Reply #11 on: March 15, 2016, 09:10:43 PM »
So Sunday I decided to try All Trumps High-Gluten flour. I used Ogwoodfire's WNY-style recipe. I used Bonta and Red Pack together (Og's recipe from what he remembers...this was posted back a few months ago). Once the dough was mixed, I let it rise for 20 min at room temp. Then I balled it in 28oz and put in fridge for 24 hours. The next day I took it out to get to a room temperature (probably another 2 hours). I then made it into a 17" circle on my counter. I have a big pan but it wont fit in the oven so I cut it in half and put the dough on two different trays. before I put the dough on the pans, I greased each pan with a liberal amount of lard. I let it sit out and sprayed the dough with water every 20-25 minutes for 2 hours. Then I put on the sauce, pecorino romano, whole milk cheese, pepperoni and oregano.  I preheated my oven to 550 and cooked for about 8 or 9 minutes and "decked" it on a stone for 1-2 minutes. By far the best pizza that I've made. I posted some pictures. I forgot to take a pic of the bottom of the crust. We all devoured it before I thought about it. It was honestly the BEST pizza I've made, possibly better than Bocce's (well, Bocce's nowadays)! Thanks Ogwoodfire!!

Offline Ogwoodfire

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Re: Re-Engineering Buffalo, NY style
« Reply #12 on: March 15, 2016, 10:27:32 PM »
Gator,

That is a beautiful Buffalo style pizza. Done perfectly, probably Better than any place locally is producing right now. What did you go with for dough hydration? I'm dying to get make my first recipe but I've been busy making Neapolitan pizza everyday. I got to use an Izzo electric Neapolitan oven tonight which was cool at the local food show. Also got to try nearly every pizza sauce under the  sun and found the best for typical Buffalo style to be Red Pack, Bonta and Full Red Super Dolce which isn't commonly used. Super dolce is very sweet and reminiscent of one of my favorite places of all time which is no longer open called Marvinos. I'm aiming for Sunday night for my first Buffalo style pizza.
« Last Edit: March 15, 2016, 10:47:39 PM by Ogwoodfire »

Offline gator24

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Re: Re-Engineering Buffalo, NY style
« Reply #13 on: March 16, 2016, 12:10:29 AM »
Honestly, the hydration is exactly what you first shared with us months ago on the previous thread. You've really hit the nail on the head on this! I can't thank you enough!

Offline Ogwoodfire

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Re: Re-Engineering Buffalo, NY style
« Reply #14 on: March 16, 2016, 09:23:19 AM »
Thanks! I guess my long term memory isn't so bad after all. Your pizza was perfect, if I got that when I ordered locally I would do it more often.

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Offline Ogwoodfire

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Re: Re-Engineering Buffalo, NY style
« Reply #15 on: March 26, 2016, 09:28:01 PM »
Finally got around to making a version of Buffalo Style pizza but went away from my original plan. I cooked down some San marzano tomatoes untill it was the constancy of typical Buffalo style sauce and than seasoned it. For dough I used a 5 day cold fermented Caputo dough at 60% hydration. I also used a combination of Battistoni stick pepperoni and Margherita cup and char.

Offline Ogwoodfire

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Re: Re-Engineering Buffalo, NY style
« Reply #16 on: March 26, 2016, 10:14:36 PM »
Here's the second half.

Offline pizzaman716

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Re: Re-Engineering Buffalo, NY style
« Reply #17 on: March 27, 2016, 10:47:24 AM »
Beautiful man... I plan on making one of these on Wednesday. May have to hit the depot for some Margherita stick for 2.79#... even though I have 20# of Ezzo in my freezer now. Don't think it would be the right taste with Ezzo. I'll try some Stanislaus Alta Cucina's for the sauce.. Did you use Sorrento cheese? I have a bunch of Galbani that should probably work fine right?

Offline pizzaman716

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Re: Re-Engineering Buffalo, NY style
« Reply #18 on: March 27, 2016, 11:44:12 AM »
Also, did you use a home oven or a commercial one? I can get my home oven pretty hot but the last time I tried one of these it made a huge mess when I decked it because the items go all the way to the edge and get all over my stone and bottom of the oven. Did you guys even deck it?
- Eric

Offline Ogwoodfire

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Re: Re-Engineering Buffalo, NY style
« Reply #19 on: March 27, 2016, 11:43:35 PM »
Thanks Pizzaman716. While I did use some Margherita Cup and Char  there was also some sliced Battistoni stick pepperoni in there. I prefer the Battistoni it has a lot more flavor and is higher quality. Margherita is a Smithfield product and I'm not a fan of the way they do things. I used my home oven and never decked it only because I didn't have a stone or steel in there all I had laying around was Biscotto di Sorrento and didn't wana use that. Alta Cucinas could be good as the sauce you would just need to cook them down quite a bit, I prefer to season after cooking to get the flavors right for this one I used Ciao San Marzanos cooked down for about 4 hours. The cheese was a blend of a few things I had laying around mozz and Provelone that was Sorrento not the Galbani branded Sorrento, but that would work fine. I also threw in a few pieces of mozzarella di Bufala just for the heck of it. Best of luck!

Jay

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