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Author Topic: Mama's TOO! - burned, or just right?  (Read 708 times)

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Offline wb54885

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Mama's TOO! - burned, or just right?
« on: January 06, 2019, 01:37:57 PM »
I was surprised not to see more reviews of this place here, so I thought I'd recommend Mama's TOO! and to ask a couple questions of you folks, see what you think...

The other reviews I found are here and here:

https://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=52635.0  (HBolte)
https://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=51752.msg520685#msg520685   (quietdesperation)

I noticed quietdesperation's thread talks a lot about burning. That's the main theme that stuck with me.

First, I headed here about 10 p.m. last night, on a Saturday, so I expected it to be in the late-night groove of putting out a lot of food. But when I walked in the door, I was a little confused--that table you see in the first pictures in HBolte's thread, the one with all the slice pies sitting out waiting to be served, was completely empty. And the small customer space held between 10 and 12 people who seemed to be doing nothing at all, save for waiting for something to happen. Franco himself was behind the counter, also looking a little confused and unsure of what to do.

I waited near the door for a couple minutes and watched the kitchen, looking for the slice pies or any sign of any pizza whatsoever. At this point I assumed the big empty marble table in front might have been a make table rather than a display case, but still didn't really know what was going on.

Then the pan pies started coming out of the oven and going straight into delivery boxes, and the 3rd party delivery guys came in from outside to grab one or two boxes at a time and hustle them away (I believe they were 3rd party, because Franco seemed not to know them personally but to be calling them by tickets). At this point Franco said to another customer that it'd be at least 15 minutes before they had any slice pies ready, and everything fell into place:  they'd just gotten their asses handed to them by a rush and were desperately trying to get delivery orders out the door, and their ovens were full of pan pies. They've clearly become quite popular for weekend delivery!

I almost left because I then overheard Franco say something to a new customer about the wait for slice pies being even longer, "maybe 20 minutes or an hour, it could be a while" or something to that effect, and I realized he was pushing back hard on any expectations for fast service in this cramped space full of people looking at him. Good for you for being busy, buddy, but Sal and Carmine's is right down the road and I've been walking for hours...

My curiosity got the best of me and I stuck it out. Seeing a restaurant under stress is always interesting, and this was clearly a young guy with a lot of pressure on him and I wanted to see what he did. Within 5 minutes a round cheese pie came out and he immediately served two steaming slices to one of the groups that had been waiting since I arrived. He then finished that pie with basil and a heavy coat of freshly ground parmigiano reggiano, and then returned to standing at the counter looking happy but still on the verge of flustered. I walked to the counter asking if he was trying to sell a slice of that cheese pizza since nobody else was making any moves, and he said, "The house pie?" and I said, "Sure." $3.50 later I had my slice and my spot at the window.

Now, when he took that pie out of the oven, I saw him check the bottom and barely frown. When I sat down with a slice of it and checked the bottom, I saw that it was SCORCHED. There were only a few spots that weren't totally midnight black. He made a judgment call to serve it burnt, I thought, because he had nothing else to sell. I also remembered that when I walked in the door, my first impression was BURNING. It smelled like something very bad had happened, like several pies had gone way too long or someone needed to brush out a pile of leftover flour from the oven.

Normally I would consider it a crime against pizza to have cooked a pie like that, but curiosity once again had me...the puffy, light crust had me wondering, and despite seeming like the slice was drowning in cheese it still felt light overall. I figured they had maybe cranked up the oven to help recover from the rush, and since I'd waited this long and had a warm slice in front of me, what the heck.

That first bite was so strange. It didn't taste all that burnt after all, even though my brain knew that it was. And it wasn't heavy. It was just really solid, fragrant, and delicious. It wasn't until I got to the crust itself that the bottom of the skin became thick enough for the burn to bother me, and then I just peeled away about a one-inch strip from the bottom and ate the entire rest of that big, beautiful cornicione, which had a steamy, open crumb like a warm dinner roll and a sweetness like butter or honey, just barely noticeable. I honestly couldn't believe it was that good.

Looking at the pictures from the other threads, the house slice with the basil is almost identical to what I ate, only maybe slightly darker in my experience. It was also dark in the restaurant, which is why I didn't bother with getting my own pictures. But I wonder, have other people experienced this tendency for their pies to go past caramelization to full-on burning, AND for it to still come out not only edible, but quite good?

In my years of working deck ovens, 550 was the highest I could go baking pies right on the stone without having to introduce a screen to help even out the cook. If you had to push a pizza to get it out the door in a 600-degree oven, that would surely be an overdone pie. I'm wondering if Mama's TOO! is using this to their advantage by having a dough that actually thrives under that kind of heat. It's certainly nothing like the traditional slice pies I've been having at older places. It's light, very thin, and you can't get a cornicione like that without (to my knowledge) pushing either the heat or the yeast up to unusual levels, or letting a very long room temperature rise take place, so I'm wondering if anybody has any insight about their practices. Dough management, recipes, secret ingredients? My rough estimate is the "fermented" dough they mention on their website means a preferment along with little to no refrigeration, or at least a very long room temp rise after refrigeration, plus that near-600-degree oven, plus a gentle stretch and an emphasis on peacocking the rim to as great an extent possible, giving that extremely thin middle (which would be prone to burning, too) and a huge puffy crust. I also wouldn't be surprised if there's something sweet in there, too.

I was impressed, and grateful, so I threw Franco a thumbs up and said, "Thanks dude, that was awesome." as I headed out the door. He came back with "Thank you, I appreciate it!" as the door closed behind me. I could tell he meant it. I'll be going back very soon, and again.

So, was it burnt, or was it just right? Wondering if any of you folks that had the time to talk to Franco got any insight as to how he intends to serve his pies, and if we're all getting what he's going for--a pizza that seems overdone by normal standards but is in line with his intentions--or if that oven is just a little too hot and needs to be taken down a notch. My best guess is that he's in a tight spot between putting out a LOT of pan pies that require hot ovens and lots of opening of oven doors to manage and serve at that volume, and trying to also cook round pies on the stone which becomes a little too hot for raw dough as most of us are used to.
« Last Edit: January 06, 2019, 10:18:58 PM by wb54885 »
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Offline foreplease

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Re: Mama's TOO! - burned, or just right?
« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2019, 02:06:16 PM »
I enjoy your detailed reviews. Itís likely I will never get there but if I do I would like to try the slice you described exactly. If he is a little inconsistent Iíd trade that for differentiating from what else may be up and down the block. Good story with you deciding to stick it out and see.
-Tony
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Offline quietdesperation

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Re: Mama's TOO! - burned, or just right?
« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2019, 03:18:25 PM »
mamas too was arguably the best pizza on chau's tour:
https://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=51896.msg523855#msg523855

one of the photos shows the dark crust on the pepperoni slice. For me, it doesn't have the bitter taste of burnt crust, or maybe it gets lost in everything else that's going on with the slice. If you don't mind wading through the rest of the thread, franco answers some of our questions.

Our apt is 6 blocks away, I often walk past the shop and I don't think your experience waiting for pizza is unusual. 10pm is probably not their peak time, I'm guessing they've struggled to meet demand since the nyt review.

best,
« Last Edit: January 06, 2019, 03:22:27 PM by quietdesperation »
"Is that a pie fit for a king
A wondrous sweet
And most particular thing?" - sweeney todd

Offline Jersey Pie Boy

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Re: Mama's TOO! - burned, or just right?
« Reply #3 on: January 06, 2019, 03:59:59 PM »
On the tour it was the hands down winner for me.  High hydration . Fully proofed  And stupidly good  :)

Offline wb54885

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Re: Mama's TOO! - burned, or just right?
« Reply #4 on: January 06, 2019, 06:02:23 PM »
THAT's the thread I've been needing to find, thank you very much!

That might be my first pie in the 70% hyrdration range, and I've both made and eaten a lot of focaccia without having seen it behave like that in an oven. I guess that's the high temperature at work on all that moisture.

This'll be the next thread I devour. Pun intended.

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Offline Jon in Albany

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Re: Mama's TOO! - burned, or just right?
« Reply #5 on: January 06, 2019, 07:54:45 PM »
It was the tour standout. I thought the square was better than the slice and the slice was good. I have a few more pictures of the pizza and counter further down in the tour thread.

https://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=51896.msg524074#msg524074

One thing to note is that Mama's TOO! was reviewed in the New York Times not that long ago. It was already developing a following but after that review and I think it was one of Eater's best new things in the city plus a few other year end "best of" lists...the big lines came. I saw one thing online where the line went around the corner. Not a ton of space there for that kind of demand.

Just thinking back to that tour makes me want to go again. And I was only there 1 day. You guys were pizza marathoners.


Edit: a little further up in the tour thread I posted my notes on what Franco told us about his pizza.
https://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=51896.msg523890#msg523890

« Last Edit: January 06, 2019, 07:57:05 PM by Jon in Albany »

Offline pizapizza

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Re: Mama's TOO! - burned, or just right?
« Reply #6 on: January 06, 2019, 08:41:53 PM »
What makes this bread and not pizza?

Offline wb54885

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Re: Mama's TOO! - burned, or just right?
« Reply #7 on: January 06, 2019, 08:49:45 PM »
I am definitely piggybacking off y'all's group experience to modify and focus my own NY tour accordingly.

Interesting note about the salt being added late in the mixing process. I've seen the discussion about the effect of salt on a dough's enzymatic activity and its hardening up of the final dough several times on these threads--mainly as pertains to preferments and autolyse, I think, but it seems to be a universally applicable dough concern. This has never been a focus in any of the pizzerias I've worked in.

I didn't actually witness any doughs being stretched while I was there, and after a quick search I don't see any videos online of the process in action, so next time I'm in there I'll try to get a look at what it's like to actually handle this stuff. My own experience with focaccia dough lends me to believe it should be quite a challenge to wrangle into such nice circles, which is yet another testament to the skill going into making these pies--particularly the round ones. I did notice variability in the thickness of the slice I ate from center to rim, so I wouldn't be surprised if it's a real hassle to try and master this dough with the dual factors Jersey Pie Boy mentioned at work:  high hydration, fully proofed.

At this point, I'm thinking the slice I ate was probably baked past Franco's preference, but only slightly so.
Every oven is a law unto itself and only itself.

Offline invertedisdead

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Re: Mama's TOO! - burned, or just right?
« Reply #8 on: January 08, 2019, 11:21:50 AM »
I used to cook my pizzas very dark, now I feel not much can ruin a great pie more than excessive charring. If the undercrust tastes like breakfast toast you know it's too far, It won't even taste like pizza.

Although there are many members on the forum who seek that specific dark color, so its surely subjective.

the proof is in the pizza

Offline Jersey Pie Boy

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Re: Mama's TOO! - burned, or just right?
« Reply #9 on: January 08, 2019, 11:39:21 AM »
LOL, guilty :-D  Though mine doesn't taste like toast.I love toast, but if I actually burn my pizza, then it's toast...figuratively speaking. ;)

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Offline invertedisdead

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Re: Mama's TOO! - burned, or just right?
« Reply #10 on: January 08, 2019, 02:01:15 PM »
I love toast, but if I actually burn my pizza, then it's toast...figuratively speaking. ;)

 :-D  ;D
the proof is in the pizza

Offline quietdesperation

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Re: Mama's TOO! - burned, or just right?
« Reply #11 on: January 13, 2019, 04:32:19 AM »
LOL, guilty :-D  Though mine doesn't taste like toast.

me too! Before we moved from nyc (30 years ago, sigh) we were regulars at johns on bleecker and I loved the char they got on their crust. I have been thinking about baking to a lighter color but I'm a little concerned about undercooking, resulting in a tough crust.
« Last Edit: January 13, 2019, 04:34:31 AM by quietdesperation »
"Is that a pie fit for a king
A wondrous sweet
And most particular thing?" - sweeney todd

Offline Jersey Pie Boy

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Re: Mama's TOO! - burned, or just right?
« Reply #12 on: January 13, 2019, 08:43:31 AM »
QD,


Help me out here: I also remember going to John's on Bleecker when I moved to Manhattan for several years. It was 1988. And my memory was very thin crust and a beautiful and serious char, especially the bottom


Flash forward to last year..first time back to John's. To me a real disappointment. Nothing like my memories. Very average, plus too much cheese..not the case before I thought..and essentially just GBD, which is bland and blah to me personally.


So was my memory off, or have things changed to meet the average tourist preferences?






Offline quietdesperation

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Re: Mama's TOO! - burned, or just right?
« Reply #13 on: January 14, 2019, 07:32:32 PM »
The last time we were to Johnís was five years ago, it was the one in Times Square and we were very disappointed.
"Is that a pie fit for a king
A wondrous sweet
And most particular thing?" - sweeney todd

Offline Jersey Pie Boy

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Re: Mama's TOO! - burned, or just right?
« Reply #14 on: January 14, 2019, 10:43:40 PM »
I may need to be corrected on this, but what i heard was that the Times Square John's  is not connected with John's of Bleecker..something I didn't know the times we were there .  It's been some years ago...seven, ten?..nd it  before I was a Pie By; just an  average pizza eater who thought it was pretty good...I imagine I'd think very differently now. But they sure do pack them in!

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Offline quietdesperation

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Re: Mama's TOO! - burned, or just right?
« Reply #15 on: January 16, 2019, 09:55:12 PM »
A quick web search reveals youíre absolutely correct jpb! Maybe the pizza was good and I was just  expecting the bleecker st profile.
"Is that a pie fit for a king
A wondrous sweet
And most particular thing?" - sweeney todd

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