I am writing to you with my wife screaming in the background saying that she feels your pain. She says south shore pizza is an aquired taste, but if she left the south shore (Massachusetts) she would be feeling the same pain as you and possibly die. Strong words from a strong woman. She agrees with everything you have said, even the Papa Gino's comments.
I have spent years perfecting my ultimate pizza. For years she has been busting my balls about how my pizza is great, but I could never make a "real" bar pizza.
Well I finally feel like I can help you here. Unlike my favorite pizza a high temp neo-neapolitan, bar pizza can be made easily at home in a normal home oven at 500 degrees.
OK SCOTTS WIFE KIM TAKING OVER HERE.... TRUST SCOTT HE WILL HELP YOU. I GREW UP IN BRIDGEWATER EATING LINWOOD, CAPE COD CAFE, THE TOWN SPA, CHRISTOS MY WHOLE LIFE. HE HAS TOTALLY DUPLICATED THIS STYLE OF PIZZA FOR ME.
She is now yelling at me to help you OK OK OK OK.
KJ this is going to be easier than you think. I have already outlined everything you will need to know in various posts here in the forum, but I will go over it again. You will be amazed at how easy it is to make bar pizza. There are only a few tricks, but they really add up to a special taste.
First, you will need to buy the right pans. They are 10 inch pans, not 8. Make sure they do not have a non stick coating, as this will burn the bottom of your pizza. The black anodized aluminum pans with out a coating are stick resistant, and probably my favorite, but the plain steel or aluminum ones are great as well. Make sure you don't get the new fancy hi temp plastic coated aluminum pans, or the oil will bead up and not evenly distribute on the bottom of the pizza. When you get your pans you will need to season them. This means coating them with oil (or crisco) and baking them in the oven for a while before their first use for pizza.
There are only really two tricks to making this type of pizza. The first is not as much the crust recipe, but more what you do with the crust once you shape the pie. The trick to bar pizza is that the dough is stretched thin, but it is left to raise in an oiled pan before it goes into the oven. This creates the signature crispy, airy crust. If you go to most Italian style pizzerias (like papa gino's) you will see the dough being stretched, topped, and put right into the oven. In a place making bar (a specific style of Greek) pizza you will see piles of pizza pans with just the dough, or sometimes the dough and sauce sitting out in huge piles waiting to be topped and then baked. The amount of time these pre shaped doughs are left to sit before they are put into the oven depends on the temperature of the pizzeria, the amount of yeast that is used in the dough, the hydration of the dough, and the salt content of the dough. This is probably too much to worry about right now, so a good place to start would be to let the dough rise in the pan at room temp for at least an hour, and no more than three. Again, this could change depending upon the above mentioned factors.
Once you have let your dough rise for a while, you can apply the sauce. To stay true to typical bar pizza, I suggest a really smooth sauce with no chunks, seasoned with salt and oregano, and not much else. I have found that a good store bought brand available is Hunts tomato sauce. This is a good quality smooth sauce, but it is really salty right out of the can. If you buy Hunts sauce, just add oregano, maybe some sugar, and do not cook it. Straight from the can with oregano will usually be fine. If it is too thin for your taste, just add in tomato paste until you reach your desired thickness. Typical bar pizza is not heavy on the sauce, so don't use too much.
Now, the other trick to this pizza is in the cheese. My friend Mike has lived in Taunton his whole life, and is an amazing chef. He has worked in restaurants all over the south shore. One day he told me the secret to the cheese, and on the first bite you will agree that he was right. White cheddar mixed with mozzarella. I am convinced that some of the better places might be using a popular (for the area) blend that also includes provolone. Either way you will be happy. Try 50% mozzarella, 25% cheddar, 25% provolone, or even just a blend of mozzarella and white cheddar that is not too scientific. Your best bet is to use the more expensive cheese at your grocery store, and to shred it yourself. I have had good luck with Sorrento or Poly-O mozzarella, and Cracker Barrel white cheddar.
If you have a grocery store, or pizzeria in your area that will sell you their dough you should be happy. If you want to get into making your own dough you have come to the right place. Any simple NY style dough will work great for this pizza. Try the Lehman, or American style dough recipes to start out. Gook Luck, and do not hesitate to write back with questions. I will make sure I answer (or my wife might kill me).