Wednesday, August 27, 2008

PizzaPost

Well, here I am on Long Island for the week visiting family. An extremely important part of this trip has been to go to Fratelli Pizzeria near my parents' house. In my opinion the best pizza...anywhere. I have been asked by several friends to include photos of the pizza again, and so here they are.

I will mention that unfortunately this time the pizza was not quite as good as it usually is. The cheese was a bit too oily/fluid and the crust wasn't quite thick enough. Like anything done by human beings, though, the folks at Fratelli's are entitiled to a mistake once in a while. In general, the pizza is outstanding and it's what I think about when I think "New York Pizza."

I've gotten a comment or two from people who asked, "What's all this fuss about New York-style pizza?" I have also been asked why I am so enamored with Fratelli's pizza. So here is a list of the things that I consider paramount to a good pizza (in no particular order):
  1. Plenty of cheese: While a few pizzerias in Texas come very close to having a good pizza, much of the time they skimp on the cheese. If there isn't enough cheese, you get something that tastes kind of like cardboard with tomato sauce on it. Fratelli's never skimps on the cheese. The pizza in the photos is a standard cheese pizza (not "extra cheese").
  2. Proper crust thickness: Many people equate NY Pizza with "thin crust," and by "thin crust" they think "paper thin." That's not correct. While the pizza crust is thin, it is important to stretch the dough correctly. The proper crust consistency for the main part of the pizza should be that the bottom is completely cooked (ie. semi-hard), and then there is about an eighth to a quarter inch of softer dough above it. That dough is firm enough to resist the sauce (ie. it doesn't saturate the dough and make the pizza soggy), but is soft enough to give the crust some consistency. The proper yeast and rise is probably what causes this as you'll see very small air pockets here.
  3. Proper crust consistency: The dough for the crust is made with yeast, and some larger air bubbles should form in the dough. Overall it is a dryish, floury dough. Most thin pizza doughs are like this except maybe Pizza Hut.
  4. The sauce should have the proper taste and spice. The tomato sauce used for pizza has a good deal more oregano and thyme than Italian pasta sauce. It has a bit of a sweet flavor, while at the same time having the signature flavor from the oregano.
  5. The right cheese: I don't know exactly what kind of cheese or blends of cheese they use, but it has to have at least a good quality mozzarella cheese. A friend of mine says that using whole milk mozzarella cheese (rather than part-skim) is key. That may be true. What I do know is that the wrong cheese will make the pizza cheese very oily and/or watery and may not melt properly. The cheese browning a bit on top is what gives a good flavor as well.
  6. Toppings: The pizza should stand on its own without any additional toppings. However, pineapple, Canadian bacon, jalapenos, broccoli, and any other California toppings have no business on top of a thin crust pizza. Proper pizza toppings are one or more of pepperoni, Italian sausage, onion, mushrooms, anchovies, meat ball slices, maybe green pepper, and maybe black olives. Again, a good pizza stands on its own without toppings.
Note that while I am particular to NY-style pizza, that is not to say that a good Chicago deep-dish pizza doesn't have merit too. In fact, I believe finding a good Chicago-style pizza outside Chicago is probably as hard as finding a good NY-style pizza outside of certain parts of NY.

So there you have it...my word on pizza.

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