What?! Alright, supposedly there is something to do with the water, but really, when you live in Florida or many other places, it really is not as easy to get the best pizza when you grew up in NY. People in my neighborhood (a lot of NY transfers) talk about it a lot, exchanging names of places they’ve heard of that are reportedly “just as good” – I think NOT!
Anyway, I am definitely qualified to judge and teach this particular skill-I’ve eaten alot of NY pizza, having lived there for 40+ years, and worked for Tony’s Pizzaland for at least 4-5 years after school and weekends while I was in high school and college. Ok, I was no pie-man, but I did prepare all of the sauce, dough and grate at least 100 lbs of cheese a week. (I was a phone girl and then a delivery driver- did I ever tell you about the time I was delivering pizza in an old mail truck that hit a house while it was supposed to be parked out front? Ok, if you insist on hearing it, it will be at the bottom of the post.) My favorite kind of pizza was extra sauce, pepperoni, peppers and onions. Yummy. Tony used to make some pretty funky pies (that’s how we call them in NY), with shrimp and garlic, sesame seed crust, and the dreaded anchovies. My friends and I used to fight over who had to touch the anchovies when someone would order a slice with them on it . Ewwwwww!
Here’s my best advice-
- you’ll need a pizza stone ( I got mine at a Pampered Chef party many moons ago, but I’ve seen them around, even at Walmart), which has to be seasoned (instructions should come with it). You also need a peel (the wooden board to make the pizza on)- but in a pinch I have made them on an upside down cookie sheet and slid them onto the stone that way.
- Preheat the oven to as high as you can- mine is 500 degrees and that’s what I put it on. I also make sure it heats for at least 15 minutes before I put anything on it- high heat is the key to crispy crust. Ok, on to the actual ingredients.
- Pizza dough– you can make it, but it’s so much easier to just buy it. If you do make it, make it at least one day ahead, let it rise, refrigerate overnight and then take it out at least 2 hours before you want to use it. Tony would never use fresh dough, it needs at least 1 day to proof. I get mine at Publix ($2.59 refrigerated in dairy section) or Walmart ($.88 for plain, $.99 for whole wheat) and I buy a bunch at a time and freeze them. The Walmart ones seem a little smaller, but for less than 1/2 the cost, who cares?
- Sauce– Tony always used a very simple uncooked sauce. I use any jar that’s on sale (usually Bertolli) or I freeze leftover sauce from when I make the big pot of meatballs and use that.
- Cheese – Grated parmesan (please no green cans of Kraft, I get the bag of Locatelli at BJ’s or in the deli/gourmet cheese area at Publix) Not putting this cheese on your pie can make a real difference in taste!
- Part skim mozzarella – we always did 1/2 whole milk and 1/2 part skim at the pizza parlour. I just use the part skim now- I but the big bag at BJ’s and freeze it in smaller seal-a-meal bags.
- Flour for rolling out the dough, and corn meal to put under the dough so it will slide off of the peel nicely.
- Whatever toppings you like- try not to put too much on at once, or you’ll never get it off the board. Usually I save a little of whatver we made for dinner the day or two before, like turkey sausages, meatballs or I fry an onion and some green peppers. I even did shrimp and garlic once, it was awesome!
So, the oven is hot, the stone is in there (I keep mine in the oven at all times).
- Cut the pizza dough in half, it just makes things easier, it’s tough to make a big enough pizza in a home oven. To me shape doesn’t matter, which is good, because my pizzas usually look like a football, or Mexico. Sprinkle enough flour on the surface to keep the dough from sticking, and on your hands as well. Stretch out the dough, you can use a rolling-pin. I start out doing the fancy moves I remember from Tony’s, then inevitably I give it up and roll it out. Try not to make any wholes in the dough.
- Put a sprinkle of corn meal on the wooden peel, this definitely makes the uncooked pizza roll off nicely. Place the dough on the board, and spoon on the sauce and spread it around. Be careful not to get the board wet at all, this will cause your pizza to stick and end up in a heap when you try and wiggle it off the board.
- Sprinkle on some grated parmesan cheese- this is one trick to really good pizza
- Follow with mozzarella- I’m not an extra cheese fan, just enough to cover the sauce, and leave room for toppings if you have some
- Open the oven, hold your breath, and slide the pie off of the board and onto the hot stone.
- Cook for about 10 minutes, or until it’s done to your liking.
- Ta Daa! Homemade pizza, better than anything you can get in the store! (and cheaper- a large pie locally costs about $13-$15 here. I figure mine is about $3.50 for 2 small ones. I recently had my family over for dinner, I would have spent over $50 for pizza, and it cost me about $15 to make enough for 12 of us.
*Ok, here’s the story. Tony bought a retired mail truck for us to deliver pizza in, and the gear shift had a button you pushed down to put it in reverse, drive, etc. So in the middle of a big snowstorm, I’m delivering a pizza, I pull in front of someone’s parked car, get out of the truck, and leave the side door open where the hotbox was. I’m halfway up to the house when I hear a noise behind me- I must not have clicked the gear into park all the way, and the truck is now backing up driverless out of the parking spot. Because of the way I pull in, it turns nicely and doesn’t hit the car behind it- I now throw the pizza I have into the snow, and go racing after the truck, thinking I am going to leap through the air like Wonder Woman and hit the brake with my hand. No, I get thrown out of the truck into the street, the jeep turns a corner, jumps the curb and DOESN’T HIT 2 cars or a telephone pole, backs over the front lawn and hits the cement steps of a house.
I am now standing there debating whether I should knock on the door and tell these people I just hit their house with the truck- but I figure if they didn’t hear it hit the house, they’re not going to hear me knocking, so I drive the truck off the lawn, pick up the pizza out of the snow, and deliver it. Oh man, I love that story, 100% true. When I get back to the store, the owner’s wife has 5 more deliveries for me to take (it’s snowing, it’s busy!). Que sera sera!
Have a great weekend everybody!