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New York City Pizza Lore: Fiore's Pizza

New York City Pizza Lore: Fiore's Pizza


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New York Magazine recaps the history of New York City pizza every ten years or so, particularly when something noteworthy occurs at one of the bastions of New York Pizzadom: say, a fire at Totonno's, an anniversary at Patsy's or the fight between Grimaldi's and Grimaldi. But there's so much more to pizza in New York City that garners less attention or, even worse, goes undocumented. The stories behind the pizza are often as fascinating as the particular pizza is delicious.

For instance, I remember 25 years ago in 1987 when Two Boots opened on Avenue A. The funky unique Cajun Italian concept for families was created to finance the owner's film production career. Located on a block and at a time where you might literally have to steer your kids around the unconscious junkies to get access to the restaurant, it's now a huge chain. Although the original is gone, I still drop in to the location across the street on the now gentrified Avenue A for a corn flour crusted jalapeño, andouille and crawfish covered slice.

I was also there in 2008, when the Artichoke Basille Staten Island boys opened up on 14th street and the line snaked all the way to 2nd Avenue and the slices, both square and round, made me forget about Di Fara's. Artichoke is also now a thriving chain. Speaking of DiFara's, I used to literally camp out in the undiscovered and short-lived DeMarco's Pizza on West Houston, operated by Don DeMarco's family which on a good night was easily worthy of being called DiFara's Manhattan branch.

I equally mourned the departure of Anthony Mangieri of Una Pizza Napoletana and still hold out hope that he misses New York City at his new pizzeria in San Francisco as much as we miss him. I did not have the guts to ask Sarah Jenkins to bring back (maybe at Porsena?) her square fennel pollen sausage pies that I loved at the now also defunct Veloce.

My Twitter avatar is a gorgeous photo of a perfect slice of pizza crafted by another unknown pizzaiolo master, Giacomo Lattaruli, who was laboring in anonymity at the East Village branch of South Brooklyn Pizza before leaving to pursue his still unfulfilled dream of opening his own place and who has returned to churn out dollar slices at Percy's, the South Brooklyn Pizza owner's attempt to compete with 2 Bros., on Bleecker. Even with cheap ingredients, the NY Post recognized Giacomo's as the best $1 slices among an ocean of buck a slice joints.

So imagine my surprise when I saw yet another grand opening sign for a pizzeria on Bleecker up the block from Percy's between Sullivan and Thompson, in the old Pizza Booth space which was itself a long-time blatant Cajun Italian pizza knock-off of Two Boots. Fiore's Pizza has no sign, no menu, no business cards. Just a few photographs of Michael Fiore, a Staten Island firefighter from Rescue 5 who made the ultimate sacrifice on 9/11. I had to look that up on Google as the connection between the brave Fiore and the pizzeria is shrouded in mystery.

There's only one sign pasted to the walls and the door. Entitled "How To Eat Fiore's Pizza" it appears at first blush to be an instruction guide for out of town tourists on the art of eating New York City-style pizza. Indeed, it starts out by telling it's patrons that with Fiore's thin crust they can dispense with knife and fork which are only required by Chicago deep dish pizza consumers. Couldn't agree more. But then the sign goes on to dis die hard New York City pizza fans by admonishing us to "NEVER fold a Fiore's slice." What's that?! Folding a slice in half is the very act which defines the art of New York City slice enjoyment. But if you keep reading, the author explains that the thin crust at Fiore's is made with a self-proclaimed yeast starter brought over from the island of Ischia and used to bake breads there for hundreds of years. One should merely take one's thumb and crease the snappy crust at the bottom in the middle and to eat slowly from the tip so as not to miss the taste of the "finest Italian mozzarella and the imported hand crushed tomatoes" with which Fiore's pizza is made.

The sign certainly has pizza dough balls but the pizza lives up to it. The square thin grandma slice, with fresh basil, was one of the finest examples I have ever sampled. The regular round slice reminded me of Joe's Pizza, just down the block across Sixth Avenue, which is often cited by NY pizza cognescenti as the uncontested best slice joint in the entire city. Except for one small thing. Fiore's slice was even better. Hopefully someone else will have better luck than me in writing the story behind what makes Fiore's so good.


New York Crust (Our Favorite Pizza Dough Recipe)

Elevate your homemade pizza with the perfect New York crust. This New York pizza dough recipe yields a tender chew and just the right thickness for topping. And it's easy, promise! Here's how to do it.


How to Make New York-Style Pizza at Home

New York ruins you on pizza. Spend enough time there, and you’ll come to expect to find a slice shop on every corner. Of course, not every city can deliver.

Pizza alone isn’t what makes “The Big Apple” sound like the misnomer it is: It’s those classic slice shops, and the pizza makers and eaters they harbor, that make New York City a pizza town. No one knows that better than the creators of The New York Pizza Project, once a blog and now a coffee-table book, who have visited over 120 slice shops to document both the iconic and under-the-radar pizzerias in all five boroughs.

Ian Manheimer, co-founder of The New York Pizza Project, has met plenty of devout New Yorkers paying obeisance to their hometown pizzerias. “We talk to people who moved to the suburbs and drive in every weekend to hit their old neighborhood spot,” said Manheimer. “We talk to people deployed overseas who… grab their favorite slice before going home.” But it’s not just the natives who are willing to make the pilgrimage. Manheimer once met a guy in line at Brooklyn’s famous Di Fara Pizza who had driven all night from Miami to eat there. “He was like, ‘I guess I’ll see the Statue of Liberty, too.’ ”

RELATED: How to Make Frank Pepe's Famous White Clam Pizza

Of course, replicating a New York City pizzeria in your kitchen is just about impossible, but making New York style pizza at home is simple — and you don’t need special water or a $20,000 baggie of air from Williamsburg to pull it off. You don’t even have to make your own dough, according to Frank Pinello, owner of Brooklyn’s Best Pizza, who provided the following recipe and tips. His process is wonderfully, surprisingly simple: perfect for people living a busy New York lifestyle anywhere in the country.

First, Pinello recommends picking up dough from a local pizzeria, in part because it’s difficult to make and a pain in the ass to clean up. A dough recipe is below if you’re curious.

Stretching the dough can be a challenge (and sometimes a contest). For your first few attempts, focus on getting a relatively circular pie, with the edges slightly thicker to form your crust.

For your sauce, get a can of peeled tomatoes and crush them by hand. Spread a couple tablespoons of sauce on the pie, stopping a half-inch or so from the edge (your crust). Top with a half teaspoon of dried oregano flakes.

The cheese is simple: shred a block of medium-moisture mozzarella (Polly-O is fine, but avoid anything that’s sitting in water), but if you want to get fancy, sprinkle on some freshly grated parmesan. The cheese should be applied in an even layer, until the sauce is still slightly visible but not completely covered.

Techniques to cook pizza at home vary, but if you can, invest in a pizza stone and a pizza peel. Cook your pizza at 500º, and start checking your pie around the 8-minute mark. When the crust turns golden brown, you’re good to go.

So how do you know if you’ve succeeded? “New York is famous for its crust,” said Manheimer, remarking that it should be sturdy yet still chewy on the inside. “The sauce should be tangy and ever so slightly sweet. The cheese should be generous.”

Once you perfect the alchemy of sauce to cheese to crust ratio that makes a New York style slice, there’s one more thing to keep in mind. “The slice should be big,” says Manheimer. “New York slices are sufficient.” And if you feel like you need a little more authenticity, place that giant slice on a scalloped paper plate and change your name to Ray before you serve it.

New York–Style Pizza at Home

  • 10 oz can of peeled tomatoes (preferably Red Gold or Cento), crushed by hand
  • Dried oregano flakes
  • Place a pizza stone on your oven rack and preheat oven to 500º.
  • Stretch your dough on a pizza peel lightly dusted with flour, leaving a perimeter that’s ½ inch thicker to form your crust.
  • Use the back of a spoon to spread two tablespoons of sauce on your dough, stopping at the crust.
  • Sprinkle a ½ teaspoon of dried oregano on top of the sauce.
  • Top with the grated mozzarella, until the sauce is barely visible.
  • Optional: finish it off with a dusting of freshly grated parmesan.
  • Slide your pizza from the peel onto the pizza stone.
  • Cook until the crust turns golden brown, approximately 8 minutes.

Makes enough for about three 10″ pies.

  • 1.5L water
  • 20g yeast
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 60g extra virgin olive oil
  • 2,500g all-purpose flour
  • 800g flour
  • 95g kosher salt
  1. Combine all your wet ingredients in your mixer. Then combine all your dry ingredients and slowly add those to the wet ingredients with the mixer on its lowest setting. As the ingredients blend, you can increase the speed to medium.
  2. When the dough begins to form a ball and is no longer sticking to the sides, remove the mixing bowl from the mixer, cover it with plastic and put in the fridge overnight.
  3. Take it out an hour before you want to cook your pie.

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NYC Pizza Cultural Literacy

Adam Kuban is the proprietor of the pop-up Margot's Pizza. He was the founder of the websites Slice and A Hamburger Today. He served as Serious Eats' founding editor after having sold his sites to SE.

Here's the tweet that inspired this post:

Yes, @alexandrak, such a post does exist, and if your boyfriend finds what I'm about to write all TLDR, he can check it out: The 10 Best Pizzas in NYC »

That's a solid list, no doubt. And if his NYC pizza research stops there, I'm sure he'd be happy. But I think simply dropping a best-of list on a New York newbie does him a bit of a disservice. After all, he's moving to a pizza mecca. I think a little context is in order.

NYC Pizza: Miles of Styles

We've got some of the best pizza culture in the world here in NYC. You can get classic New York-style pizza (duh), coal-oven pizza, wood-fired Neapolitan-style, Roman-style, Grandma-style, Sicilian-style. There's tomato pies now (at 900 Degrees) [now since closed], and deep-fried pizza (at Forcella). And sfincione. And Greek style. Geez, I'm starting to feel like Bubba Gump here.

Yes, the cool thing about the New York City pizza scene, Phillip (can I call you Phillip?), is that you can get pretty much any pizza style you can shake a pizza peel at. (OK, maybe not Chicago deep dish and maybe not New Haven-style, but, hey, you need some reason to visit those cities, right? )

Pizza By the Slice

The overwheming majority of pizzerias in NYC are slice joints. If NYC's pizza pyramid looked like the one above, slice joints would pretty much be all the crusty, craggy stuff below the finished casing near the tip. It seems there's almost one on every block.

How many total pizzerias are there in NYC? That's one of those questions I get all the time. I've heard as low as 800 and as high as 3,000, but the best answer seems to be around 1,600. For a crazy visual reference, check out Slice Harvester's map of Manhattan slice joints:

Colin the Slice Harvester's goal is to eat at every slice joint in NYC. He completed Manhattan (above) earlier this year.

OK. Stop and think about that for a minute. Wow, right? The guy ate a slice from every slice joint in Manhattan. That is a feat that deserves applause. Visit Slice Harvester for his complete exploits.

Anyway, this style of pizza you'll find at these ubiquitous slice joints is the stuff most people think of when they think of New York–style pizza. Thin, floppy, cheesy slices of pizza. Seeing as how you're from Austin, Philip, it's the stuff that Home Slice there is trying to emulate.

Must-Eat Slice Joint Pizzerias

Where's the best slice of pizza in NYC? As our Daily Slice posts have shown, there's no shortage of top-notch pizza joints in the city's five boroughs. Here are eight of our favorites:

Coal-Oven Pizza

One thing you might not be familiar with is the fact that some NYC pizzerias use anthracite coal to cook their pizzas. (Then again, I know that Brooklyn-based Grimaldi's has made inroads into Texas, so maybe you do know coal-fired pizza.) Pizza geeks have long been into coal-fired pizzas. The ovens cook at a hot-enough temperature that a skilled pizzamaker can create an amazing crust that is both crisp and chewy at the same time and that is not dried out and tough. Also, the way that most of these old-school coal-oven places make the pizza, they just sort of know how to make a nice balanced pie, one that doesn't go too heavy on the sauce or pile on too much cheese.

Most of the coal-fired pizzerias in NYC are part of an old and venerable family tree of pizza history. Lombardi's is widely thought of as having been the first pizzeria in NYC and indeed the nation (at least on paper). That's probably oversimplifying things (see this post on Lombardi's for its history), but the fact remains that many of the other beloved coal-oven pizzerias in NYC were founded by people who once worked for Gennaro Lombardi in the early 1900s.

DOOD! MUST READ: For an excellent overview of coal pizza ovens in general, please see Scott Wiener's post "The Story of Coal."

QUICK NOTE: With the exception of Patsy's in East Harlem and Sac's in Astoria, the coal-oven places are whole-pie only, i.e., NO SLICES.

My Top Coal-Oven Pizzerias in NYC

  • Patsy's, East Harlem: When it's on, it's transcendent. Not gonna lie, they're about 50-50 on hitting that mark. Still, gotta go!
  • Totonno's, Coney Island: Every newcomer has to visit Coney Island. Someone'll drag you, I'm sure. While you're there, skip the hot dogs at Nathan's and visit Totonno's instead. Along with Patsy's on a good day, this is one of the top two coalers. 524 Neptune Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11224
  • John's of Bleecker Street: Some folks diss it these days, but I think John's still makes a pretty good pie. (And I'm not alone in that.) 278 Bleecker Street, New York NY 10014
  • Arturo's: Arturo's is a little thicker than the others here, a little too chewy, but still one of the better coalies. 106 West Houston Street, New York NY 10012

The Wood-Fired Revolution of the 2000s

Yeah, so coal oven pizza used to be the shit in NYC. When you wanted to make a night of it pizzawise, you'd go to one of the storied coal-oven joints, maybe wait in a line, finally get in, and get a whole pizza or two to share. Chowhound used to be full of people talking about how one coaler had gone downhill while another had reemerged as triumphant.

Not so much anymore. The mania now seems to be for wood-oven pizza. This started somewhere in the early 2000s but seemed to really get going once Una Pizza Napoletana opened here in 2004 (it has since moved to San Francisco). Since then, it seems like a week doesn't go by when someone's not opening a wood-fired-oven (WFO) pizzeria. And almost 99% of those are doing the Neapolitan-stye pizzas.

Here are some my favorites (no particular order):

  • Roberta's, Bushwick: Great pizza, awesome space. As an Austinite, Philip, I think you'll really feel at home here. It's got that sort of hippy-freaker-cool-kid vibe to it. They're putting a spin on Neapolitan-style pizza, with lots of inventive toppings. The Cortes is killer
  • Kesté, Greenwich Village: Really great traditional Neapolitan pizza. People who have been to Naples often say this is the closest pizza in NYC comes to it
  • Motorino, Manhattan: ZOMG. Crazy-high puffy crusts. Killer brussels sprout pizza. The cherrystone clam is awesome, too
  • Paulie Gee's, Greenpoint: Paul Giannone is a genius of toppings. He just knows what works well together and almost never fails to hit the mark. Really great atmosphere here too
  • Forcella: Great newcomer. DEEP-FRIED PIZZA! Need I say more?
  • Best Pizza: LOVE IT. These guys are basically doing NYC-style but in a wood oven. And they're just doing it right. I promise you, you will love this pizza. If you don't, you have no soul and should pack your bags and move back to Austin
  • Lucali: A perennial Brooklyn favorite. Very good pizza. But you're going to have to wait a while to get in. Sort of does a Brooklyn-style pizza but in a wood oven
  • Fornino: Wood oven pizza that sort of treads the line between Neapolitan and New York-style. One of the first in NYC to do house-made mozzarella and house-grown herbs and toppings (in a mini greenhouse)

Historically Significant/All-Time Favorite Pizzerias

OK, so I could keep slicing and dicing lists of pizzerias for you, Philip, but I think you have enough to work on for a while. But last, I'll leave you with this list of pizzerias that are either historically significant or are all-time popular favorites with people in the city. They're sort of like places that you should know and/or visit if you want to be a pizzahead. Some have already been mentioned above.

  • Lombardi's: The original Lombardi's could be called the city's and the nation's first pizzeria. Unfortunately, it closed for several years and then reopened in the late '90s down the block. Still, it's got the storied name and a pretty historic oven. Worth checking out
  • L&B Spumoni Gardens: Regarded as having one of the best Sicilian slices in the city. Go when it's nice out, since it's as close to a roadside stand as you're going to get in NYC. Save room for the pistachio spumoni
  • Di Fara: This is a perennial best-of. Strong feelings here from many quarters. Most people love the place, but there's also a full-fledged backlash. You really do HAVE to go, though, to make up your own mind. Read my "Everything You Need to Know about Di Fara" piece. (To give you an idea of Di Fara's significance in NYC pizza lore, it's the only pizzeria on Slice that has its own how-to visitor's guide

So this post is getting waaaaay too long, and it's getting late, so I'm ending it here, Philip.


A Slice Timeline

At the beginning of the 20th century, pizza in New York was cooked in massive coal-fired masonry ovens originally built to bake bread. Lombardi's, which claims 1905 as its founding date, making it allegedly "the first pizzeria in America," used this type of oven at its first location at 531⁄2 Spring Street, and still uses one in its present-day spot down the street.

Why coal? According to Scott, bakers used hard coal instead of wood to heat their ovens, which hit temperatures in the range of 800 to 1,000°F (427 to 538°C), because it took up less space and burned more efficiently, making it a cheaper fuel.

By the 1920s, Scott says, smaller coal ovens were available with stainless steel frames and used for small bread-baking operations and pizza-making. Totonno's and John's—two of New York's early seminal pizzerias, both opened by Lombardi's alumni (in 1924 and 1929, respectively)—use this type of oven.

But the pizzas that were being baked in coal ovens were all sold whole, with perhaps one exception—Patsy's in East Harlem, which uses a steel-frame coal oven and claims to have sold pizza by the slice around the neighborhood since its founding in 1933. We say "perhaps," because Scott says he hasn't seen any concrete evidence for that claim. Scott says he's also read accounts of whole-pie places, like Lombardi's, selling partial pies if customers were strapped for cash.

Nevertheless, whole pies were the norm at the time because coal-oven pizza, cooked at high temperatures and for a relatively short time, is best eaten quickly, since it tends to get tough and chewy after it's cooled down. This was pre-slice-culture pizza, designed to be eaten hot out of the oven.

The slice movement really got its jump-start with an Italian immigrant named Frank Mastro, a consummate salesman who ran a restaurant-supply business on the Bowery. After buying a used coal oven, he installed a gas line in it and began playing around with baking pizza. By 1934, Mastro had invented* the first of the gas-fired pizza ovens that we now see in countless slice shops today, and had convinced the Blodgett oven company to manufacture them for him. Mastro even set up a model pizzeria on the Bowery to sell Italian-Americans on the concept of opening their own shops.

*That we know of Mastro at all is largely thanks to the work of Norma Knepp and Walter Tore, longtime OG Slice readers and community members. Norma and Walter met Mastro's daughter, Madeline Mastro Ferrentino, and recorded her telling of the tale, which later helped shape the article about Mastro in PMQ magazine.

This oven was the slice-culture catalyst, because it produced pies that were fundamentally different from coal-oven pizza. Scott described the phenomenon this way on Special Sauce: "Suddenly the max oven temperature drops by 400°F. So now that you're in the 500-to-550°F range, the pizzas take longer to bake and are baking up drier. But they also have a longer shelf life because more of the water is cooked out. So they're reheatable. Pizza by the slice is—has to be—reheated most of the time. So that oven is a big deal."

But attaching exact dates to the ascendancy of non-coal pizza by the slice is difficult because little hard evidence exists. It's a safe bet that the custom of making pizzas specifically to sell by the slice began in the 1940s, thanks to Mastro's 1934 oven.

Indeed, it was in the 1940s that some of the classic slice shops we know today began to appear, like Nunzio's on Staten Island, which my book Pizza: A Slice of Heaven documents as having sold slices as early as 1943. Or Louie and Ernie's, which opened in Harlem in 1947 before moving to the Bronx in 1959. And maybe even L&B Spumoni Gardens—one account dates the pizzeria part of the operation to 1942. In 1950 in Bensonhurst, J&V Pizzeria opened, which second-generation owner Joe DeGrezia says was among the first, at least in Brooklyn, to sell by the slice and even deliver it.

By the late 1950s, slice shops had become more and more common. Now on the scene: New Park in Howard Beach, Queens (1956) Delmar in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn (1957) Rizzo's in Astoria, Queens (1959) and what's commonly regarded as the original Ray's Pizza, on Prince Street in Manhattan (also 1959—though Scott points out that, according to phonebook and business directory records, a pizzeria named Ray's existed on Avenue P in Brooklyn two years earlier).

Growth continued apace in the 1960s and ‘70s, during what many lucky enough to be around at the time consider the First Golden Age of the Slice:**

  • 1960: Joe & Pat's (Castleton Corners, Staten Island)
  • 1960: Elegante (Bay Ridge, Brooklyn)
  • 1960: Gloria Pizza (originally in Flushing, Queens recently reopened in Forest Hills, Queens)
  • 1964: NY Pizza Suprema (near Penn Station on Eighth Avenue and 31st Street in Manhattan)
  • 1965: Di Fara (Midwood, Brooklyn)
  • 1965: Sal's, later renamed Sal & Carmine (Upper West Side, Manhattan)
  • 1966: DaVinci (Bensonhurst, Brooklyn)
  • 1966: Pizza Wagon (Bay Ridge, Brooklyn)
  • 1967: Krispy Pizza (Dyker Heights, Brooklyn)
  • 1973: Luigi's (Park Slope, Brooklyn)
  • 1973: Nino's (Bay Ridge, Brooklyn)
  • 1975: Joe's Pizza (Greenwich Village, Manhattan)
  • 1976: Full Moon (Arthur Avenue, the Bronx)

** We say "first," because we believe we've entered another golden age. Stay tuned for our forthcoming list of the NYC slice shops, both classic and modern, that make the case for us.

All of these places are what we now would think of as "classic slice shops," and many of them were similarly decorated: wood paneling, a window out front from which slices were sold, Plymold contour booths with bright-orange plastic bench seats and faux-oak tabletops, Tiffany-style stained-glass lamps, and a small display of the different slices on offer—not a piece of pineapple or ziti-topped slice in sight.

The pies, too, were largely the same, possessed of attributes that we now consider standard for the classic New York slice: discrete areas of sauce and cheese, applied with a measured hand a darker crust due to the longer bake time a lightly seasoned, uncooked tomato "sauce" (really, crushed tomatoes with salt), often spiked with oregano maybe a little Romano cheese sprinkled over the top for extra tang.

Between these classic shops, though, there are small variations, the kind of nuances that make a slice stand out from its peers. New Park's method of salting the oven floor, for example, leads to some standout slices, if you can get the right pie at the right time. Pizza Suprema opts for a super-sweet sauce (which owner Joe Riggio swears contains no sugar), and Joe & Pat's in Staten Island combines vodka sauce with a cracker-thin crust on its most popular slice.

The amount of diversity contained under the umbrella of the classic New York slice is what made that era a golden age. By the 1980s and 1990s, it seemed that the evolution of the slice had stopped. Or should we say the slice devolved? In any case, slice places popped up on every corner, with nothing to differentiate one from another. Pizzerias started blanketing their pies with excessive amounts of bad mozzarella, and canned pizza sauce became ubiquitous, as did cardboard-like crusts made with inferior flour.

The era of the dollar slice, in the mid-2000s, further undermined the genre slice places started using low-quality or near-expiration ingredients to keep costs low. Dollar-slice shops flourished after the Great Recession of 2008, as shops were able to pick up favorable leases in the down market—a market that also made their low prices appealing.

But it was also around the height of the dollar-slice proliferation that we saw the debut of what could be seen as its opposite. The first cheffy slice shop, Best Pizza, opened in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in 2010, and it was in many ways a throwback to the classic slice places of old. More attention was paid to the ingredients and how the pies were constructed, and deviations from the standard were made not with an eye to the bottom line, but with the idea of improving upon lessons learned from pizza-makers and bread-bakers of yore.

For us, Best Pizza typifies what we've come to think of as the slice "revivalists"—the shops that have resurrected pizza-making as an art and a craft, but often with their own educated spin on the product. The shops in this category, combined with the continued dedication of long-established classic-slice stalwarts, are what make this current moment a particularly great time in history to be eating a slice in New York.

To get our full list of the shops that prove it—including the new-school revivalists, the stalwarts, and a few underappreciated neighborhood favorites for good measure—check out the second installment in this series, "The Best Pizza Slices in New York City."

Additional reporting for this piece provided by Adam Kuban and Scott Wiener.

Editor's Note: The original version of this article included the following description of the pizza made at Di Fara: ". from the beginning Dom De Marco finished his slices with snips of fresh basil and dried oregano and used four different kinds of cheese on his slices, including buffalo-milk mozzarella. (Alas, he no longer does this, but instead uses low-moisture mozzarella and sprinkles on a mixture of Romano and Parmesan right at the end, and his slices are still pretty damn fine.)" We've since learned that De Marco began using four cheeses and basil only in 2000 he did not do this "from the beginning." Serious Eats regrets the error. However, it is true that today De Marco uses LMM and a final sprinkling of Romano and Parmesan, and his slices are indeed still "pretty damn fine."


Chelsea Market

After City Kitchen, we hopped on the subway for a quick ride south to the Chelsea Market. Chelsea Market is a massive indoor food hall housed in the old Nabisco factory. It is open seven days a week (7 am-9 pm Monday-Friday, 7-7 Saturday, 8-6 Sunday) and houses over 35 vendors. We went on a rainy Saturday around noon and it was packed.

I could have easily spent hours here exploring. I appreciated the signs posted to help point you in the right direction amongst the sea of people.

We picked Berlin Currywurst for lunch. Other than making it at home, I hadn’t come across currywurst since Germany so I was quite excited. I had the bratwurst in the original mild sauce. It was just like I remembered. You have your choice of sausage, sauce (other options are orange-ginger and garlic), and heat level. Chad had the Breakfast Sandwich (sausage in a bun with sunny side egg, onions, and sauerkraut). He had a spice level of 2 and it definitely had a kick. They have a disclaimer that you must be over the age of 16 to get a level 3 or 4.


Party alla Bolognese

PARTY alla BOLOGNESE

So, as we know Ragu Bolognese is the famous meat-sauce for pasta from Bologna, Italy. Now, hopefully by the time you read this part of the book, you’ve already made your first Ragu alla Bolognese. Well congratulations are in order to you, you’ve learned something that is infinitely important, and something that will serve you the rest of your life. You now know the infinite glories of the Bolognese, that lush pasta meat-sauce from Bologna, Italy known as Ragu Bolognese. You know the wonderful flavor, and are sure to crave it often. No problem, if you have a craving, you can just make it. You have the recipe, you’ve made it once or twice, you can make it any time you want.

So, you want to throw a dinner party for friends? I certainly hope you do. If you’ve never done so before, I’d just like to tell you, you have no idea, and I’m sure you’ll be surprised, surprised how great it will be, ” a Party alla Bolognese.”

Making this famed Ragu and throwing a party centered around the Bolognese where you’ll feed Maccheroni alla Bolognese to friends and family, this is such a wonderful thing, you just can’t imagine. Do it once and you’ll see. You will make your friends oh-so-happy in more ways than one. They will thank you and sing your praises, and you will feel their joy. A joy that you gave them by making them Ragu Bolognese. Yes it has this affect.

Throwing a dinner party you say? It seems so daunting. Hey, you’ve made Bolognese, throwing a dinner party centered around Bolognese is as easy as pie, and I’m going tell you how. You will amaze your friends with this one! Trust me! Hey, I’ve already told you pretty much, 90% of all you’ll need to know to do your first fabulous Party alla Bolognese. “What,” you say? Well I’ve written the recipe for you, and you’ve already made your first Bolognese, maybe even two or three by now. You know how to make one of the World’s great dishes Pasta alla Bolognese, all you need now is some good music, good Italian Wine, and some sort of Salad or Antipasto to start you off.

You will make the Bolognese ahead of time, either the day before or early in the day before your party starts. You can either make a salad to have before the Bolognese, but a better choice would be either a Caprese Salad of fresh Mozzarella & Tomatoes, a lovely mixed Antipasto, or something as easy as Prosciutto & Melon would be very apropos, considering the Bolognese and the famed Prosciutto di Parma are both from the same region in Italy of Emilia Romagna.


Best Pizza in New Jersey How do these rankings work?

25th. Nonna’s – Florham Park

Nonna’s Italian Restaurant has been a go-to spot for some of the best pizza in New Jersey for over 10 years. They use fresh ingredients and generation-old recipes to create their handmade pies, which are super authentic. They serve up Sicilian-style square pies as well as Neapolitan, with gourmet toppings such as artichoke hearts or fire-roasted peppers.

Image: @odin_aesthetics

24th. Anthony’s Pizzeria – Rockaway

This old-school pizza joint serves up whopper whole pies and pizza by the slice, and is simply no-fuss and all flavour. The bases are thing and crispy and come with a large selection of delicious toppings. There are lot of other great items on the menu, but it is hard to look past the pizza… Greasy pepperoni and oozing cheese = perfection.

Image: @georgereinhard

23rd. Patsy’s – Paterson

What would any list of the must-eat pizzas in New Jersey be without this classic tavern that serves up bubbling cheese pies? While the broccoli rabe is garlicky-good, and the rice balls have loyal fans, it’s all about the pizza here. A thin, crispy crust, tangy tomato sauce and plenty of cheese on top.

No wonder it’s such a local favourite.

22nd. Arturo’s Osteria & Pizzeria – Maplewood

Arturo’s Osteria is a classic spot for authentic (read: droolworthy) pies. The dough here is naturally leavened dough, and the menu displays a fierce dedication to local and seasonal ingredients.

Try the Tartufi with mozzarella, sausage, mushrooms and white truffle oil for a real treat. But honestly? All the creations here are world-class pizza.

21st. Alfonso’s Trattoria & Gourmet Pizzeria – Somerville

This beloved family-owned restaurant began in humble beginnings in 1978 and is still going strong today. It’s all down to the amazing cooking, family recipes, top ingredients and friendly service. A recipe for success if ever we heard one!

Choose from classic pies, Grandma-style thick slices or calzones.

Image: @feastinfeed

20th. Star Tavern World Famous Pizzeria – Orange

The Star,” as it is affectionately called by its loyal local customers, is famous for its hot, bubbling pizza with a super thin crust. You can choose from regular base or whole wheat, with toppings such as three cheese or clams.

They load the centre up with toppings to create a pizza that is absolutely bursting with flavour through every single mouthful.

19th. Carmine’s Pizza Factory – Jersey City

Carmine’s is a great Italian family business. Dad Angelo makes the sauce that goes on every pie and they make all their own dough in house. Thin-crust & Sicilian pies are available to eat in (grab a seat by the sidewalk) or takeaway.

Be sure to keep an eye out for the two sons’ crazy pizza tossing skills.

18th. Big John’s Pizza – Bridgeton

This is nothing fancy, but it is without doubt the place to come for some of the tastiest pizza in New Jersey. Big John’s Pizza is best known for their double thick pie, which has a wonderful doughy base and is loaded with toppings.

Along with great service every single time you go in to pick up your pizza, this is not a place you are going to want to miss.

17th. Doughboys Authentic Wood Fired Pizza – Farmingdale

It’s all about the simplistic beauty of the Margherita here, as ingredients are so good that this pizza is an instant classic. They use San Marzano tomatoes and creamy mozzarella on every pie – just like you’ll get in Naples.

If you want something a little different though, you can also get a delicious Carbonara pie with peas, mushroom and prosciutto.

16th. Queen’s – Newark

Queen’s Pizza has been family owned and operated in Newark for over 32 years, and you can really taste the passion and pride in every slice. Order a classic plain cheese slice or one of the daily specials (such as Brocolli Rabe, Sausage & Cherry Tomatoes) or get a huge pie to share. Their Sicilian is particularly good!

Image: @girlvsfoodx

15th. Tacconelli’s – Burlington

Tacconelli’s has been an institution in nearby Philadelphia since 1946, and opened up this NJ location about 15 years ago. It’s renowned for its authentic brick oven that makes their Old World “tomato pies” – just like they do in traditional pizzerias in Italy.

While the tomato pizzas are legendary, try other toppings such as the white pie with pesto and chicken for a gourmet feed.

14th. Roman Nose – Jersey City

Roman Nose is the delicious end product of Maria & Ruggero Fiore’s journey from a small farming village in the Lazio region of Italy (between Rome and Naples) to the heart of JC.

They make their own homemade mozzarella and pizza dough from scratch every day for the freshest Italian-style pizza possible. As for toppings? Choose from Prosciutto di Parma or basil pesto.

13th. Pizzeria Mannino – Pitman

The pizza here is about as close to Italian pizza as you’ll find in the state: each pie is made with dough proved for 72-hours and is fired up in a brick oven imported from Italy. Their pizza cooks around 800-900 degrees for about 90 seconds and comes out super light and crispy.

A hearty dollop of Fior di latte handmade fresh mozzarella on top finishes it off to perfection.

12th. John’s Pizzeria – Jersey City

John’s of Times Square has been voted one of New York’s best pizzas because of its unique characteristics: all pizzas are made to order in one of their four coal-fired brick ovens, like a cast iron pan. The best news? They have a Jersey City location so you don’t have to hop on the PATH.

11th. DeLorenzo’s Tomato Pies – Robbinsville

This popular pizza joint in Robbinsville is the place to go to when you want a classic, Italian-American pie. Rich tomato sauce, doughy crusts and creamy mozz combine for a pizza you’ll be dreaming about long after the last slice is gone.

Their signature tomato pies have a slight char, but you can ask for them either ‘light’ or ‘well done’.

10th. Talula’s Pizza.Bar.Bread – Asbury Park

Purely fantastic Neapolitan pizza, cooked in a handmade brick wood-fired oven to a blistering 800 degrees. These are the kind of pizzas you want to eat every single weekend – and when they’re as good as Talula’s, we won’t blame you if you do.

It’s all about fresh, local ingredients, which you’ll see in pizza toppings such as local honey, farm eggs or Cabot cheddar.

9th. Angelo’s Pizza – Multiple

This third-generation family pizzeria has four locations in New Jersey, so you won’t be too far away from the incredible pies. It’s proper old school cooking – focusing on quality ingredients and traditional technique.

Speciality pies include the Quattro Formaggio with white sauce, mozzarella, ricotta, provolone and Monterey Jack cheddar, or a great Buffalo chicken pizza with Angelo’s Sweet Hot Sauce.

Image: @isaeatsworld

8th. Porta – Jersey City

Want some authentic Neapolitan pizza? This three-story restaurant includes one of the few rooftop spaces in the city and has delicious pizzas churning out of its wood-fired oven all day long.

The Carbonara pie is particularly good, as is the DJ Jazzy Jeff: smoked Pecorino Romano, Jersey corn and ricotta salata.

7th. Santillo’s Brick Oven Pizza – Elizabeth

Santillo’s Brick Oven Pizza are experts at what you would expect from the name square, thick pizzas that bake to perfection in a 100-year-old brick oven. They’re wonderfully traditional when it comes to the pizza, from the homemade dough to the coals in the oven itself.

You can choose exactly how ‘baked’ you want the pizza to be – we love a medium 8 minute golden crust.

Image: @foodbabyny

6th. Brooklyn Square Pizza – Jackson

Brooklyn Square Pizza’s secret is the combination of seriously good dough, a rich tomato sauce and some seriously great cheese.

With pizza this good you really don’t need to overcomplicate the toppings. Keep it simple and enjoy every single bite. But hey, if you do want something different, try the Popeye: a thin layer of ricotta with sautéed spinach and fresh mozzarella on a round sesame seed crust pie.

5th. Delenio – Jersey City

Delenio is a classic Jersey City pizza joint that does traditional Sicilian-style pies that are oozing in cheese. The sort of pizza you’ll never tire of eating – it’s too good.

Not sure what you’re in the mood for? Try one of their specialties including Grandma Pizza , Vegetable Pizza, Margherita Pizza, Chicken Parm Pizza, and more.

4th. Tony D’s Pizza – Caldwell

Tony D’s Pizza does Italian style, thin-crust pies that are consistently perfect. It’s a no-fuss, reliable pizza place that will satisfy you again and again with their tasty crispy pies. Toppings are hearty, the cheese is oozing, and the vibes are good.

The must-order pie is easily their ‘Drunken Grandma’: fresh mozzarella, grape tomatoes, basil, grated parmigiano and homemade vodka sauce.

3rd. Bricco Coal Fired Pizza – Westmont

Coal fired pizza produces the most wonderful char on the crusts, and with all pies at Brico baked in their custom 1,000 degree coal fired oven, you can expect pure perfection. It’s easily one of the top places for pizza in New Jersey!

They use ingredients from the local farmer’s market alongside Italian San Marzano tomatoes for toppings that are out of this world.

2nd. Brooklyn Boys – Edison

Brooklyn Boys is a low-key deli for pizza and subs that will make your mouth water as soon as you think about taking that first bite. All their pies are Brooklyn-style, with amazing tomato sauce, and there’s also some creative specials. Think: chicken Caeser or a cheese steak pizza with mushrooms and pepper.

A true classic that will stand the test of time.

Image: @njpizzaking

1st. Razza – Jersey City

Razza is SO goddamn good that even loyal pizza fans from New York city will pop over on the Path train just to get one of these pies.

They use only local ingredients, including housemade cheeses and specially-bred hazelnuts. Crusts are old-school Italian, AKA perfectly charred, chewy and made with passion.

Sarah Clayton-Lea

Co-founder of Big 7 Travel, Sarah created the company through her passion for championing the world's best food and travel experiences. Before her career in digital media, where she previously held roles such as Editor of Food&Wine Ireland, Sarah worked in the hospitality industry in Dublin and New York.


Making pizza dough at home

Making NY style pizza dough is definitely somewhat of an art form. There are so many variables that can be changed aside from the ingredients alone. For example, these variables include:

  • oven temperature
  • temperature of the water used to make the dough
  • proofing methods (room temp vs cold rise)
  • order of adding the ingredients (yes, this makes a big difference!)
  • mixing time
  • use of autolyse
  • use of poolish (I don’t do this or the one before, although I have in the past)

And then of course, the toppings which can be simple or as complex as you’d like. But don’t worry too much about all of this – my method is easy and straightforward. Plus, you will make better dough than 99% of the pizza chains out there. You will not want take out anymore!


New York City Pizza Lore: Fiore's Pizza - Recipes

Jeff Varasano's Famous New York Pizza Recipe

One of the 'Elite 8' Pizzerias in the US by Every Day with Rachael Ray
One of America's Perfect Pizzeria's: Zagat
And Many Other Awards

Main Restaurant Website

Last Updates (color coded so you can see new edits):
10/18/06 (Text changed in Purple)
11/6/2007 A few new Pizzeria Rankings - Some of the best pizza in NY is also the newest
03/13/08 Lots of new Pizzeria Rankings
04/10/08 - Minor edits to big table of pizzerias
6/24/08 Added a Google Map of the world's best pizzerias
5/2/12 Videos explaining the various styles of pizza
3/29/18 I'm releasing a huge Library of Video, These were recorded in 2011, but I've only release for staff training, until now!

Pizza is the most sensuous of foods. I get emails from around the world and one of the most common goes something like this: "Jeff, I had this one perfect pizza at a corner shop in Brooklyn in 1972 and I've been thinking about it ever since." I love that!. That's passion. Do you know how many forgettable meals have come and gone since then. What kind of pizza leaves a 35 year impression? Let me describe it to you. The crust is slightly charred. It has a crisp outer layer, but inside it's airy and light. The ingredients are not piled high, but instead are perfectly balanced. It's sweet, salty, full flavored but not greasy. The tomatoes burst with flavor. Each bite makes you hungrier for the next. If this is what you want, you've come to the right place.

This pizza is modeled after Patsy's on 117th street in NYC. I have been working on this for SIX years, but FINALLY I can report that I have achieved my goal. Many people have tried my pie and swear it is not only the best pizza they've ever had, but a clone of the original Patsy's recipe. This margarita pie is incredibly light and perfectly charred. It took just 2 minutes and 10 seconds to bake at 825F.

Reproducing this was no easy feat, but since moving to Atlanta what choice did I have? Dominos? It's been a bit of an obsession. I've had a lot of failed experiments. However now I can honestly say that the recipe is fully accurate and reproducible. The final breakthrough came in Jan 2005 when I finally got a handle on the proper mixing equipment and procedure. But do not think that following this will be easy. It's not. It will still take practice. Many others have confirmed that by following these steps they too have come to near perfection. This may be the most detailed, accurate and complete recipe on the net for making a true Pizza Napoletana. Pizza inspires passion. I've gotten about a thousand emails representing every continent. If you'd like to contact me, feel free to write at [email protected] . It may take a little time for me to respond, but I try to answer all emails personally. I'm going to start a photo gallery, so if you have some success, send me a photo and I'll add it for others to see!

At the bottom of this page, I have a List of the Best Pizzerias in the World which I've also places on this Google Map of The World's Best Pizzas. In addition I've created a second Google Map of Fan Favorites - places that have been recommended by fans of this site. I can't really vouch for these but if your in the area check them out and let me know your opinion.

This dough was hand kneaded and baked in just 1 minute 40 seconds

Me - Do I look happy or what?

Check out this perfect char

Even blurry pizzas are Tasty!. This pie baked in just 1 minute 40 seconds

What's better than a light springy crust with a perfect char

One of my best tasting pies ever:

Check out many more photos at the bottom.

I am going to add a lot more instructions and photos over the next couple of months, including specifics on how to culture the dough, so check back here occasionally. I may even do a few seconds of video here and there.

Let me start off by saying a few things. First, this is about a certain style of pizza. This site is about the kind of pizza that you can get at the oldest and best places in the U.S. or in Naples. This is not about Chicago style or California Style or trying to reproduce Papa John's garlic sauce. This is about making a pie that's as close to Patsy's or Luzzo's or Pepe's or some of the top Brick Oven places. Not that these pies are all identical - but they share certain basics in common.

Second, I want to say that there is a LOT of misinformation out there. Take a tour of the World's top pizza places (there's a list at the bottom of this page). None of these places publish their recipes. They don't write books. You are not going to see any of these places represented at the "U.S. pizza championship" where they compete at dough tossing or who makes the best smoke pork mango pizza.. The real pizza places are not at some trade show out in Vegas where they hawk automatic sauce dispensers and conveyor belt ovens. But somehow though, all the attendees of these shows declare themselves experts and write books and spread the same false ideas. There are about a hundred books and internet recipes that claim to give an authentic or secret pizza dough recipe. Oddly, while many claim to be secret or special, they are practically all the same. Here it is in summary. If you see this recipe, run screaming:

Sprinkle a yeast packet into warm water between 105-115 F and put in a teaspoon of sugar to feed it. Wait for it to foam up or 'proof'. Add all your flour to a Kitchen Aid heavy duty mixer, then add the yeast and salt. Now mix until it pulls away from the side of the bowl. Coat with oil and leave in a warm place until it doubles in bulk, about 1-2 hours. Punch down, spread on a peel with some cornmeal to keep it from sticking and put it on the magical pizza stone that will make this taste just like Sally's in your 500F oven.

I assure you, this will not make anything like a real pizza. It's weird - even chefs whose other recipes all come out pretty good, like Emeril, simply pass around more or less this same terrible recipe.

Pizza is a true specialty item and a real art. It takes passion to make it right. I wasn't a restaurateur when I started out. But I did have a passion for doing this right. I'm not going to give you the 'easy home version'. I'm going to give you the version that makes the best pie I know how to make, even if it takes a bit more effort (ok, more than just a bit)

There are a lot of variables for such a simple food. But these 3 FAR outweigh the others:

The kind of yeast culture or "starter" used along with proper fermentation technique

All other factors pale in comparison to these 3. I know that people fuss over the brand of flour, the kind of sauce, etc. I discuss all of these things, but if you don't have the 3 fundamentals above handled, you will be limited.

1- It's all in the crust. My dough is just water, salt, flour and yeast. I use no dough conditioners, sugars, oils, malts, corn meal, flavorings or anything else. These violate the "Vera Pizza Napoletana" rules and I doubt that Patsy's or any great brick oven place uses these things. I've only recently begun to measure the actual "baker's percents" of the ingredients. Use this awesome spreadsheet to help you. The sheet allows you to track your experiments. Here's a basic set of ratios. The truth is that a lot of these recipes look the same and that you can vary these ingredients by several percentage points and it's not going to make a huge difference. You really have to learn the technique, which I'm going to explain in as much detail as I can, and then go by feel. Really, I just measure the water and salt and the rest is pretty flexible. The amount of flour is really, "add until it feels right." The amount of Sourdough starter can range from 3% to 20% and not affect the end product all that much. Weights are in grams. I also show this as both "Baker's Percents" (This has flour as 100% by definition and then all the other ingredients as their proportionate weight against of the flour) and using the Italian method which actually makes more sense to me, of showing the base as 1000 grams of water and all the other ingredients in proportion to that. Both methods are attempts to make the recipes scalable. Note that the addition of the poolish, which is half water, half flour, actually makes this a bit wetter, around 65% hydration . Note that this table had an error on it which was corrected on 11/30/06:

Ingredient 1 Pie 3 Pies 5 Pies Baker's % Grams Per Liter of Water
Filtered Water 110.00 330.00 550.00 65.50% 1,000
King Arthur Bread flour, or Caputo Pizzeria flour 168.00 510.00 850.00 100.00% 1,527
Kosher or Sea Salt 6.00 18.00 30.00 3.50% 55
Sourdough yeast culture (as a battery poolish) 15.00 45.00 60.00 9.00% 136
Instant Dry yeast - Optional 0.50 1.50 2.50 0.25% 4.50
Total 299.50

If you use Caputo or any 00 flour, you may find that it takes a lot more flour for the given amount of water. Probably a baker's % of 60% or so. One reason I like to feel the dough rather than strictly measure the percent hydration is that with feel you don't have to worry about the type of flour so much. A Caputo and a Bread will feel the same when they are done, even though one might have 60% water and the other 65%. It's the feel that I shoot for, not the number. I vary wetness based on my heat - higher the oven temp, the wetter I want the dough.

I've heard it said that NY has the best pizza because of the water. This is a myth. Get over it. It's not the water. The water is one of a hundred factors. I filter my whole house with a huge 5 stage system, so I use that. If I didn't have that I'd spring for a $1 bottle of Dasani. That will do it too.

Salt only the final dough, never your permanent sourdough culture. For that matter, your culture is fed only water (filtered or Dasani) and flour. Never add any other kind of yeast, salt, sugar or anything else to your permanent culture.

I use a sourdough culture that I got from what is probably the best pizza in the USA - Patsy's Pizza on 117th street in NYC. The place has been there for 80 years. The 'battery poolish' is about 50/50 water and flour.

Buy the book "Classic Sourdoughs" by Ed Wood from www.sourdo.com to learn how to use a sourdough starter. The term sourdough does not necessarily mean that this has a San Francisco Sourdough flavor. The term sourdough just means any yeast other than "baker's yeast" which is what comes in the dry or cake form. There are 1000's of types of yeast. But the commercial products are all the same strain ( Saccharomyces cerevisiae) regardless of the brand you buy or whether it's dry or cake form. Commercial or "baker's yeast" gives a fast, predictable rise, but is lacking in flavor. All other yeasts are called sourdough. San Francisco sourdough is one strain. But there are 1000's of others. I doesn't have to taste sour, like San Francisco, to be called sourdough. It's just a term. You can "create your own" culture by leaving some flour water out on the counter. There are lots of kinds of yeast in the air in your kitchen right now and one of them will set up shop eventually in your flour water and begin growing. What will it taste like? Well, it's like setting a trap for an animal and waiting for dinner. It could be a pheasant. It could be a rat. You have no way of knowing. Do yourself a favor and skip this part and just buy or obtain a known high quality starter. www.sourdo.com sells strains from the world's best bakeries. I've seen many bogus things about the use of starters. A classic is that you can start a wild culture by setting out some flour, water and baker's yeast and the baker's yeast will 'attract' other yeasts. This is alchemy. It's like saying I put out dandelions and they attracted peaches. It makes no sense. Another myth is that you can get the same flavor out of packaged yeast as you can out of a sourdough culture if you handle it right. This is also alchemy. Can you get parsley to taste like thyme if you handle it right? These are distinct organism, like spices, that all have a different flavor. If you use a starter, and you should, then learn from Ed Wood.

A sourdough starter actually consists of 2 separate organisms which exist in a symbiotic relationship. There is the yeast and the lactobacilli. Here's the cliff notes version of what's happening: All flavor really comes from the lactobacilli, all the puff from yeast. The yeast operate well at high temp. The lactobacilli at any temp. Therefore, to develop highly flavored dough put it in the fridge. The yeast will be mostly dormant, giving time for the lactobacilli to produce flavor. The flavor takes a day or more. So you have to keep the yeast on ice that long. Then you take it out of the fridge and let the yeast take over and produce gas. The yeast only needs an hour or two to do this part. This can happen very quickly in a warmer. There is no need for a gradual rise, because at this point the flavor is there. You can smell the alcohol in the dough. The yeast are just adding the bubbles at this point. This technique of refrigeration is called a "cold rise". There are warm rise methods that work too, but I have not gotten the best results with them after numerous attempts. In Naples they virtually all use a warm rise, so I don't doubt the technique can be made to work well. I may revisit this section later.

The lactobacilli and yeast exist in pairs. Not every flavorful lactobacilli has a competent yeast partner. You may find that you've got a culture that has a great flavor, but the puff is not there. No problem. Give it a boost with plain old Baker's yeast, which has little taste but plenty of puff. I use 1/8 teaspoon of instant dry yeast for each batch of 3-5 pies, to give it an extra rise, but 100% of the flavor is from the Patsy's culture.

There are 2 ways to ferment the dough: you can use a 'warm rise' or a 'cold rise'. The warm rise is harder. You simply leave it out at room temp and wait for it to rise. This is hard to control because it could take 10 hours or 24 hours. Tiny, tiny variations in room temp and the amount of yeast you started with will make all the difference. And if it's not risen optimally when you use it, the dough may end up flat and lacking in oven spring. So timing a pizza party this way is hard. By far the easier way to ferment the dough is the cold rise. And the results are just as good if not better. I prefer to age my dough at least 2-3 days in the fridge. I've aged it up to 6 days with good results. However, my culture is very mild. With some cultures 24 hours is the right amount of time and 2 days would be too much.. You have to get to know your culture. They are all different.. 24 hours is the minimum with a cold rise. There's more on this technique down below.

2- Flour: There is a lot of emphasis put on using the right type of flour. Personally, I think this focus is misplaced. Of course, it's important to use high quality ingredients. But improving your dough making technique is much, much more important than hunting down the exact right type of flour. The truth is that almost all flours sold are pretty high quality especially compared to what was available 60 years ago when Patsy Lancieri was making amazing pizza. That alone should tell you something. I currently use either using King Arthur Bread Flour or a blend of this with Caputo Pizzeria flour. I actually think that you can buy any bread flour available at your local supermarket and you'll be ok.

Let me give you a quick flour primer. You can do a lot more internet research if you want, but here's the basics. There are two variables I want to focus on, the Percentage of Protein or 'gluten' and the type of mill. This chart will give you some typical ranges. However, there are no governing standards, so some vendors may call their flour High Gluten, for example, even though the product would fit into another category in this chart:

Giusto, King Arthur, Gold Medal, White Lily

Giusto, King Arthur, Gold Medal, White Lily

Giusto, King Arthur Sir Lancelot, Gold Medal All Trumps

Lately I've gone back to using King Arthur Bread Flour. I've used AP successfully as well. The kneading seems to be more critical. Most pizza places in NYC use Hi Gluten Flour and many internet sources insist that Hi Gluten Flour is necessary to make real NY pizza. This information sent a lot of people off ordering expensive mail order flours. However, according to pizza guru Evelyn Solomon, the old timers used flour in the 12% range, which would be a bread flour. This confirmed what my own tests had shown me all along. Bread flour from the supermarket is just fine for making pizza. It has certainly been proven that you don't need high gluten flour to make highly structured bread. Ed Wood from sourdo.com makes great artisan bread using AP. In Naples they use 00 flour which has less gluten than AP. I've had great and horrible pies with all kinds of flours from all kinds of pizzerias. And I've made great and d horrible pies with all kinds of flours myself. Kneading and overall technique is more important than the flour in my opinion.

Since putting up this site I've been urged to try other flours. I've made pies with at least 20 flours including these:

King Arthur All Purpose (KA AP) - 11.7% Protein

King Arthur Bread (KA Bread) - 12.7% protein

King Arthur Sir Lancelot (KASL) aka Hi Gluten - 14.2% Protein

Gold Medal Bread Flour (formerly labeled Harvest King) - 12.5% protein

Caputo Pizzeria 00 (11.5%, but also a finer mill)

Giusto's Artisan Unbleached - 11-11.5% protein

White Lily Bread Flour - 12.5 % protein

I can make a nearly identical pie with any of these except for the Italian 00 flour. It's mostly technique. I'm not saying that the type of flour makes no difference, but I am saying that it's a small difference and I've had great pies from restaurants with varying types of flour. Don't get too hung up on it. One is not 'better' than the other, it depends on the style you want. Currently I use a 50/50 blend of Caputo and KA Bread. Caputo gives bigger bubbles and a lighter spring. But I prefer to mix it with Bread flour to give it more strength. In Naples, the dough is very soft and hard to hold and often eaten with a knife and fork. NY street pizza is easily folded and held. They typically use a strong Hi Gluten Flour. My pies are closer to the Neapolitan, but not quite. You can still hold it, but sometimes it flops a bit at the tip.

The 00 has a finer mill and also it will absorb much less water than the other flours. The 00 flour really is quite different than the others. If you are baking at under 750F, you should really not use 00. It will never brown and you'll have much more luck with another flour.

The ratio of Flour and water can dramatically change the characteristics of the dough. Having said that though, I don't measure my "% hydration". I do it strictly by feel. Lately my dough has been much much wetter than ever before. Wetter dough stretches easier with less pull back. It seems to develop faster in the fridge. And it provides more steam for more puff in the final baked crust. The higher the temperature of the oven, the wetter the dough should be. At super high heats needed to make a pie in 2 minutes or less, you need a lot of moisture to keep it from burning and sticking to the baking surface.

3- Kneading - This is one of the most important steps. Follow along carefully. There are 100 recipes on the net that say you dump all the ingredients together, turn the machine on and you will have a great dough. It's not true. But once you understand these steps your dough will transform into something smooth and amazing.

Kitchen Aid Mixer vs. Electrolux DLX mixer:

I started a little revolution on PizzaMaking.com when I dumped by Kitchen Aid Mixer and bought an Electrolux DLX mixer. The DLX is a MUCH better machine. However, if you follow ALL the techniques here, you can get a good dough out of a Kitchen Aid. The DLX is easier to use. You can make a dozen pies or more in it at a clip, no problem. And you can really just let it do it's work alone. With the KA you sometimes have to stop it and pull the dough off the hook and continue. So I like the DLX. But I know many of you have already bought Kitchen Aids. As long as you follow the process carefully, you should be OK. The DLX takes a while to get used to, but now I'm really rocking with it. See Dough.htm for early experiments. Join groups.yahoo.com/group/Mixer-Owners for info on the DLX and how to use it. I use a DLX with the Roller and Scrapper attachments. I will put up photos of this process at some point. Some one else has posted a video of a DLX

The Wet-Kneading Technique with Autolyse

I call this process Wet-Kneading. It's the key to great dough:

Autolyse - Autolyse is a fancy word that just means one simple thing. The flour and water should sit together for at least 20 minutes before kneading begins. It's a CRITICAL step. Some say that you should mix just the flour and water together, then after 20 minutes add the salt and yeast, then mix. Others say you can add all the ingredients at the beginning. I have found very little difference.

Pour all the ingredients into the mixer, except just use 75% of the flour for now. So all of the water, salt, poolish (Video of Poolish), Instant dry Yeast (if used) and 75% of the flour are put into the mixer. Everything should be room temperature or a bit cooler.

There is no need to dissolve the yeast in warm water or feed it sugar. 'Proofing' the yeast was probably required decades ago, but I've never had yeast that didn't activate. The yeast feeds on the flour so you don't need to put in sugar. The proofing step that you see in many recipes is really an old wives tale at this point.

Mix on lowest speed for 1-2 minutes or until completely blended. At this stage you should have a mix that is drier than a batter, but wetter than a dough. Closer to batter probably.

Cover and Let it rest for 20 minutes. One of the most important things I've found is that these rest periods have a huge impact on the final product. I've seen so much arguing online about the proper flour for making pizza. "You need super high protein flour to get the right structure for a pizza dough". People argue endlessly about brands and minor changes in flour blends, types of water, etc. A lot of this is myth and a big waste of time. The autolyse period is FAR more important to creating structured gluten development than is the starting protein percentage. Autolyse and knead properly and AP flour will produce a great pizza with a lot of structure. Do these steps poorly and bread or high gluten flour will not help you at ALL. This step reminds me of mixing pie dough. After you add the water to pie dough, it's crumbly. But after sitting for 20 minutes, it's a dough. The water takes time to soak in, and when it does it transforms the pie dough. It's really a similar thing here with pizza dough

Start Mixing on Low speed for 8 minutes. 5 minutes into it start adding flour gradually.

This part is critical and it's something that I did not understand at all until relatively recently: Even if the dough is very sticky - that is it does not have enough flour in it to form a ball and it is still halfway between a batter and a dough - it is still working. This is where MOST of the kneading occurs. The gluten IS working at this point even though it's not a dough yet.

If you are using a KA, and you lift the hook, the dough should fall off by itself. The hook should look like its going through the dough, and not pushing the dough around. It should be that wet until nearly the end.

With the DLX you can play with the scrapper and the roller, pressing them together to allow the dough to extrude through the gaps. This really works the dough. The DLX mechanism is totally different than a regular mixer.

After the first 6-8 minutes increase the speed of the mixer slightly. I never go higher than 1/3 of the dial on my mixer. Keep in mind that in the old days they mixed this by hand (Anthony at Una Pizza Napoletana in NYC still does). You should add most of the remaining flour. But you still want a very wet dough, so don't go crazy.

At some point during this process the dough should be getting much firmer and should form more of a ball. Mix another minute or so a this stage You may find that the dough is sticking to the roller /hook and not really working too much at this point. This is why it's so important to do most of the mixing at the earlier, wetter stages. Once the dough is at this point, it is done. My recommendation is this: DON'T BE A SLAVE TO RECIPES AND PERCENTAGES . It's fine to use the spreadsheet or other measures as a guideline, but you have to judge how much flour goes into the dough by feeling it. Do NOT force more flour into the mix just to reach a number. If the dough feels good and soft and you still have flour you have not put in, don't sweat it. Leave it out. In the end you need a wet dough. In fact, even the dough has formed more of ball, if you let it sit, it should spread out a little and look a little limp. This is what you want, not a tight ball, but a slack, wet soft dough.

One of the best ways to see how your dough is doing is to sprinkle a little flour on in and just feel it. It should feel baby bottom soft. If you don't sprinkle flour it will just feel sticky and not look smooth. But sprinkle a tiny bit of flour and now its soft and smooth. This is what you want. This is a much gentler recipe than most and it shows in the final dough.

With Hi Gluten flours a commercial mixer and a dry dough, you will find that the dough is tough to work and consequently both the machine and the dough will get very hot. Commercial bakers compensate by starting with cool water and by measuring the temperature of the dough as they go. The procedures I'm outlining don't require this. The wet knead technique and the lower protein all but eliminates the friction. You can expect the dough to heat only about 3-4 F while mixing, so it's not an issue.

Let it rest for 15-20 minutes. If you were to do a window pane test before the rest, you might be disappointed. Afterwards it will test well:

Much talk on the web says that the dough's extensibility/elasticity will be affected by how long the dough rises and at what temp and the kind of yeast. In my opinion, these are very, very minor factors. The mixing/kneading process and the hydration are 90% of the battle. After the dough has been kneaded and rested for a few minutes, the deed is done. It's either going to spread well or it isn't. You can't fix it that much at this point by adjusting rise times and temps. If you find that your dough is not extensible enough or rips when you stretch it, odds are HIGH that it has not been autolysed long enough, not kneaded well enough and/or it's too dry. If you are using a Kitchen Aid Mixer you may notice that the ball sticks to the hook and kind of just spins around and doesn't seem to be really working. Mixing an extra 20 minutes seems to do nothing because it's just spinning helplessly on the hook. Ugh. Mix at a wetter more pliable stage and you can fix this problem

Pour out onto a floured surface and portion into balls with a scrapper. I use a digital scale. The dough at this point should be extremely soft and highly elastic. I use 310g per 13" pie. The more elastic the dough, the less you need.

I store the dough in individual 5 cup Glad plastic containers as you see below. I wipe them with an oiled paper towel - super thin coating. This will help them come out of the container. But I don't want any oil in the dough. The rules for "Vera Pizza Napoletana" say no oil. I probably have literally one or two drops per ball. Oil the container and not the dough. You only need a drop or two of oil cover a whole container - you can kind of polish it with oil using a paper towel. In contrast, you'd need a teaspoon to oil the dough because you can't spread it so thin. Also the ball would probably need oil on both sides, which is bad because by oiling the top of the dough (which will end up being the bottom of the pizza), you are going to get oil on your pizza stone which will burn at high temps in an unpleasant way. Since you want to minimize the amount of oil, oil the container. For similar reasons, I don't use zip loc bags. Use a container.

How wet should the dough be? I think many will be surprised to see just how wet I have my dough. With each of these, you can click the photo to enlarge. I'm showing these because I want you to get a sense of how that dough should look and feel. This high level of hydration is not necessarily best for low temperature ovens. But if you are cooking at 800F, like Patsy's, this is what you want:

This dough has rested for 20 minutes in my DLX mixer. You can see how wet it is. This is enough for 6 balls of dough.

It almost pours out (with a little push from a spatula). But you can see how easily it stretches and how wet it still is. I don't know the %hydration of this dough but it is 65% or higher, I'm sure.

This is the unshaped mass. Next I sprinkle a little bit of flour on it and knead it by hand for 30 seconds, just to reshape it.


In just a few seconds it looks totally different. The outside is drier because it has been sprinkled with flour. Inside it is still very wet and as I cut it with a dough scrapper into balls, I have to sprinkle a little more, just to keep it from sticking to my hands.


I cut it and put it into these easy to find Glad containers. They cost about $1 each at the supermarket..
I've got like 15 of them. They are perfectly sized for individual dough's. I strongly prefer these to plastic bags. They are sealable and that keeps in the moisture. They stack easily in the fridge, and the dough comes out easily and without deflating the dough in the process. I spread the container with a drop or two of olive oil.

This is how the final ball looks when it goes into the fridge


I let them rest another 10 minutes, then put them in the Fridge for 1-6 days. If your dough is very wet it may start out as a nice looking tight ball, but over time in the fridge it looks like it's sinking into a disk. This may appear worrisome. When you see dough sinking there may be several causes. Dough that is 'slack' - overworked and/or old, will sink like this. But if you've followed these instructions this is not the reason your dough is sinking. The sinking is caused by the fact that the dough is very wet. Don't worry about it. It's probably going to be very good.

This is the dough several days later. It's been sitting out warming up for about an hour. Notice that it has not risen that much. It does have more volume - probably about 50% more than the dough above. But it's also changed shape - it's so wet and soft and when it rises it kind of just spreads out. This is what you want. This dough is ready for baking.

Most recipes say that the dough should double in size. This is WAY too much. In total the dough should expand by about 50% in volume. It would seem like the more yeast bubbles in the dough, the lighter the pizza will be. This is the intuitive guess. But it's not true. The yeast starts the bubbles, but it's really steam that blows the bubbles up. If the yeast creates bubbles that are too big, they become weak and simply pop when the steam comes resulting in a flat dense, less springy crust. Think of blowing a bubble with bubble gum. How tight is a 2 inch bubble? It depends: As you start with a small bubble and blow it up to 2 inches it's strong and tight. But at 4 inches it's reached it's peak.. Now if it shrinks back to 2 inches, it'll be very weak. So a 2 inch bubble is strong on the way up and weak on the way down. You want bubbles on the way up. If the dough is risen high, the bubbles are big and the dough will have a weaker structure and will collapse when heat creates steam. The lightest crust will come from a wet dough (wet = a lot of steam), with a modest amount of rise (bubbles formed, but small and strong). Some people start with a warm rise for 6 hours or so, and then move the dough to the fridge. I'm not a huge fan of this method. Once the bubbles are formed, I don't want the dough to get cold and have the bubbles shrink. This weakens their structure. What you want is a steady slow rise, with no reversals. Always expanding, just very, very slowly.

My oven takes about 80 minutes to heat up. The dough finishes rising in about the same time. So I take the dough out and start the oven at the same time. 80 minutes might seem like a fast rise, but the real development is done in the fridge. Here is where experience will make a difference - I look at my dough a few hours before bake time and I make an assessment. If the dough has not risen much in the fridge I will take it out earlier than 80 minutes. If it's risen too much, I leave it in the fridge till a few minutes before bake. It really takes a good eye. You can make a last minute adjustment to speed it up by warming it. Before I turn my bottom oven on the cleaning cycle, I warm up my top oven to about 95F. If I think I need to speed up the dough, I can then place it in the 95F environment for while before baking. It's a little harder to make an adjustment the other way. If I find that it's rising too fast and my oven won't be ready for an hour, I'm kind of out of luck. I could chill it, but it's going to weaken if I do that. So I try to err on the side where I still have some control.

The softer the dough, the faster the rise. It's simply easier for small amounts of carbon dioxide to push up on a softer dough. If the dough falls a little after rising, you've waited too long and you will find it's past it's prime. Ideally you should use it well before it's at it's peak. This takes experience. You are better off working with a dough that is under risen, than over risen.

Over risen dough (don't do this).


When you spread the dough, you will find that it's not great for spinning over your head. It would have been really great at this when you first did the windowpane test. But now that it has risen it's soft like butter and just stretches easily. Don't worry about the spin. If you want to impress everyone with spin, make a drier dough with a hi gluten flour and more salt and let it age for just a few hours and you can spin all you want.

Never use a rolling pin or knead the dough or man handle it. You are just popping the bubbles and will have a flat dough.

Build a little rim for yourself with your fingers,. then spread the dough. Can you see how smooth this dough looks?

Spread the dough on the counter and then move to the peel. Marble is the perfect surface for spreading dough. One goal is to use very little bench flour, especially if you are cooking over 800F. At high temps, the flour will turn bitter, so you are better off shaping on the counter, then moving to the peel, which will result in less bench flour. With a very wet dough this takes some practice. You don't necessarily have to use a lot of bench flour, but it does have to be even. You don't want the dough sticking to the peel, of course. I put flour in a bowl and dunk the dough lightly, getting all sides including the edge, then move it to the granite counter. I put just a tiny amount on the peel, which I spread evenly with my hands. When I move from the counter to the peel, most of the flour on the dough shakes off.. Once on the peel, shake it every once in a while to make sure the dough is not stuck. Always shake it just before placing it in the oven, otherwise you may find that it's stuck to the peel and falling off unevenly onto the stone. At that point you probably can't recover well and you'll make a mess. So always shake just beforehand. When I make the pie, I work quickly, so as not to let the moisture in the dough come out through the tiny dry flour coating. Then, and this is important, I shake the peel prior to putting it in the oven, just to make certain it's loose. In fact, you can shake it at any time during the process. If you are taking too long to put on the toppings or there is some delay, shake again. Make sure it never sticks. Don't resort to using too much flour or any cornmeal or semolina. It just takes practice to use very little flour, yet still keep it from sticking.

If you've made the dough correctly you should be able to spread it with no problem. If it is pulling back on you and trying to shrink, you have not mixed it enough. If you've done half the steps above, you should not be experiencing this problem at all though.

You can spread the dough a bit at a time. Do it half way, then wait 10-15 seconds, then spread a little more, then a little more. Be gentle with it.

This photo is from the same pie as this one. This pie was very interesting for many reasons. Although I have a lot of practice handling wet dough, this is the first time I've tried to hand knead in at least 5 years.

I started in bowl with 75% of the Flour (KA Bread), the salt, water, poolish and a pinch of IDY. I did a 12 minute autolyse, 6 minute hand mix with a spoon, adding flour along the way and 15 minute post mix rest. Then I hand kneaded for 1 minute. Did another 5 minute rest (It didn't feel smooth, so I wanted to rest it again), then another 30 second hand knead, then shape. I'm guessing it was a 65-66% hydration, same as the dough photos above. I know that is very high for a hand kneaded dough and it takes some practice. But it didn't stick to my hands at all because I've gotten used to how to handle high hydration dough. The trick is to keep the outside dry with just the thinnest coating of flour. Actually, I only keep the side near my hands coated, the other side is wet. Then I pull the dough expanding the dry side and close it in towards the wet side. This is repeated over and over. As the dry side stretches, it gets a little wetter, then your just dip in in flour again and continue. This baked for 1:40. The cheese, unfortunately, was Polly-O dry mozz as I was desperate.

4- The Oven: I've got my oven cranked up to over 800 F. Use this section with caution: i.e. no lawyers please. I'm just telling you here what I did. I'm not telling you what you should do. You are responsible for whatever you choose to do. In Naples, Italy they have been cooking pizza at very high temperatures for a long time. There are some real physics going on here. The tradition is to cook with a brick oven. I don't have a brick oven. So this is what I do:

On most ovens the electronics won't let you go above 500F, about 300 degrees short of what is needed. (Try baking cookies at 75 instead of 375 and see how it goes). The heat is needed to quickly char the crust before it has a chance to dry out and turn into a biscuit. At this temp the pizza takes 2 - 3 min to cook (a diff of only 25F can change the cook time by 50%). It is charred, yet soft. At 500F it takes 20 minutes to get only blond in color and any more time in the oven and it will dry out. I've cook good pizzas at temps under 725F, but never a great one. The cabinet of most ovens is obviously designed for serious heat because the cleaning cycle will top out at over 975 which is the max reading on my Raytec digital infrared thermometer. The outside of the cabinet doesn't even get up to 85F when the oven is at 800 inside. So I clipped off the lock using garden shears so I could run it on the cleaning cycle. I pushed a piece of aluminum foil into the door latch (the door light switch) so that electronics don't think I've broken some rule by opening the door when it thinks it's locked. Brick ovens are domed shaped. Heat rises. There is more heat on top than on the bottom. A brick oven with a floor of 800F might have a ceiling of 1200F or more, just a foot above. This is essential. The top of the pizza is wet and not in direct contact with the stone, so it will cook slower. Therefore, to cook evenly, the top of the oven should be hotter than the stone. To achieve this, I cover the pizza stone top and bottom with loose fitting foil. This keeps it cool as the rest of the oven heats up. When I take a digital read of the stone, I point it at the foil and it actually reads the heat reflected from the top of the oven. When it hits 850, I take the foil off the top with tongs and then read the stone. It's about 700-725. Now I make my pizza. As I prep, the oven will get up to 800Floor, 900+ Top. Perfect for pizza. Different ovens have different heat distributions. I experimented extensively with foil to redistribute the heat. I tried using one layer, multiple layers and I adjusted the amount I used on the top and the bottom. I also played with using the shiny side up or down, etc. Eventually, I worked out a simple system for myself. Some have tried to get high heat using a grill. This can produce high heat, but all from the bottom. One could adjust the differential, by playing games with foil. But an oven with heat from above is better.

The exact temp needed depends on the type of flour and the amount of water. The more protein, the quicker it burns. Hi Gluten flour may burn at these temps. In general, I recommend higher gluten flours for lower temp ovens. This will yield a more NYC style pie. For a more Neapolitan pie I recommend lower protein flours and a hotter oven. I use Bread rather than KASL at these high temps. Caputo Pizzeria 00 flour has even less protein than KA bread. See my report below. Also the drier it is the more it burns. So in general, at high temps you need a very wet dough.

I make sure that I cover any oven glass loosely with 2 layers of foil because it will shatter if a drop of sauce gets on it. With the foil it's fine. I make sure the foil is loose. If it's fitted to the glass, it will transfer heat too quickly and the glass is still in jeopardy. Another problem is that once the cleaning cycle starts, it just pumps heat into the oven and I can't reduce the temp. If I get a late start (my guests are late or my dough needs another 30 minutes to rise), I can't just shut off the oven and then start it up again in 15 minutes. Once I cancel the cleaning cycle, I can't start it up again until the oven cools below 500F (at least on my Kitchen Aid oven). Therefore I have to wait and cycle back around. It's like an hour ordeal. But I have worked around these issues and I now have enough experience that I can pretty much control my temperature. I can cool the stone, for example, by placing a metal sheet pan on it for a minute or so. It will absorb a tremendous amount of heat very quickly. I never do this with Teflon which releases unseen toxic chemicals over 600F. I Remove this pan with the peel, rather than with oven mitts to prevent burns. Occasionally I also place something in the door jam, like a meat mallet, for a few minutes to let heat out.

Brick Oven vs. Other Ovens : I have a list of my favorite pizza restaurants at the bottom. All but one of these use coal fired brick ovens. But interestingly, the number 1 place uses a regular old gas fired oven that you see in any pizza store in NYC. This is Johnny's in Mt. Vernon, NY. Worth a pilgrimage for sure. They also use dry sliced Mozzarella instead of fresh. Go figure. That place is an enigma. They are also very secretive. I can tell you they definitely use a sourdough culture because I obtained it from pizza place across the street (yeasts can take over a neighborhood) but it died out. I'm going to get it again someday.

Mmmmm. You don't need a brick oven to perfectly char a pizza. This was done in an electric.

Patsy's is #2 on my list. It used to be #1 but my last 3 trips to were disappointing. There is a new guy working the oven and the pies are coming out like dry crispy flatbreads. It was NOT good. And I saw a review in a magazine that had a photo of a Patsy's pie and that one also looked dry and crispy and the article even described it that way. Yuck!. The reviewer at SliceNY.com also mentioned that he might downgrade Patsy's if they slip any more . So this means that Johnny's, which used to be tied with Patsy's, now sits alone at the top of my list. I've got it as Johnny's, Patsy's, Sally's, Luzzo's, Una Pizza Napoletana, me, then Sac's. Frankly, if they don't shoot the new cook, Patsy's could drop from my top 5 because right now it's resting on it's laurels. Lombardi's is just OK in my book. Nods for history, but too thick and gummy. Grimaldi's and John's are not in my top 10 either. But the original Totonno's is up there somewhere.

Back to the Brick oven thing. I once bought a Patsy's dough and rushed it home to my oven in Atlanta and baked it. The dough itself was incredible. It was the most windowpaning, blistering and elastic dough I've ever seen, by a wide margin. Very impressive. But when I baked it, it was just ok. It tasted a little flat. It had less of a charred flavor even though it had a charred color. It actually tasted exactly like my own pies tasted at that time. By that was a long time ago. My own latest pies have overcome a lot of this. I'm aging my dough longer than Patsy's and I think that is making up for some of the difference. My opinion is that the coal and the fire adds about 10-20% but the rest is the heat distribution. If you can get that right in a regular oven, you are going to be thrilled with the results. Johnny's proves this beyond a shadow of a doubt. My latest pies are nearly perfect too. Some of these pies look & tasted just like a Patsy's pie, I'm not sure you could tell the difference. And believe me, I notice small differences or I wouldn't have come this far. These latest pies are really, really close. The photos above, as well as those below are good examples. I can't get advantages of the brick oven, but I make up for it by aging the dough longer and this imparts extra flavor.

Of course, if you do have access to brick oven, especially one that uses coal, by all means use it. But LEARN to use it. I've seen too many brick oven places that make terrible pizza. Why? Because they think that having the oven is all they need to do. You still have to have everything else right. And I've even seen brick ovens where the heat is not right. I just saw a place with a Brick oven that had it set to 395F. Such a total waste of time. The oven does not work by magically transmitting brick flavor into the dough. It works by generating more heat than a regular oven. At least that's 90% of it. Yes there is a dryness to the wood burning and a smokiness and these are advantages of a brick oven. But mostly it's the super high heat that is important. Go the extra mile and get yourself the right digital thermometer and work the oven correctly. This will take a lot of practice. Check out Frankie G's cool brick oven and video.

My first Brick Oven Experience : I just tried a friend's brick oven. We had a lot of trouble holding the temp right and most of the pies were cooked at 500-600F. So I'm not done experimenting yet. But I can say this: a 7 minute pie in a brick oven does taste better than a 7 min pie in an electric. So there definitely is something good going on in that oven. It has to do with the dryness of the bake. I will post more on this as I make progress.

Dec 2006: I've now made 5 Brick oven batches. I'll fill in more detail later, but here's a photo of a 57 second pie. It looks pretty cool, but it was by no means my favorite pie:

5- I use a Raytec digital thermometer. I notice that every spot in my oven is a different temperature. I've learned what's going on inside. These brands are much cheaper than the Raytec. I haven't used them, but they look fine to me and are much cheaper, under $60:

6- Dry mozzarella cheese : This step is totally optional and I don't do this anymore. Early on I was having problems with my mozzarella cheese breaking down due to the high heat. I was also having problems with the sauce sogging up the dough. So I used dry boars head mozzarella, sliced on a machine under the sauce. This protected the dough. But I've since improved both my sauce and wet mozzarella management so I don't use dry cheese anymore. However, I should note that the only pie that I've tasted that might actually be better than Patsy's is Johnny's in Mt. Vernon. They use only dry sliced cheese. I'm not sure of the brand, but it is fantastic. Patsy's does not use this step, nor is it true Neapolitan.

7- Lay fresh basil right on the dry cheese or sauce. It's important that the leaves get a bit wet or they'll just burn. Just tap the tops with the bottom of the sauce spoon to moisten. Basil is great fresh out of an herb garden. I will post more on this someday. Don't wash your basil. It just kills it.

You can put the basil on before the pie bakes or after

8 - Sauce: For years I was so focused on the dough that I let the sauce lapse. I just didn't do much with it. But now I feel that my dough is consistently great, I have focused more on the sauce and it has really transformed into something wonderful. The key step is something I call 'Tomato Rinsing".

But first let's start with the tomatoes themselves. There is a lot of talk about buying tomatoes grown in the San Marzano Valley which has rich volcanic soil. Others claim the region is now polluted. I don't know. All I know is what I taste. I've not been too impressed with San Marzanos I've tried. These are in rough order with the best at the top.


Ingredients

New York-style pizza has more ingredients than a traditional Neapolitan pizza. Sugar and olive oil are usually added to high-gluten bread flour, yeast, and water to create the dough, which is hand-tossed. Some people say the unique flavor and texture of the crust occurs because of the minerals that are only found in NYC’s tap water.

The heavily-seasoned cooked tomato sauce is typically made of olive oil, canned tomatoes, garlic, sugar, salt, and herbs like oregano, basil, and crushed red pepper, as opposed to the simple Neapolitan sauce, made from uncooked crushed tomatoes and salt. The cheese is always grated low-moisture mozzarella, not the fresh slices you’ll find on Neapolitan-style pizza.

As mentioned above, New York-style pizzas can have additional toppings like any number of vegetables, meats such as pepperoni and sausage, or other kinds of cheese on top of the mozzarella.

Common condiments to put on top of a slice after it comes out of the oven include garlic powder, crushed red pepper, dried oregano, and grated Parmesan cheese.


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