Pizza. It is one of the world’s most perfect foods. It puts the capital ‘C’ in comfort food. Why is it that just a few simple ingredients representing a paltry number of food groups can make a simple meal so complete? Okay, yes, a salad is nice too, but really, all you need is that pizza.
Let’s dissect: crust, sauce, cheese…and the toppings; so, so many options. When I lived in New York City in the ’80s, my brother came to visit and I took him to Ray’s, New York’s legendary pizzeria. It was about the time broccoli became a “thing” on pies. My brother could not believe it. What the hell was broccoli doing on pizza? What can I say? We grew up in Ohio. No offense Ohio peeps – it’s just that in the midwest we are all about the meat lovers experience. And I will be the first to admit to a full appreciation for a sausage and mushroom, thick and chewy crust concoction.
But now…now there is pizza topped with goat cheese, layered with ham and pineapple, caramelized onions, fresh basil and buffalo mozzarella anyone? There is a local pizza place here in Jersey that makes organic flat bread pizza with your choice of organic toppings. And the variations seem endless. California Pizza Kitchen boasts a Thai pizza with a Thai peanut sauce, peanuts, green onions, chicken, carrots and sprouts. They do a Greek pizza with feta, kalamata olives and red onions that is a salad and a pizza in one.
But what about dessert? This is a bakery blog after all. Dessert pizza is definitely a thing, and why not? Fruit sauce, chocolate chips, whipped cream, jam, chocolate sauce. A slice of heaven.
And there’s just something about pizza that brings you right back home, whether you live in your hometown or far away. When I went back to Cleveland a couple of months ago, one of the first things I needed to do was order a sausage and mushroom pizza from Farrinacci’s. It’s been there forever and the pizza is every bit as good now as it was back when my friends and I went there every Friday night after a high school football game.
Ordering pizza is easy, all American and a tradition in families who observe a weekly Pizza Night. But making it? Even better. My kids love building their own pies. I either make my own dough in the bread machine, or buy it frozen at the grocery store or local bakery. Have you ever tried grilling it? The legendary Wolfgang Puck of Spago restaurant in LA was one of the first to popularize grilled pizza and now it’s being done on backyard barbecues everywhere.
I don’t know about you, but I think the pizza possibilities are pretty much endless. The pizza pie in the sky’s the limit? Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
So here are some of my favorite purveyors of pizza pie perfection. What are some of yours?
1. Ray’s Famous Pizza – NYC – Thin crust and so greasy, you’ll need to sop it all up with an entire wad of those little napkins they keep in those dispensers on the little round tables you stand at in the store.
2. California Pizza Kitchen – California and now everywhere – Thin crust, thick, a variety of toppings and…you can get the frozen version in some supermarkets and at Target.
3. Federici’s – New Jersey – The Federici family has been serving up their signature thin crust, family recipe sauce in Springsteen’s hometown of Freehold, New Jersey for generations. The late great Danny Federici of The E Street Band was part of this culinary clan.
4. Pizzeria Uno – Chicago deep dish is legendary. I love it. I know there’s kind of a Thin Crust vs. Deep Dish ongoing debate going on in the world, but I say there’s room for everybody and a big gooey slice of deep dish is what it’s all about for me. If you don’t have an Uno near you, try making one in a cast iron skillet. You’ll get great results, I promise.
5. Spumoni Gardens – Brooklyn, NY – This place has gotten a lot of media attention for their unconventional pizza building style. They put a layer of cheese atop the dough and load the sauce on top of that, followed by generous amounts of meat. I’ve never been there, but I want to check it out someday, and I’m including it here the buzz I hear about it is that it’s a must-try for pizza lovers.