Pizza

Notable dishes of 2012: the 2014 edition

File under: better late than never?

Try as I may to muster the energy to leave the warm, cozy house on this freezing cold day, I'm finding there are many obstacles. Not least of all being screwing around on the computer, looking through some old photos. I noticed that I have a couple blurry pictures of food, and figured "Hey, why waste these beauties on just me. I'll make another list!"

I kinda like putting together lists. Any sort of non-list post takes a lot of effort, although you probably wouldn't believe it if you read any of mine. The list-oriented posts are super easy, because let's face it, people have low to zero expectations with a list. They just want to see the list. And I have very low expectations for a list. Just show me the list. Most importantly, I'm a navel-gazer from way back, and lists provide a vehicle to look deeply into the glory that is me.

So here's the list of Notable dishes of 2012: the 2014 edition:

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Colony Grill pizza: Stamford, CT

Colony-grill-exterior
It's pretty incredible to think that itty-bitty state of Connecticut has two unique styles of pizza, when most states have zero. The New Haven style, which is perhaps the most widely known, is a close cousin to the Brooklyn style, made famous by places like Grimaldi's and Patsy's in NYC. And then there's this other thing that spawned from Stamford. It's more of a bar pie, akin to the thin crust bar pie places in Northern Jersey (Kinchley's, Star Tavern, Nellie's, et al.), with nothing in common with its New Haven cousin. We found ourselves at Colony Grill, to see what was doin'.

Colony-grill-menu
The list of toppings contains the usual traditional suspects. But Colony Grill is known for their hot oil pies, which are served with or without "stinger" peppers, which may or may not be something like serranos.  If you read the internet, you'll hear about how spicy this oil is. Well I'm here to tell you it isn't all that spicy. At least on the day we visited.

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Prosciutto and blue cheese pizza: at home, of course

Pizza-proscuitto
There are two types of mozzarella cheese I use for pizza: low-moisture mozzarella (the shrink wrapped stuff), and mozzarella di bufula. I very rarely use the very fancy sounding fior di latte (fresh mozzarella from cow's milk), for various reasons. Primarily because I don't like the way it melts. Where mozzarella di bufula turns into rich, luscious blob of cream, mingling with the tomato sauce, fior di latte just sorta almost melts, and can turn a bit rubbery.

Disdain for fior di latte on pizza be damned, I grabbed a hunk of fresh mozzarella from A Family Affair Italian Deli, in Fair Lawn, NJ, just to see what would happen on pizza (and because I wanted to try Eddie's mutz).

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A Little Slice of New Haven: Pizza, New Haven, CT

Modern_appiza

Note: this post is from 2007. I've republished it to test something. I suspect all of my brilliant insights remain valid...

A recent trip to Newport, RI, sent us right through what is purported to be the pizza capital of New England.   Yay for me.

New Haven, CT, is conveniently located right off of Interstate 95.  Easy off, easy on.  This fact pretty much answered the question of "where are we stopping to eat on the way to Newport" as well as "where are we stopping to eat on the way back from Newport." 

After some extensive googling we  determined that there are many other options, and the dividing lines are clearly drawn.  Everyone has their favorite and thinks their not-favorite "isn't as good as it used to be."  Oh for eff's sake.  We settled on Modern Apizza on the way up, and Frank Pepe's on the way back.

First the way up...

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Pizza making: at home

Pizzas
I've been using my patented dual-oven approach to pizza making for about 6 years now (accept no imitations). As I've documented, this entails leveraging two standard (electric) ovens to minimize baking times (quick bakes are preferable for pizza). The results are about the best I can expect from a standard electric oven, and I'm very pleased with the pizza.

Yesterday's dinner party (that sounds pretentious: people were over for dinner) introduced a wrinkle to this process. Having to make 8 pizzas in somewhat rapid succession dictated that I couldn't use two ovens for one pizza: I'd have to bake two at the same time.

Instead of skipping around all day long, as I generally do on pizza-making days, I was kind of moping, knowing that my patented dual-oven approach had to be abandoned for this cook.  On top of that, my dough wasn't springing to life as much as I was hoping. I used less sourdough starter than usual, and ta boot, didn't get the dough out of the fridge as early as I should have. I generally want the dough out of the fridge 12 hours before baking.

All of the concerns ended up being for naught, because while these weren't the best pies I've made, they were, in fact, f*cking amore.

Dough stuff

The dough was 63% hydration, with 5% sourdough starter. I did the typical autolyse step (mixing about 1/3 of the flour with the water and letting stand for 20 minutes). Then added the salt, starter, and remaining flour, and mixed until it was just coming together. No need to mix too much when you're putting it down in the fridge for a few days (3 days is standard for me).

Oven stuff

The ovens were, as usual, preheated for over an hour, at 550, each with a stone about 3-4 inches from the top (second rack, in mine). Once the ovens got to temp, the oven doors were opened to cool the air down, and closed again so the oven would continue to heat. And repeat. This process gets the stones good and hot, since the air cools down quickly, causing the oven to cycle back on, adding more energy to the stones.

The stones were about 640 degrees for the first pies (and slightly less as the pies went on).

The pizze were done in about 3.5 minutes. Not wood-burning oven times, and not even the dual-oven times, but pretty damned fast. A surprisingly even cook on the bottom and top, as well.

The pictures are not pretty, as I snapped quick shots with my phone, but here are the pies in their full-sized iPhone glory:

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Biagio Wood-fired Pizza: Red Bank, NJ [CLOSED]

Biagio-pizza

Update: Biagio's Facebook Page notes that they are closed.

 

There's a whole lot going on in Red Bank. Steakhouses, Vietnamese, shopping, lots of parking, wine shops a record store with actual records. Who knew?

A t:e reader recently asked for some Red Bank recs, which led me to some googling, which led me to the realization that there's a restaurant making Neapolitan-style pizza. Biagio. It went on the list immediately.

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Zero Otto Nove: Arthur Ave, The Bronx NY

Pizza
That's 089 to you.

Without any planning or research, we stopped by the famed Arthur Ave on the way back from a sweaty and ape-filled day at the Bronx Zoo. A last minute rec came over the FaceBook wire, directed to the missus (the one of us who has friends), suggesting we eat at Zero Otto Nove. A message no doubt along the lines of "OMG it's to die for." Hard to argue with that type of feedback.

They hadn't yet opened when we arrived at 4 pm, so we killed some time walking around, primarily trying to find a restroom. Can't say I was paying much attention to anything else on this first trip to Arthur Ave.

At 5 pm we went back to Zero Otto Nove, and, incredibly, the place was packed. I think we snagged the last table.

Inside
We were escorted down the long corridor to the back room, which is two stories high, and has a skylight, making it very bright and airy room. It's got that "just like Italy" feel. That is, if everyone in Italy wears Yankees jerseys and Italian walls have painted stairways and windows. Come on, just joshin'. It's a pleasant enough space with painted walls, and Yankees fans are simply dandy by any standard that I can come up with.

Some quick googling yielded a very dubious claim about the pizza at Zero Otto Nove. One of the NYC food critics made a claim that it was the best Neapolitan pizza in New York City. Unlikely, I thought. The reviewer didn't seem to understand Neapolitan pizza, it seemed to me. Granted, this review was a few years ago, before the explosion of very good Neapolitan pizza places opened, but at the very least, Una Pizzeria Napoletana was already open in the east village at that point, and it no doubt had better Neapolitan pizza, I can easily claim at this point.

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Dozzino: Hoboken, NJ

Dozzino-interior
Readers of my past words may have come to understand that if there's a single style of pizza that I enjoy more than any other, it's Neapolitan-style. I can certainly enjoy a properly executed NYC slice every now and again (and they are few and far between), but there's just no comparison to the glory that is a well executed Neapolitan pizza. So sure, my bias will always be at play when I talk about restaurants that do this well, and I always seek them out.

So when I heard there's Neapolitan-style pizza in Hoboken, to paraphrase Guy Fieri, well I just had to check it out. And I don't mean Grimaldi's, which 1) isn't Neapolitan-style, and 2) isn't very exceptional.

Dozzino is both.

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