October 11, 2011
I was tooling around the recently awesome Asbury Park not too long ago, when I noticed a piece of plywood with a restaurant opening announcement crudely painted on the thing. Normally this would immediately turn me off. But the sign did make claims of "Neopolitan Pizza". Misspellings on menus and signs are another thing that generally turns me off. But given I knew what they meant, and they planned on serving my favorite style of pizza, I let all of this slide.
"Porta the Door" finally opens? Hey Porta, the door finally opens? Who is Porta? Is this a party or a restaurant. What is this. I'm confused. Asbury Park is weird.
I put it on my list of places to investigate, assuming the name was "Porta the Door". At that point, however, there was nothing on the internet about this place. Fast forward a few months, and the place is open, and they've got their Facebook presence and even sorted out a website. Porta National Park, it's called. Or maybe it's called Porta Pizza. Either way, it's getting some good reviews, and their pizza carbonara is getting some specific attention on blogs and from yelpers and what have you. (Edit: my thoughts on Porta can be found here-click me.)
I've made plenty of pizze with egg and guanciale, but never really considered them to be "carbonara." I just never really went for the carbonara thing whole hog. But since the combination of egg, guanciale, black pepper, Parmiagno-reggiano, red pepper flake and parsley really appeals to me, and Porta's version is getting some good reviews, I figured I'd treat a pizza just as I would the pasta dish and give it a whirl myself. At this point I hope you've realized that I'm not posting about Porta's pizza, but rather my own.
And I'm not too modest to say that it was one of the best tasting pizzas I've ever eaten. Thank you, Porta, for the inspiration.
In northern Jersey, you can get guanciale at Fairway in Paramus. It freezes well.
For my dough, I've been using a sourdough culture, and a 50/50 mix of King Arthur bread flour and Caputo 00 flour. I shoot for about 60% hydration, and always try to let the dough ferment for at least 2 days in the fridge. 3-4 works best for me. Hell, I've gone 6 days at times.
This dough was fermenting in the fridge for about 3 days, in bulk (40 ounces).
After 6 or so hours at room temp the day of the pizza-making, the dough is portioned into 10 ounce balls for another few hours of rising, and then for this pizza, topped with a bunch of slightly sauteed guanciale, the oil that rendered from that guanciale, a bit of low-moisture mozzarella, a butt load of freshly cracked pepper and red pepper flake, and some extra virgin olive oil. The eggs go on when there's about 1 minute of cook time to go.
I use 2 standard electric ovens to cook pizza, both equipped with a pizza stone, and both preheated for at least an hour. Once the ovens come to temp and cycle off, I open the oven door, which cools down the oven, and forces it to cycle back on, thus adding more heat to the stones. The key here is that air cools more quickly than pizza stone.
The stones are well over 600 degrees, and usually over 650 degrees when the pie goes on. After 3 minutes, the bottom is nicely charred, and if necessary I'll throw the pizza in the other oven, having set the broiler in that oven on already, to finish the top. A few seconds under the broiler finishes the pie, for total cook times of less than 4 minutes, and sometimes as quickly as 3 minutes. The faster the better, for my style of pizza. The more time you cook a pizza the more the dough will dry out and the shittier the pizza will be. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Here's a Vine video of my Pizza Carbonara made by a friend (click me).
Back to Porta, I'm looking forward to trying this place. They have bocce.
If you haven't visited Asbury Park recently, it's time you do. There are a bunch of new restaurants, a few of which seem pretty damned decent. Decent at least in the context of shore dining, and certainly in the context of boardwalk dining.
Porta Pizza : 911 Kingsley Street : Asbury Park, NJ : 732.776.7661