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The following interview with Liz Barrett, author of Pizza, A Slice of American History is revealing and timely. She explains how she was able to research her book and how she was able to find some of the incredible information contained in her new treatise on pizza. Liz also shares some great advice for anyone who wants to write their own book. Thanks, Liz for taking the time to speak with me.

Liz Barrett author of Pizza, A Slice of American History

Liz Barrett author of Pizza, A Slice of American History

How did you start researching the book?

Even though I’ve been writing about the pizza industry for seven years with PMQ Pizza Magazine, I was surprised at how much research went into writing Pizza: A Slice of American History. With PMQ, I mostly write about what’s happening now, along with some predictions for the future; for this book, it’s all about pizza’s history here in America, so I turned to all of my favorite pizza books, called up some pizza folks I know, and started scouring the Net for pizza information to help fill in blanks.

What was the reason you wanted to write the book?

I wanted to bring something different to the pizza book offerings that are currently available. My publisher and I had a long discussion before I started about the various topics I could discuss in the book that would make the book more unique. Because I came at it from the standpoint of a seasoned pizza journalist, I’m able to share lots of fun nuggets of information that readers can’t necessarily find in other books. I break down the history of each of the major pizza styles and then include a variety of additional snippets of information all throughout the book, like where to find the slices outside of the normal zone, how to make them at home, pizza trivia, and more.

9780760345603 A Slice of American History Review

What were a couple of the out of this world pizzas that you sampled?

I didn’t necessarily sample pizzas for the book. I’ve been “sampling” hundreds of pizzas since 2007, both for PMQ and for my own personal enjoyment.

Do you make your own pizza?

Every once in a while my husband and I will make pizza, and it’s good, but it’s not something we do on a regular basis. I really prefer to support the pizza makers and enjoy the pizzeria experience.

Any pizza tips for the home pizza maker?

Page 49 of the book has a whole list of tips for the home pizza maker. My favorite is: If you’re using a pizza stone to cook your pizza, put the stone in the oven during the pre-heat phase; when you put your pizza on the hot stone, it will mimic a deck oven.

What was the most fun you had researching the book?

When it comes to research, I’m kind of a nerd. I actually had the most fun with the research itself—looking back through old records to find when an ingredient was mentioned, and checking patent dates to see when certain ovens were invented, etc. When I’m on a hot lead, I’ll stay up until 3 a.m. trying to find the answer.

How did you choose the mini interviews that were included in the book?

2-pizzas-from-pizza

The people I chose to interview are just a few of the people I’ve respected over the years for being innovative, entrepreneurial, industrious, or just being a great example of the term “pizza lover”. There’s never room for everyone you want to include, but I wanted to give readers a taste of some of the people that help to make the industry what it is today.

What was the big takeaway from writing your book? Did you come to any conclusions?

That’s a great question. I think what stood out to me the most was that the same ingredients and equipment that were being used decades ago in some of these regions are still being used today. Pizza makers are very dedicated to their craft and honoring its traditions. The same ovens are being used in New Haven, Connecticut; the same square steel pans are being used in Detroit; and the same Provel cheese is topping pizzas in St. Louis. With pizza, you don’t have to be overtly innovative to please people. Give them what they remember, what gives them that warm, fuzzy, comfortable feeling inside, and they’ll love you forever.

Chicago Deep Dish from Pizza

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to write a book like yours?

Clear your schedule. If you can write, you can write a book. But, you need to have the time for the research, phone calls, follow-ups, late nights, re-writes, deadlines, etc. I put all of my freelance writing on hold when I wrote this book because I knew there was no way I could do both at the same time. You have to focus on the book until it’s done, or you will never meet your deadline on time.

What’s next? Do you have any other books planned?

I recently spoke with someone who wanted to co-author a book with me in the business/marketing field, since I cover that topic a lot for PMQ and my blog, The Pizza Insider. For now, though, I’m focusing my efforts on getting the word out about Pizza, A Slice of American History and making sure that it ends up on the coffee table of every house and the counter of every pizzeria!

Order, your own copy right here: Pizza, A Slice of American History.

Correct Way to Eat A Chicago Deep Dish Pizza

Just to let you know….there is a correct way to eat a deep dish Chicago Pizza.

Kyle Olsen writes:

Many claim to know how to eat the scrumptious round dish of love we
call a Chicago deep dish pizza. The problem is; they often fail to
realize the proper Windy City etiquette and technique.

This is where Lou Malnati’s and
TastesofChicago.com come in. We’ve
worked together to develop a video that will once and for all show
everyone how to properly each a deep dish pizza like a true
Chicagoan.


How to Eat Pizza Like a Chicagoan

101 Best Pizzas in America from the Daily Meal

Daily Meal 101 Best Pizzas

Daily Meal 101 Best Pizzas

The Daily Meal took on the task of discovering who makes the Best Pizza in America. Certainly no easy mission. As has been discussed on these pages many times, people are passionate about pizza. You won’t find this kind of emotional fervor about sushi, Thai Food or French Cuisine. Certainly all those who enjoy food, have their favorites and if asked are willing to share opinions. But you are going to get very few arguments on the best spring rolls or steak. There may be disagreements, sure…but you will not many folks willing to fight to the death about doughnuts.

Pizza? Well, pizza is a food with a difference. Once you enter this arena of the “best pizza”, there is no turning back. The gauntlet is tossed. And the swords are drawn. (Verbal swords of course.)

Discussions about pizza are another matter altogether. There are few opinions on the planet that evoke as much emotion. Certainly sports teams come to mind. Super Bowls have become a National Pastime. Political debates can bring out the best and the worst of those involved. And discussion about religion…well let’s leave that one alone.

Pizza is in a showground all it’s own. Some argue New York is the home of the best pizza. If you’ve ever discussed pizza with natives of New Haven, the lines are are drawn in the sand. Don’t leave those from the West Coast out. Pizza fans from St. Louis and Detroit have their own favorites. And those from Old Forge, Pennsylvania would have you believe pizza was invented there. The tribes from Chicago have their own passions.

Pizza is a food that has been continually discussed, debated and argued. And that is the beauty of pizza. That is what makes pizza special, unique and wondrous. “Pizza is a magical little disk that makes things happen…” (And yes, I’m quoting myself here…)

 I was honored to be chosen to be a one of the Pizza Expert Panelists. I was very flattered and of course grateful to be part of this elite group. The list of pizzerias was extensive. The voting was totally subjective and asked for my complete biased opinion. This was my type of pizza panel.

Albert Grande, Pizza Ambassador

Albert Grande, Pizza Ambassador

I was in very good company as a number of my closest pizza pals were also voting on their choices for Best Pizza in America. The other panelists included John Arena, from  Metro Pizza, Mark Bello from Pizza A Casa (PizzaSchool.com),  Tony Muia, A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours, Cary & Lillian Steiner Passion-4-Pizza.com, and Scott Wiener Scott’s Pizza Tours, to name but a few.

Very good company indeed. These are pizza professional experts, whose opinion I greatly respect. An honorable bunch of pizza aficionados. There may have been other pizza experts who voted but they chose to remain anonymous. I guess the anonymous voters wanted to avoid a pizza controversy that is inevitable with such discussions!

Pepe's Calm Pie

Pepe’s Calm Pie

Here are the Top 10 Winners:

#10 Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, San Francisco (Margherita) (You can read more about Tony and his new book “The Pizza Bible,” below.

#9 Paulie Gee’s, Brooklyn, N.Y. (Regina)

#8 Totonno’s, Brooklyn, N.Y. (Margherita)

#7 Flour + Water, San Francisco, Calif. Margherita)

#6 Pizzeria Mozza, Los Angeles Calif. (Squash blossoms, Tomato, Burrata Mozzarella, Tomato Sauce)

#5 Sally’s Apizza, New Haven Conn. (Tomato Pie: Tomato Sauce, No Cheese)

#4 Roberta’s, Brooklyn N.Y. (Margherita)

#3 Pizzeria Bianco, Phoenix, AZ (Margherita: Tomato Sauce, Fresh Mozzarella, Basil)

#2 Di Fara, Brooklyn, N.Y. (Classic Round Pie: Mozzarella, Parmesan, Plum Tomato Sauce, Basil, Olive Oil, Sausage, Peppers, Mushroom, Onion)

And number 1 for the Second Year in a Row:

#1 Frank Pepe, New Haven, Conn. (White Clam: Clams, Grated Parmesan, Olive Oil, Garlic, Oregano)

You can find out the rest of the 101 Best Pizzas in America, here.

Pepe's Famous Clam Pizza

Pepe’s Famous Clam Pizza

My latest book:
The Pizza Therapy Pizza Book


 

 


Giulio Adriani is a master pizza maker. He shares his knowledge freely about how to create incredible pizza. He opened his pizza restaurant  Forcella in New York, to rave reviews. He featured an unusual version of pizza to New York: the fried pizza. This pizza was such a big hit, he opened two more pizzerias. In addition to his Park Avenue location he now has pizzerias in the Bowery and Williamsburg. He is an incredible pizza talent.

Albert Grande amd Guilio Adriani

Albert Grande amd Giulio Adriani

I was fortunate to catch Giulio at Pizza Expo. He was at the Caputo Flour Booth furiously making pizza. He has a strong connection to the other master pizzaioli, including Roberto Caporuscio of Don Antonio by Starita and Jonathan Goldmsith of Spaca Napoli. He shares some of his philosophy about pizza in the interview. Pizza is a universal food. Pizza is an easy going food. You can find a business man with a tie sitting next to a construction worker. It is truly a social food, that cuts across all cultural and economic fields.

Giulio says “Pizza is the only food you can find all over the world.” And this is true as anyone who travels can attest. He further states that pizza is totally a balanced food. Nutritionally it is very balanced between protein carbohydrates and fat. He also teaches individual classes at Forcella. He loves to share his knowledge about making pizza. You can discover more pizza secrets in the following interview.

 

” Pizza is a social food…” Giulio explains.

 

Guiliano Adriani and Mark Dym of Marco's Coal Fired

Giulio Adriani and Mark Dym of Marco’s Coal Fired

You can find a review of the Best Flour to make pizza at Pizza Therapy Flour Review and Recommendations.

The Pizza Trolley Is for Sale

The Pizza Trolley

The Pizza Trolley

I was recently contacted by Michael about The Pizza Trolley.
Michael purchased the trolley and retrofitted it to sell pizza. And it turned out beautiful!

Unfortunately, due to personal reasons, he needs to sell it…And once I saw this baby, I had a lot of questions myself….

Albert: Where did you purchase your mobile pizza oven?

Michael: We purchased the Trolley thru a trolley broker located in Colorado. The Trolley was used in a park in Arkansas for transporting their visitors. We had it shipped to us in FL. We are in construction, so we did the complete retrofit. I have attached an information sheet on all the work we have performed. Also, this link is to our drop box with photos of inside and out. 

Albert: What type of oven do you have? 

Michael: We have a Mugnaini 120 purchased directly from them.

Albert: What is your asking price for your mobile pizza oven? 

Michael: Asking $129,000, but will listen to reasonable offers. We have actual cost of slightly over $130,000 into it with all the work, equipment, etc.

Pizza Trolley Pizza Oven

Pizza Trolley Pizza Oven

Albert: You want me to put the word out that your pizza business is for sale?

 Michael: Certainly I would welcome that. We have not been in business long enough to establish strong Good Will for a business sale, but the reception we received in the short time we were in service is truly  a great sign. We were very proud that we offered personal sized, made to order pizzas of very high quality. With the speed with which the oven bakes, we were well ahead of any other food truck at truck festivals and events because we could service our customers much quicker. We use a 3 ½ oz ball, makes 7” pizza. Use 00 flour, San Marzano tomatoes, imported olive oil. We had not yet gotten to point of making our own mozzarella and burata but it was in our sights to do so.

Albert: Would you be willing to train the new owner? 

Michael: I would be happy to do so. And, I think a smart buyer would want that, unless they were to go to one of the very noted Masters of Pizza for training.

Albert: I also have a few tried and true suggestions, if you want to hear them…  

Michael: Absolutely I would be interested in hearing them. Trolley is way too costly to leave parked in garage. I need to find a happy owner.

Albert: Michael, one of the best ways to promote anything is through video.

I was so excited about the Pizza Trolley, I had to make a video.

If you are interested in the Pizza Trolley. you can contact Michael at:

The Pizza Trolley.

Here is More Information:

 FOOD TRUCK FOR SALE PIZZA TROLLEY

The Pizza Trolley

The Pizza Trolley is For Sale!

 

1991 Chance, authentic Old World Trolley for sale. Exterior veneer in varnished wood and brass
25’ Long; 10’6” High. 8’6’ Wide. 20,000 Pounds

Features:
1. Cummins diesel motor (5.9) 70,335 miles on odometer.

2. Custom built air conditioning system by Ocean Breeze, Stuart, FL. Thermostatically controlled
temperature with 3 independent fan motors.

3. Exhaust fan- MaxxAir with rain cover. Reversible fan for air intake or exhaust in work cabin.

4. Pizza oven- wood fired, Mugnaini 120 brick oven with Exhausto oven exhaust fan. Oven exterior
inside work cabin and exterior elevation are faux painted brick to replicate brick without the
added weight of actual brick. Oven baking floor is 48” x 52”.

5. Electrical- Power supply is by shore power when on board generator is not in operation, or via
on board generator. Shore power will operate all refrigeration. Generator operates all electrical
requirements of Trolley.

6. Generator- water cooled diesel powered 20 kW Kubota. Generator can be turned on and off
from inside Trolley. Generator is located on a slide out rack for service only. Maintaining the
generator inside the specialized, insulated compartment provides a much quieter operation and
more aesthetic appearance. Generator does not need to be exposed to exterior for operation.

7. Gray water- Trolley is equipped with a 30 gallon gray water holding tank with exterior “dump”
for gray (used) water. On board stainless steel hand sink and stainless steel 3-compartment sink
drain to this storage reservoir.

8. Fresh water- Trolley is equipped with a 25 gallon fresh water reservoir with easy fill exterior
connection. Hot water is generated via an Eemax electric tankless hot water heater.

9. Pizza prep table- 2-door stainless steel Alamo refrigerated pizza work station, 70” W x 31” D x
42” H. 16.85 cubic feet. 2 doors under counter refrigerated storage and 2-door lift up top
refrigerated work station.

10. Refrigeration (beverage) – Frigidaire Professional Series stainless steel 19 cubic foot
refrigerator.

11. Audio and Electrical
Fully wired with 110v receptacles inside to receive devices such as: TV, credit card
processor; portable cooking (steam table, micro, induction, charge I-pad, phone, etc.), sound
equipment. Exterior lighting is accent, 2 levels LED rope lighting at upper and lower fascia’s,
weatherproof outlets on service, rear, and driver sides of vehicle, and 2 exterior portable flood
lights on extension arms to illuminate service side of Trolley; accent lighting over exterior dome
of oven. Interior cabin lighting is LED puck lighting above work station, oven, and service
counter, giving a much softer and comfortable light than fluorescent lighting.
Audio- wired to permit portable exterior speakers to play music through I-pad or other
device, and customer paging or announcements. Music can also be played in work cabin as well.
Fully wired to permit adding TV to Trolley exterior for menu, sporting events, etc.

12. Rear camera- Trolley is equipped with rear view camera that operates to a separate monitor
whenever the motor is operating.

13. Air curtain on sliding service window

14. Air pump to maintain 120 PSI in the Trolley’s air brake and air ride system for balance and
stabilization of vehicle while on shore power parking

15. Custom vehicle identification and branding wrap

16. Ample shelving storage above work counters and below. Under counter cash drawer.
Under counter small utensil storage drawer.

17. Summary of work performed after our 2013 acquisition:
Interior of Trolley was completely gutted to bare frame. All suspension air bags were replaced.
Metal sub-floor and waterproof membrane was installed for protection from undercarriage
water intrusion. All 6 tires were replaced with new Toyos.

Both heavy duty batteries were replaced . The engine injection pump and alternator were completely rebuilt, and new injectors
were installed as a matter of routine maintenance.

Running lights have been replaced with LED lights. All upper window glass was removed and resealed to prevent water leaks. Care was taken
to preserve the old world integrity of the Trolley during its transformation to a food truck.

Build Your Own Wood Burning Pizza Oven

Product Review

You Can Build Your Very Own Wood Burning Pizza Oven And Make The Same Delicious Pizza As You’ll Find In Those Authentic Italian Restaurants All Over The World!

Check out Build Your Own Wood Burning Pizza Oven

 

How to Get into The Pizza Business Cheap!

Fire Within

Fire Within

Get Into The Pizza Business without a lot of capital…

Here’s Pete’s story.

Meet Pete.

Pete wants to open a pizza business, but he does not know where to start…
Pete wants dreams of making memorable pizza in his own pizza restaurant.
He realizes that this would take an investment of hundreds of thousands dollars…
Just to get started….

Pete is very sad…

Pete watches YouTube videos to cheer himself up and discovers:
A video by Pizza Therapy about The fire within…

The Fire Within makers of wood fired mobile pizza ovens.

The Fire Within offer all types and sizes of mobile wood fired pizza ovens that can be the answer to starting a pizza business.
They offer training workshops in making great pizza as well as offer complete business plans.
Pete is happy. He found the solution to starting a pizza business.

Pete signs up to attend one of their pizza making workshops and discovers a wonderful pizza community of pizza operators, just like himself…
Pete is able to not only able to learn to make great pizza but also he learns the pizza business from the inside out. In addition The Fire within folks even help him to find financing to get started with his own mobile pizza business.

If you are like Pete. And are interested in getting started in the Pizza Business, owning a portable wood fired pizza oven may be the answer.
For more information on getting started with your own mobile wood fired pizza oven business, contact The Fire With In.

That’s firewithin.com….
We also recommend: Growing Pizza: How to Plant the Seeds to a Successful Pizzeria

And make sure you check out: The Pizza Bible: The World’s Favorite Pizza Styles, from Neapolitan, Deep-Dish, Wood-Fired, Sicilian, Calzones and Focaccia to New York, New Haven, Detroit, and more by my friend, Tony Gemignani:

How to Get Into the Pizza Business

Have you ever thought about starting a pizza business?

If always wanted your own pizza operation where you can make the world a better place by making great pizza, read on.
Would you like to starts a pizza business where you could give pizza to people who wanted it?
Your potential pizza customers are craving incredible pizza cooked in a wood fired oven!
And you can deliver.
You could bring your pizza to Farmer’s Markets, football games, festivals, and special events.

The Fire Within is your answer.

The Fire Within offers mobile pizza ovens that can be the answer to starting a pizza business.
The Fire Within folks are more than just creators of all types of incredible portable pizza ovens. They offer training in making great pizza as well as offer complete business plans to get you started.

You can attend one of their pizza making workshops and learn the pizza business from the inside out. In addition they will even help you find financing to get you started with your own portable pizza oven.

If you ever thought about getting into the Pizza Business you need to check out:
The fire within, a pizza making community with true pizza passion.

Fire Within

Fire Within


Get started now, go to firewith.com

Discover your own passion and learn how you can start your own pizza business.
firewithin.com

In Search of A Pizza Dream Part 3

Anthony Saporito had a dream to own a pizzeria…In this the final episode, we conclude our interview with him. Listen and learn about a Legend of Pizza in progress!

Albert: What kind of Pizza do you make? What is you favorite to make.

Anthony: At my new place, “Urban Fire” we will being making Authentic Neapolitan style, using “00” flour, salt, water and yeast, That’s it. We just purchased a beautiful Stefano Ferrara, wood burning oven from Naples, and really want to do things the Authentic way. I’m all about tradition, and nostalgia. but I also experimenting with new ideas as well.

Just recently, I had the honor to be invited over my cousin’s house and cook with his 88 year old Mother in Law. Her name is Mrs. Kay Cammareri, and she is the Matriarch of “Cammareri Brothers Bakery” in Brooklyn. Her bakery was a focal point in the hit Movie, ‘Moonstruck’, and even Nicholas Cage’s Character took her last name. She still lives above where the old Bakery was located in the movie. She showed me how to make, “Sfincione”, a Sicilian pie made in a rectangular tray, topped off with tomato paste, onions, anchovies and Bread crumbs. The pie was phenomenal, The onions and the paste make for a very Sweet sauce. The experience I had while making it was even better. As Mrs. Cammareri was instructing me, she told different stories about different people, and places, different occasions to whom she served the dish to over the last 60 years. That makes the dish even more special. So I guess my favorite pizza to make is any one that has a great story behind it.

Paulie Gee and Anthony Saporito

Paulie Gee and Anthony Saporito

Albert: Tell me about your new Pizzeria

Anthony: The name of my place is Called “Urban Fire”. We are located in Madison, New Jersey. Its a great little town filled with friendly people who love good food. We will be serving traditional Neapolitan pizza and Italian Street eats. Our Pizza is going to be done in a Fast Casual/ Create your own, model. You will be able to choose your base of, Margherita, Marinara, Bianco, or Pesto and then go down the line and choose what you want. If you don’t want to create your own, you can choose from our list of Specialty pies. I like giving people the chance to interact in what they want. It creates for a lively, different experience. It’s a great way to also get to know your customers. I’ve already said, If someone comes in and orders the same pie a bunch a times, we will definitely feature it on the menu board. So I plan to have a lot of “Joe” or “Mary” Specials.

I know that few other people are doing “create your own”, out west, but from what I understand, we will be the only ones doing it with a 100% wood fired oven. Even though the assembly line method is a bit unorthodox, I still wanted to keep the artisan tradition of cooking the pie intact, which is why we got a Stefano Ferrara oven. Hopefully I’m not crazy in trying this out, but Think it’ll be fine.

We also will serving a variety of “Street Eats”. In Italy, you can eat some really great food without ever stepping foot in a restaurant. I loved the idea of replicating what street Vendors have been doing for Decades. We will have sandwiches that represent different street foods from different cities, such as a “Porchetta” (Rome), Panelle,(Palermo Sicily) and Lampredotto (Florence–ours will be made of beef and not cow stomach-haha). We will also have sides such as Arancini, (rice balls) Prociutto balls, and Zeppole. And of course, in Naples, Pizza is the original Street Food.

Albert: What would you tell someone who wanted to get into the pizza business?
What advice would you give them?

Anthony: I’d say “Do NOT get discouraged”. When you first start out, its almost like learning a different language, and can be a bit overwhelming. I’ve noticed that 99% of Pizza makers are friendly, and want to help each other out. It also seems like everybody knows each other. It’s really cool. So ask questions, and don’t get discouraged. Of course you will run into the Naysayers and extremists; The guys with egos as big as a house, who think that they are curing diseases, and keep everything a secret. Don’t bother with them. There are plenty of people out there who want to help. And if you can’t find anyone, call me.
Once you get your basics down, start experimenting. Have Pizza Parties where you cook for everyone. It’s fun and gratifying. You’ll see that after a while, you will adopt your own style. Special ways you like doing things which are 100% yours. If you are into it, everything else will fall into place. You’ll start picking up things you weren’t even looking for. Like I said earlier, it’s not rocket science. It’s supposed to be fun and creative. And if anyone tells you, “That’s not the right way to do this” , or, “That is wrong”, ask them to see the book where the rules of Pizza are written.
When I first said I wanted to start my own place, everyone had their own opinion. People will tell you “How will you pay the bills?” , “It’s a lot of work”, “It’s very hard”, or my favorite, “There’s so many places for Pizza”. All of a sudden, everybody is an expert of a sudden. Paulie Gee gave me the best rebuttal for these naysayers. “Tell’ em thanks”, he said, “And then ask them how many Pizza places they own”
If you’re considering getting into the Pizza business, think about why it is that you love Pizza. What about it moves you? I guarantee its because it evokes happy feelings, and in turn you want to share those feelings with others. What is better than that? While its true, I haven’t sold a Pizza on my own just yet but I know that I will do everything in my power to make sure I succeed. I love the quote from Henry Ford that says; “Whether you think you can, or can not do something, you’re right.” This goes for anything in life. Even Pizza

Albert: When do you plan to open? What is your address?

Right now I am playing with all my recipes. I’m having a pretty good time with it too. I invite everybody
I see walking outside to come inside and give me their opinion. My store is all built out. Right now I am just going through the hiring Process. So Hopefully I will be able to get open by mid April.
Our address is:
URBAN FIRE
6 Main Street
Madison, NJ 07940

I am also currently getting a Web Site up, but nothing is up yet. However, I make sure to post on our progress on Social Media.
Facebook:
Urban Fire

Instagram:
Urban_Fire

Twitter:
urbanfirepizza

I would like to thank you, Albert. I’ve enjoyed your articles and videos over the years, but I’ve also enjoyed your insight. So Thank you for helping me tell me story, and please stop by the Next time you are in the NY/NJ area.

All the Best,
Anthony Saporito

 

 

In Search of the Pizza Dream Part 2

This is Anthony Saporito, pizza story of how he went from dreaming about opening his own pizzeria to actually doing it. Anthony has opened his new pizza restaurant called,   Urban Fire located in Madison, New Jersey. We will be serving authentic Neapolitan pizza and Italian Street eats, Such as Porchetta sandwiches, zeppoles, Arancini, salads and more.

Albert: What kind of research did you do? Where did you go for your information? Did you get any help?

Anthony:  As I was leaving the Stock Exchange the day I got laid off, I had a smile on, ear to ear. Instead of, “Oh God what do I do now!” My only thought was what Wood fired oven I was going to buy. I took a chunk of my Severance package my company gave me, and bought a Forno Bravo, Primavera oven and Put it in My Parents Back Yard. That summer, all I did was research recipes, and techniques, and make Pizza. My parents had people over all the time, and I tried to make pizza for each and every one of them. At first, Like Many Others, I searched the internet, and found sites like Pizzamaking.com very informative. I got very discouraged at first, because a lot of what I read was explained scientifically. I felt like I was back in grade school (where science was my mortal enemy). I’d read as some of these guys would break down the pizza process molecule by molecule.

Forno Bravo Primavera

Forno Bravo Primavera

Thankfully, soon after, my wife (at that time, my girlfriend) bought me “American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza” by Peter Reinhart. The book really opened my eyes up to a whole new world of how people “thought” about Pizza. Not to mention, it explained the science of the process in a way even I could understand. Almost like a “Pizza for dummies”.

Ha. I was always more into the emotional gratification of Pizza, rather then the science of it Anyway. The book made me realize that Pizza isn’t just a food that tastes good, it’s a special something that invokes a whole slew of emotions for everyone, young and old, rich or poor, man or woman. And its a different feeling for everyone. So I became obsessed with it. From there I adopted the Philosophy that Pizza was not so much about “How” it is made, but the “Who” was making it. I came to really admire the people whose passion came through the pages as I read them, or whose facial expressions practically screamed to me how much they loved to make pizza when I met them. The simple fact is this; If you eat a pizza that is really delicious–chances are there is an extremely passionate person behind it. But like with anything else, you can read or research all you want about a subject, but you can’t get good at it until you actually physically do it. I had to get my hands dirty. Or better yet, full of flour.

Albert: Why Did you go to Pizza school?

Anthony: The same summer I read American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza, my parents took my sister and me to Italy. After reading how much Mr. Reinhart loved the Pizza at Da Michele, in Naples, I insisted we try it out. so we did. The line wasn’t bad at all, surprisingly and I must admit, I was a little apprehensive at the fact that they only had two kinds of pies (marinara and Margherita). That quickly changed. The four of us all took our first bite, and then there was complete silence. We all just looked at each other. Nobody said a word, but the expression of our faces let each of us know that we all felt that this pizza was unlike anything we ever ate. I will fully admit that when you are from New York, you have an arrogance about you when it comes to Pizza. Don Antonio Starita and Albert Grande I “Thought” I knew great Pizza. Humbly, I Knew I was wrong the second I ate that first piece of Da’Michele. It tasted like something your Grandmother made for you. For me that was my “ah Hah” moment. After that, I became obsessed with Authentic Neapolitan Pizza. I’m very fortunate that a couple Neapolitan places were starting to make their mark in the New York area. So, I wrote e-mails to all the owners, telling them how passionate I was about learning how to make Neapolitan pizza, and that I would love to come and apprentice for them. That was when Roberto Caporuscio wrote me back, telling me about the Pizza Class he gives.

Don Antonio Starita and Albert Grande

Don Antonio Starita and Albert Grande

I couldn’t pass up an opportunity like that, to learn from such a master of his craft. The first thing he instructed us to do was “Open your minds”. In other words, to not just think of pizza as how you knew it growing up, but instead to keep an open mind for the simplicity, yet creativity of Neapolitan Pizza.

I learned a great deal, and am very Thankful to Roberto for the opportunity he gave me. to say the least, the course certainly opened my mind. I wanted to go work for him at Keste, but he was too busy starting up “Don Antonio” and didn’t have the time to train a new person at that point. So I decided to keep looking for a place I could not just work at, but where I would also be able to learn more, and sharpen my skills.

Paulie G. and Albert G.

Paulie G. and Albert G.

Albert:  I understand you apprenticed with Paulie Gee. How did you approach him? Was he skeptical or very open? Did you tell him for the start about your goal?

Anthony: One day I drove around Brooklyn the area to see if they would hire me. A few places turned me down, or said, “Come back another day”. Looking back on it, I very grateful they did. My last stop of the day brought me to Paulie Gees in Greenpoint. I hadn’t eaten there yet, nor had I met Paulie, but I really enjoyed watching some of the interviews he gave. We sat down at one of his tables in the front, and I think we were two sentences into the conversation when we realized we liked each other. We are both Brooklyn guys, and the conversation flowed as if we were both sitting on somebody’s front stoop in the old neighborhood. I told him my intentions of one day opening up my own place right off the bat. He then shared with me his experiences in getting his own place started and how helpful other Pizza makers like Mark Iacono of “Lucali”, and Chris Bianco of “Pizzeria Bianco” in Phoenix, were to him. “When Chris Bianco helped me out” , he explained, “The only thing he asked of me in return was that someday I pay it forward.” So in hiring me, he wasn’t just getting another worker, he was helping someone out in attaining their dream. He was paying it forward. I can’t tell you how appreciative I am for that. Still to this Day.

At first I worked in the Kitchen doing Prep work, but eventually I got a shift or two a week doing Pizza at night. The first night I worked the Pizza station, Paulie came up to me and reminded me, “You’re officially serving Pizza to the Public”. I really have to say it was an incredible feeling, not to mention, Paulie was just as excited saying it. He knew what I was feeling, and I thought it was a great gesture to bring it to light. While working Pizza, my main goal was to learn how to work the oven. Paulie has a beautiful Stefano Ferrara and I was always in awe of the pizzaioli who could cook 4 or 5 pies at one time, on a busy night. So I was determined to be like them. It wasn’t easy, and I hit a few bumps a long the way and burnt many ‘a pie. I quickly realized that it wasn’t just about how fast you cooked the pies, but more about how well, you cooked them. Making the last pie in the oven look as good as the first. There is no room for error, and you have to concentrate. I would usually come in an hour or two before my shift and practice with old dough to just get my technique down. Once I started getting the hang of it, I was relentless. I would beg the person working the oven that night to just let me cook for “Ten minutes”. After a few months, I got pretty good at it, and it became second nature. I worked at Paulie Gee’s for almost 2 years. My experience was great, and I learned a lot of little ins and outs that I would not have known, had I just picked up and went into the business blind. I am very grateful to Paulie for the opportunity he gave me and we still remain close friends till this day. He refers to himself as my, “Pizza Daddy”. Its an affectionate term, almost like “Godfather”, explaining that he was my Mentor in the Pizza business. haha. I’m very lucky to have him as my “Pizza Daddy” and hopefully, some day I can Pay it forward also, and become a “Pizza Daddy” myself to somebody.

Albert: What are your earliest Memories of Pizza?

Anthony: My earliest Memory of Pizza was the homemade kind my Grandmother made. She had this old, cast Iron frying pan, which was, as she put it, “As old as the hills”. And in a Time before Williams and Sonoma, or Pizza stones, she’d gently coat the bottom of the frying pan with Olive oil and then put the dough in it, cupping the side rims of the pan, and then cook it in the oven. She only used the “plum” of the tomato, no sauce, which she crushed by hand. Sometimes she put cheese, sometimes she didn’t, but it didn’t matter. It was Heaven on Earth. When the pie came out of the oven, she’d take it out and cut it with a scissor. Man was it good. During Lent, being that we ever ate meat on Fridays, she’d take that same pan and fill it up about a quarter of the way with oil, and fry the dough first, then top it off with tomatoes and cheese in the oven, almost like the famous, “Montanara”. Or make a bite size pocket with ricotta cheese in it, like a mini Calzone, or Pizza Fritta. Other’s may refer to it as , “Peasant Food”. But Man, did we eat like kings when she cooked. Other than that, growing up in Brooklyn, Pizza was everywhere.

The pizza place we went to was usually accompanied by an event. For instance, in the summer, we went to the beach at Coney Island almost every weekend, and always stopped off at “Totonnos” to bring a pie or two home. I loved the old man, Jerry who was the son original founder. He was not very pleasant, and wasn’t a fan of kids, and I was as he’d call me, a “Rascal”. At 8 years old, every chance I got, I’d try to do something to make him yell at me, which I got a kick t of. However, as soon as he alluded to chance of , “No Pizza” I quickly shut my mouth and stood in the back, as quiet as a mouse. His pizza was that delicious.

Every Halloween, we always went to go see the parade in Greenwich Village, so before that, we stopped off and had a Pie at “John’s” on Bleeker street. We went about once a month to Staten Island, to visit my Parents close friends, and had the Friday night tradition of going to “Deninos” for Pizza, and then across the street for Italian ices at Ralphs. When I became a teenager, the local hangout became L&B Spumoni Gardens. It was the perfect spot to meet up with your friends, talk to girls, and oh yea, eat pizza. I never really thought of it much until now, but , WOW I’ve eaten a lot of Pizza in my life. Geez. But, the fact that I still love it after all these years, and that I am always looking for new places to try, or new recipes to create, just reminds me why I love it so much. It’s the same for many people. Pizza is just one of those foods you can’t get tired of, and even if you do get tired of it, you can’t help but crave it after some time off.

 

Stay tuned for Part 3… In the meantime, please check out:

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In Search of the Pizza Dream Part 1

Here is a letter I recently received:

“Albert, A few years ago I sent you an email, asking you for some advice. I had just gotten laid off from my Job on Wall Street and knew that I didn’t want to go back into the fat race of the financial world. I loved making pizza and knew I wanted to do something with the passion I had for it.

Alberto Grande, Giorgia, and Roberto Caporuscio

Alberto Grande, Giorgia, and Roberto Caporuscio

When we first spoke ,you pretty much told me that I knew what I had to do, deep down. You reminded me that since I lived in New York, there were ample opportunities to sculpt my craft. In other words The knowledge was there for the taking. I just needed to cease it. Not long after we spoke I wrote a letter to two titans of the pizza world. Roberto Caporuscio, of Keste, and Paulie Gee of Paulie Gees.

Paulie G. and Albert G.

Paulie G. and Albert G.

You commented to me you enjoyed reading that letter so much that you put it in one of your newsletters. In the letter I explained my passion, and how serving pizza, and more importantly, bringing others together with good food was in my blood.

The letter went over so well that I was able to learn from both of these masters, first at Roberto’s pizza class and then working at Paulie Gees as a Pizzaiolo for 2 years. The knowledge I gained has been invaluable and I am indebted to both Men for the opportunities they gave me as well as my resume. Now I am starting my own place. It is called ” Urban Fire” located in Madison, NJ.

We will be serving authentic Neapolitan pizza and Italian Street eats, Such as Porchetta sandwiches, zeppoles , Arancini , salads etc. We have a Stefano Ferrara oven from Naples , and our pizza will be severed I a fast/casual style, where the customer gets to go down the line and choose what sauce, cheese and toppings they prefer, to create their own pie. We cook it in our wood burning oven at 800- 1000 degrees and the pie will be ready in 60-90 seconds! I am very excited We should be opened in March, but before then I just waned to reach out to you and say, “thank you” for your help and advice in getting me started.

You helped me get on the path to following my dream and now that dream is finally becoming a reality. Please, if you are ever in the NY/NJ area, please stop by and see me. I’d be honored to host you. Also.

Once again Albert, thank you for everything, for all your help along the way and as always,

Pizza on Earth!

Yours truly,

Anthony Saporito, Owner

Urban Fire,
Madison, NJ

Thanks Anthony. Tell us more about your pizza quest!

I understand you have just undertaken an incredible journey to have a goal
of getting into the pizza business.

Albert: You had a dream, you showed passion and you put effort in and you made
your dream a reality…

 Tell me a bit about you Anthony. What led you to get into the pizza
business?

Anthony: I studied Finance in College. Don’t ask me why. It never really excited me. For the first 10 years after college I worked as a Trader on the Floor of the New York Stock Exchange. At first I loved the fast pace, and interaction with others, but one day we all came in and they told us that the Exchange was abandoning its 200 year old way of doing business, and going computerized. After that, Layoffs started coming every few months. It was a terrible feeling, wondering day to day, when it was going to be your turn. When I first started, my company had 350 employees. When I finally did get laid off, there was 48. I was actually ecstatic when my Boss tapped me on the shoulder to tell me the news -I had already been dreaming of Pizza for the last 2 years prior. Getting laid off was just the kick in the rear I needed to get started.

Albert: Of all the other Jobs, why did you decide to do your own business. Why Pizza?

Anthony:  Entertaining others and cooking for them is in my blood. I grew up in a traditional Italian/American household and my Grandmother’s house on Sunday was like Grand Central station. People came in and out all day. Some stayed for dinner, some ate and ran, some came for coffee. I was always enamored how she was able to feed everyone with such ease and how much Joy she was able to bring to others by doing so. It was contagious. Even when I was in college, and studying Finance, I was still always using the Kitchen in my dorm to cook for everyone. I loved it.

Working in a Job that I had zero drive for really annoyed me. I knew that the next line of business I went into was going to be something I had a Passion for. I didn’t have to think for too long to come up with, what exactly that was, and the answer was Pizza. Pizza is just one of those things that makes everyone happy and excited. You have an age old recipe, and yet you can still be creative. And creating different pizzas with the sole purpose of having others enjoy it, and bringing a smile to their face is what moves me. Much like the feeling I had at my Grandmothers house. I always wanted to do something on my own in the food service industry. This was my chance. I was 30 years old, and decided to do something on my own that I knew I would love. Had I just put my Résumé online and took another desk job, I knew I’d regret it for the rest of my life. I had to take a shot.

Stay tuned for the rest of this incredible interview….

If you are in the pizza business or interested in getting into the Pizza business, I recommend: Growing Pizza: How to Plant the Seeds to a Successful Pizzeria

And also: Profits in the Pie: Effective Marketing Tactics to Seize YOUR Slice of the $38.1 Billion Pizza Pie

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