Welcome to Eater's Pizza Week 2014, your one-stop shop for everything pizza, from maps and guides to interviews and photo series. There will be polls, pizza specials at restaurants, and lots more. The festivities last from right this very second until the end of the day on Friday, March 21.
To kick things off, we asked chefs and other local restaurant industry folks about what they think of as the proper definition of pizza. Here's what they said.
Frank DePasquale, Owner of DePasquale Ventures: "Pizza was invented in Naples, so the proper definition of pizza is a true Neapolitan pizza. The oldest pizzeria is Da Michele, and it is the real pizza place in Naples. They use San Marzano tomatoes squeezed by hand in August, fresh mozzarella, and EVOO, along with one basil leaf in the middle. The flour has to be a double zero flour from Italy. Also, the dough should never be refrigerated. This is what a proper definition of a pizza is."
Phil Frattaroli, Owner of Ducali: "A proper Italian pizza is a flour-based dough, hand-stretched, topped with a mozzarella cheese and usually tomato sauce, and baked at over 600 degrees on stone. There are huge variations on that — gluten-free pizzas, vegan pizzas, grilled pizzas — but that is the starting point."
Rodney Murillo, Culinary Director of Davio's: "I like my pizza very light — thin crust, thick edges. It is a preference between Steve [DiFillippo, owner of Davio's] and myself. That and what our customer feedback has been over the years."
Carla and Christine Pallotta, Co-Owners of Nebo: "Thin, crispy crust; fresh sauce; minimal toppings of the best quality."
Will Gilson, Chef/Owner of Puritan & Co.: "Crispy dough, tangy sauce, melted cheese…anything else is just a flatbread."
Josh Bhatti, Bowery Presents & The Sinclair: "It has to be a thin, crispy crust. The key to toppings is less is more."
Jarred Randall, Line Cook at Tres Gatos and the Chef/Owner of Fatboy Secrets: "So for me the only way to judge how good a pizza place is by trying their cheese pizza. Anyone can throw a bunch of shit on a slice and make it tasty. But keeping it simple and clean — just cheese, crust and sauce — amplifying and respecting those few and simple ingredients is a true art form, and very rare."
Sal Lupoli, President and CEO of Salvatore's Restaurants and Sal's Pizza: "Pizza is a dish of Italian origin consisting of a flat and shaped piece of cooked dough with generally savory ingredients. That's the textbook, I guess, but to me it's more than that; it's a time-tested, equally accessible comfort food. I also think it is interesting how this food changes based on neighborhoods, ethnicity, and economics. People truly own their pizza, its style, its ingredients and cooking techniques. In good times it can be a luxury with exotic toppings. In hard times it can be a simple and satisfying staple."
Kosta Diamantopoulos, Co-Owner of All Star Pizza Bar and All Star Sandwich Bar: "Thin crust, but not so thin where it feels like you are eating a cracker. More sauce to cheese ratio and cooked two minutes more than normal."
Andrew Hebert, Executive Chef at TRADE: "A flatbread baked in an oven with any sort of toppings — usually including cheese."
Jared Forman, Chef de Cuisine at Strip-T's: "I am a picky, bitter, and pizza-insatiable New Yorker. Some may say unbearable. I was raised in Bensonhurst and Bay Ridge in BK and my view of pizza is eternally jaded, specific, and righteous. I am partial to the slice. Simple. Cheap. Perfect. I could eat a slice every day. Debates erupted every Friday (pizza day) over which corner pizzeria was the best, in my grandparents' home, filled with loud descendants from Sicily and Naples. Those fancy 'Neapolitan'-style pizzas and others have their merits and the occasional detour for one of those white pie concoctions while driving through Connecticut is a novelty. However, the slice of pizza, incredibly and increasingly difficult to come by, is forever king.
By 'Anton Ego' and Ratatouille moment exists with a slice of pizza from New Park Pizza on Cross Bay Blvd in Howard Beach, minutes from JFK airport. Two slices, dusted with granulated garlic and red pepper flakes and washed down with a fountain Coke, is my dream meal. The nostalgia is thick, and memories of Little League, summer, first dates, and working at the gas station that used to be next store help, but the pizza is world class. The heating element in their oven is like a flame thrower. A whole fresh pie is ready in less than five minutes. I usually ask for it a little extra crispy.
My definition of a perfect slice is as much about what it is not as what it is. It goes like this. The crust should be crispy, not crunchy. Chewy, not doughy. Elastic, not tough. It should be charred, not burned. The sauce should be sweet and tangy, not too overwhelming. And there should not be too much of it. Cheese on a pizza should melt and meld the whole slice together, not dominate the flavor. Again you should never need extra cheese. A little granulated garlic adds a nice nose, and some salt and red pepper to keep it interesting throughout. I usually buy a whole pie, park my car under the bridge to Broad Channel, watch the sunset over Jamaica Bay, and eat until i feel guilty or the box is empty."
Marco Caputo, Co-Owner of MAST' (coming soon): "Pizza is in my culture. The first pizza was made in 1796 and called 'margherita' because the mozzarella on top looked like the flower margherita."
Anthony Allen, Co-Owner of OTTO: "Simple, thin, perfectly proofed and handled dough, light and airy feel and a little bit of blistered char."
Jeff Pond, Chef/Partner of A4 Pizza and Area Four: "I really like people who pay attention to the crust as much as they do the toppings. The crust has to be more than just a means to an end. I don't want it to just be about the toppings, and the crust is just an afterthought. And I think that happens a lot, where it's like, a lot of sauce, a lot of cheese, whatever toppings you want to do, and it sounds good. And then you get it, and the crust is whatever — whether it's cardboard-y because it was frozen, or it's those guys that are making their dough with the long fermentation time, which I think is huge. The guys that are doing it well, I think, are doing that. Especially outside the city. When I look for information, I look outside of Boston."