Peter's Blog
Peter's Blog, Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar
Peter Reinhart

Last week I took a local reporter, Michael Solender, on a local mini-Pizza Quest for a story he is writing for a local magazine. We were accompanied by photographer Tonya Russ Price. We picked four local places to visit, all of which I consider among Charlotte's best: Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar; Luisa's Brick Oven Pizza; Mellow Mushroom; and Pure Pizza (where I serve as "consulting partner"). Michael's article, which I'm sure will be great and very different from my account, won't come out till late April and I'll post the link when it does, but I wanted to post a few comments of my own here, since I found the adventure very rewarding for a number of reasons that I'll explain below.

Why Wolfgang Puck chose Charlotte as the launching pad for his new WP Pizza Bar concept, which will roll out nationwide over the next few years, I'll never know, but I'm thrilled. For some reason he likes Charlotte. His Executive Chef over all the locations, Scott Wallen, was the chef for a number of years just around the corner at Upstream, one of our best seafood restaurants, so maybe that had something to do with it.  I've always loved Wolfgang's food -- he truly is one of the great flavorists of our time, as well as a shrewd and driven businessman. When I lived in San Francisco my favorite restaurant  was Postrio, which was the SF version of Spago, and I think it's safe to say that Puck's flavor palate has influenced nearly every American chef of the past thirty-five years. He has also presided over a line of disappointing frozen pizzas and has branded himself on the shopping networks across a lot of so-so products, which I think has contributed to a diluting of his eponymous brand value, but that's irrelevant at the moment because his restaurant food still sizzles. I'm thrilled that his first WP Pizza Bar exists only one mile from my house.  I know that it has nothing to do with me; Wolfgang and I have met only a few times and I doubt he even knows who I am. However, since I don't believe in coincidences (but I do believe in irony), I would say that it is apt and appropriate that he chose my 'hood to be the flagship location for this venture. I like this restaurant very much and I really enjoy the whole menu, from apps to entrees, as well as the pizzas. Chef Wallen (Scott) took me through his process for the pizzas, including a well thought out dough that uses an aged preferment (about one week old before it gets used), plus an overnight biga, plus an overnight cold fermentation for the dough balls, resulting in a surprisingly soft dough, especially considering that the flour is high gluten of about 14% protein. The first time I had their pizza I thought they were using Italian tipo -00- flour because the texture was so soft. Scott told me it took many months of trial and error in their California test kitchen to achieve this dough. It also contains a little olive oil which, I'm sure, contributes to the softness but, regardless, they pulled it off; an original one-of-a-kind dough topped, naturally, with top of the line ingredients including oven slow roasted tomatoes, organic tomato sauce (the same Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes we use at Pure Pizza -- dang, I thought we were the only ones around here who knew about those!), various imported and domestic cheeses, and the full array of Wolfgang's signature bold flavors, including his famous smoked salmon pizza, the one that was first made famous at Spago, as well as braised short rib, roasted wild mushroom, and barbecue chicken concepts, among the 18 pizzas on the menu. As the pizzas emerge from the dual-heat WoodStone oven, the cornicione is brushed with a tasty garlic oil and then the pies are garnished with various fresh herbs or greens.

Being a crust guy, I spent most of my time talking with Scott about their fermentation method; the idea of holding onto a pate fermentee' (aka pre-fermented dough) for a whole week or more is a very unique technique. I hadn't heard of anyone else doing this. And then, combining it with another preferment, a biga, continues to add layers of flavor as they build toward the final dough.
So here's the thing: the pizzas at WP Pizza Bar are beautiful and look amazingly similar to the ones we make at Pure Pizza. The main difference is the texture of the crust.

Whose is better? It depends on whether you like it soft (Pizza Bar) or al dente (Pure). The good news is that for a city that, ten months ago, had no artisan pizzerias at all, we suddenly have two, both of which are very very good. The business models are also very different; WP Pizza Bar is a beautiful, upscale bistro with a full menu that includes great steaks, fish, various pastas, a full bar, inventive sides and specials (I'm a fan of sauteed spinach with roasted garlic and those oven dry-roasted tomatoes), whereas Pure Pizza exists in the Seventh Street Public Market, a kiosk restaurant in an alt-style food court.

I'll write more about Pure in my next post (after we host our first private beer dinner, which happens tonight), as well as tell you about my stops at Luisa's (my favorite local New York-style Neapolitan pizzeria), and Mellow Mushroom, a brilliant and hugely successful concept pizzeria chain that makes what I consider to be some of the best "Americana" pizza around (and having 36-48 draft beer taps at every location doesn't hurt either).

Bottom-line on WP Pizza Bar: it may take a few years to cover the country and work out all the remaining first year tweaks but I think this is going to eventually be Wolfgang Puck's most financially successful multi-unit concept, mainly because both the food and the pizzas are excellent, and the restaurant design, as always with Wolfgang, is beautiful. He is the Godfather of the gourmet, "California" pizza, and he is now building a series of shrines to celebrate his contribution to the pizza lexicon. Thanks to Wolf and Scott Wallen for kicking it all off right around the corner from my house. The irony is on me!

I'd  love to hear from any of you who may have also been to the WP Pizza Bar. There is now one in Greensboro, NC and I believe another will soon open, perhaps in Raleigh, and also out west. By this time next year there should be three more and then, watch out, they will probably hit the popcorn stage soon after. But the key to why it works, the star attraction, are the pizzas. Who knows, maybe Charlotte will become a pizza town after all….

Peter's Blog, Feb. 28th, 2013
Peter Reinhart

This will just be a quickie, as I'm working on a deadline for a project, but I wanted to give everyone a heads up that in the coming days I will be posting a report on my recent mini-pizza quest around Charlotte, where I had a chance to visit with the Executive Chef of Wolfgang Puck's new "Pizza Bar."  For some unknown but beneficial reason for me, Wolfgang chose Charlotte as the place to launch this new concept, which has been open now for about 8 months and has been very well received. The pizzas are superb so, more on this, plus my visits to Mellow Mushroom, Luisa's, and, of course, Pure Pizza.

In addition, I will post photos and stories from this Saturday's Beer Dinner at Pure which, thanks to some of you, is now sold out. So, lots of news to report and, as soon as I can get my photos up and my words on the page, it's all coming your way.

In addition, Brad is on fire with his new "pepperoni" concepts, so he will be posting another piece on his latest passion. I really think he's onto something here.  And John Arena has promised at least one more, and maybe more, in his series on what it takes to go pro.  And we're also just days from posting the next video in the Basta Pizza/Beer Challenge, so lots of good things coming your way. Keep checking back, as there's always something new here on Pizza Quest.

Peter's Blog, Upcoming Event, March 2nd
Peter Reinhart

Hi Everyone,
In light of our recent webisode posting about the Basta/Bruery Pizza/Beer Challenge, I think this announcement is very timely. Sadly, it will be more useful to those of you who live near Charlotte, NC so, if you don't, but have friends or family in this area, please feel to tell them about it.

On Saturday, March 2nd we will be hosting a "Farm to Fork" Pizza/Beer Pairing Dinner at the new restaurant where I am a consulting partner, Pure Pizza, located at 224 7th St, in Charlotte (inside the 7th Street Public Market).

Our pizza team has created two totally original pizzas, both made with dough using spent grain from the brewery, to match with a variety of beers from one Charlotte's newest, hottest micro-breweries, Triple C Brewery. The dinner will also include a farm to table salad (and the farmers themselves will be there to talk about their organic produce) and dessert -- a specially created panna cotta (and did I mention, Triple C's amazing beers? Yes, I know I did but we're pretty excited about the pairings, very reminiscent of what we will be showing you in the upcoming webisodes).

It all starts at 7 PM and will also include live music and lots of fun. In other words, a one of a kind pizza party! All for $40.

For more details and to reserve a place (tickets are going fast) go to: http// .   You can also find more info at our Facebook page: (we'd love it if you'd "like" it). Anyway, this is our first such event (we've only been open for 9 months) so I wanted to get out the word via this growing Pizza Quest community (I also posted this on the website -- we're up to 16,500 subscribers which, I'm sure, include many of you). I'll keep you posted in the future when I hear of similar fun pizza events. Hope you or your friends can make it!  I'll take photos and report back after the event.

Peter's Blog: Are these the Best in America?
Peter Reinhart

Hi Everyone,

I plan to write more about my recent trip through Texas, and we have some new postings to add this week, but my friend Steve Steingard, with whom I've shared many pizzas (and cheese steaks) while growing up together in Philly, just sent me this link and I wanted to share it with you, asap, because it highlights some very spectacular pizzas, both traditional and innovative.  No list is totally exhaustive and all are subject to argumentation, but this one doesn't just stop at 25 or even 50 but lists over 100 of the finest pizzas in America, with great photos.  Enjoy, and feel free to lodge your comments here, both pro and con, especially if you think one of your own "worthies" was omitted. As for me, it gave me a whole new batch of places to add to our never-ending quest. Thanks Grubstreet!

News Flash!
Peter Reinhart

Great news. --  the Craftsy mini-pizza course launched yesterday and we already have 2,200 subscribers! To get the free video course, "Perfect Pizza at Home" go to and sign up. Did I mention that it's FREE!!  I just watched the whole series from my hotel room (yes, I'm still in Texas) and I have to say, I'm really pleased with how it turned out. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Now, on to Houston....

Peter's Blog, January 21st, 2013
Peter Reinhart

I'm headed out soon for Austin, TX where my teaching tour of Texas begins (see my previous Peter's Blog for dates and cities). Not sure if there are still spaces available, so call the store near you if you want to attend.  In the meantime, till I get back, I wanted to share this e-mail from Pizza Quest follower, David Maxwell, in response to my WFO 4-minute rib eye steak technique. Here's what he sent, another great idea that I can't wait to try:

"By far the best steaks I've ever cooked were  boneless rib eyes we served at Christmas.  Try this method, an oven-based version of sous vide:
1 - Season with salt and pepper.  Place steaks on a cooling rack set into a rimmed cookie sheet.
2 - Place into a 250F degree oven.  Depending on the thickness and starting temp of the steak it will take anywhere from 15 to 40 minutes to bring the internal temperature up to 100.  Use a meat thermometer and don't be afraid to poke into the meat.  It isn't a water balloon - you won't lose a ton of juice even with multiple pokes.  Go in from the side.
3 - Remove from oven and pat dry.
4 - Put steaks on an insanely hot cast iron pan - no oil needed.  Let them sit undisturbed for about a minute, flip and go another minute.
5 - Let them rest for 5 minutes
You should have a steak that's beautifully pink all the way through with a wonderful dark sear.  You shouldn't have any of the tan/gray layer that's so common in home seared or grilled steak.  100 degrees pre-sear should bring you up to the rare side of medium rare.  105 should be enough to satisfy any Red-Phobic types.
It also works for tuna steak."

Thank you, David!  He mentioned sous vide, and his timing is perfect, as we will be posting the next in our Basta websiode series later this week. In this segment, Kelly Whitaker will show us how he makes his famous 48-hour sous vide/oven charred short ribs, one of my all time favorite bites.

Hope to see some of you in Texas. I will try to blog from the road, but no promises -- lots to do in the Lonestar State!




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Pizza Quest is a site dedicated to the exploration of artisanship in all forms, wherever we find it, but especially through the literal and metaphorical image of pizza. As we share our own quest for the perfect pizza we invite all of you to join us and share your journeys too. We have discovered that you never know what engaging roads and side paths will reveal themselves on this quest, but we do know that there are many kindred spirits out there, passionate artisans, doing all sorts of amazing things. These are the stories we want to discover, and we invite you to jump on the proverbial bus and join us on this, our never ending pizza quest.

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