Peter's Blog
Peter's Blog, November 15th
Peter Reinhart

It's been a hectic few days and I have a meeting to attend in a few minutes, so I will return later today to fill in the blanks. Meanwhile, here's what you have to look forward to this week:

Wed: A new recipe by Brad English, our "everyman" pizzaiolo. This time he tackles the challenging Marinara Pizza.

Thursday: A new video -- this week an interview with the editor of Salute Magazine who visited us while we were filming with Tony Gemignani, about the Italian-American experience and how it relates to the entire immigrant experience of melting pot America (now often referred to as a "salad bowl" rather than a melting pot because of how many diverse cultures are getting tossed together).

Friday: A new guest column by the popular John Arena.

As I said, I'll be back later today with more Peter's Blog. A full week of new content awaits....

Okay, I'm back, having just come from the location of Charlotte's soon to open 7venth St. Public Market. Construction and build-out is going on at a brisk pace in order to be ready for the ribbon cutting on November 30th at noon (come if you are in the area). It will be our (Charlotte's) own version of the Ferry Terminal Market I wrote about a few weeks ago in San Francisco. Ours will, of course, be much smaller and have a style of its own, a Charlottean style, featuring locally grown or prepared foods and other artisan products. I'm on the market's board, so am especially proud of it and of our Executive Director, Christy Shi, who is doing an amazing job of bring the vision into focus (here's a portion of the market's vision statement: "The 7venth St. Public Market provides high-quality, fresh, and affordable food from local farms and regional purveyors. It is the anchor of a dynamic market district that serves as an authentic community gathering place."

One of the market's purposes is to serve as an incubator for food-related businesses, and so I am happy to report that there will be a brand new pizza cafe located in the market featuring sprouted wheat pizza crust. I am serving as a consulting partner in this cafe (the name has yet to be announced), and we're getting very excited about being the first pizzeria anywhere to use organic, sprouted wheat (and also sprouted ancient grain blends), milled right here in North Carolina (for newcomers to this site, go back to the April Peter's Blog archives to read about this amazing flour, which I first presented at the Asheville Bread Festival with miller Joe Lindley). The pizzeria won't be ready to open on the market's opening day -- there's a lot of electrical and construction still to do -- but hopefully by the end of the year. I will tell you more as we get closer to launch, but I can say that everyone involved in this project is very excited, not only because of how delicious the pizzas will be, using fresh products brought to the market every day by the other vendors, but also about the whole market, and how it will reflect and support the sustainability values of this region. For us, it's a perfect fit at the perfect time; for Charlotte, it's a huge step and statement about its commitment to supporting local farmers, growers, and artisans. For the public, it will especially mean good eats!! I'll report on the opening in two weeks and also on the progress of the pizza cafe, so keep checking back.

Peter's Blog, November 8th, 2011
Peter Reinhart

First, I want to welcome our newest sponsor to Pizza Quest, our friends from Central Milling in Petaluma, California. This company is headed up by my longtime friend, Keith Giusto, one of the finest bakers in America and also one of our greatest millers--rarely does someone possess world class skills in both realms, and we're very proud to have Central Milling in our growing stable of Pizza Quest sponsors. You've read in this blog how we used Keith's (and his nephew Nicky's) latest flour blends to create the "Challenge Pizza Dough" in Denver, so I hope you'll click through to the Central Milling website and check them out -- this is a company dedicated to producing the absolutely finest flour in the country and, quite possibly, the world. It is my understanding that there will even be bread classes and demos at their Petaluma headquarters --you'll have to contact them for details (the website has a contact section)-- but you should also learn about the actual original Central Mills -- the mills themselves-- in Utah, where the magic really happens. Thanks for your support Keith and Nicky, and your whole team at Central Milling. Welcome onto the Pizza Quest bus….

Meanwhile, I've been ruminating all week about the two extraordinary pizza experiences I recently had in San Francisco at Una Pizza Napoletana and also at Tony's Pizza Napoletana. The reason I can't stop thinking about these places is because they are so totally different from each other yet each represents a level of excellence and artistry that is extremely rare in the pizza world (though the list of pizzerias operating at this level is growing by the day, to the benefit of all of us). These two places, though, are the yin and yang of artisan pizza. Tony's features eight different styles (see last week's Peter's Blog), all executed at at benchmark levels, while Una Pizza Napoletana makes one style, a unique iteration of classic Napoletana but with a wild yeast crust, created and crafted  by Anthony Mangieri in a small, almost zen-like fashion, on a small work station with a beautiful blue tiled oven at his back.

One can't help but be awed at both places, yet in very different ways and for different reasons.

Tony Gemignani's ambitions make it impossible for one person, Tony, to make all the pizzas himself so he is dependent on a team of personally trained cooks (he also runs a pizzaiolo certification school next to the restaurant) who must also make pasta, his legendary meatballs, and many other classic Italian-American menu items.  His restaurant is an emporium, a massive statement on a grand stage in the heart of San Francisco's most famous neighborhood, North Beach, across the street from the church where Joe DiMaggio married Marilyn Monroe, around the corner from City Lights Bookstore where Allen Ginsberg and the other beatnik poets dominated the literary landscape, and just blocks from Fisherman's Wharf.  In one of our early webisodes with Tony we went to the top of a hill overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, looking back on the city of San Francisco as if it were the Emerald City (which it is, as anyone who has ever lived or visited there knows). I asked him how it felt to be the newest star on the biggest stage and Tony, who is no stranger to acclaim and cheering crowds, seemed awed himself as he took in the immensity of his striving. It was a defining moment for each of us, I think. In future webisodes we'll get to explore a little more of the fire that burns in his belly, that drives the desire to climb to these heights. He is the George M. Cohan, the John Wayne, the Michael Jackson of the pizza world and we're delighted to be able to give you a glimpse of his artistry.

I'm hoping we'll be able to go back to San Francisco in the near future and explore in an equally deep manner the fire that burns in Anthony Mangieri's belly because, while Tony's is like a grand Broadway musical, a "Phantom of the Opera" playing to 2,000 people a night in a majestic theater, Anthony's place is like a small off-Broadway theater playing The Fantasticks to a 90 people a night (btw, "The Fantasticks" ran for about 30 years in that tiny theater -- not sure if Anthony will want to do it for so long, though).

What I'm trying to say is that I really want to get inside that monkish complexity I experienced at Una Pizza Napoletana; the oven itself was so clearly like, in a purely metaphorical way of course, a The Holy of Holies of the ancient Temple, a consuming, transformative fire that transmuted dough, cheese, and sauce into a new something, into a a one of a kind pizza. I'm just dying to know how much of that design was conscious and intentional and how much simply an intuitive stumbling into the mystic. That's what's on my list for my next trip to San Francisco because experiencing Tony's and Anthony's pizzerias on two consecutive nights reminded me that there are many paths to the Holy Grail; soulfulness can manifest in St. Peter's Cathedral and also in a desert monastery or in a lonely mountain top and, in the end, the only thing that actually matters is that it inspires us and touches us in the center of our being. Two paths, two distinctively personal quests, but one ultimate destination, sought after and celebrated night after night after night. As we've said before, the quest never ends....

Peter's Blog, Nov. 1st
Peter Reinhart

I'm home, Halloween has passed (we got a record number of kids this year), and I've started a serious diet after last week's blow-out in San Francisco. I'll be back later today with more details on that, but wanted to let you know what else we have on tap for this week in addition to the recap of last week.

On Wed. we'll have a new recipe from Brad, who has been on fire recently with new variations of pizza using the Challenge Pizza Dough.

On Thursday we have yet another webisode featuring Tony Gemignani, whose restaurant was just named best pizzeria in America by USA Today.

And on Friday, well, I'm working on that...

More soon, so do check back.

Okay, I'm back so here's the rest of the story:

Continuing on with the San Francisco saga: I mentioned that a few of us went to Tony's Pizza Napoletana on Thursday night, just prior to discovering the USA Today article proclaiming it the best pizzeria in the USA. It's a good thing we went when we did as Tony called me the following evening and told me the lines were around the block!

As you will see in the photos, one of the pizzas that seems to be generating some buzz, among the eight styles featured on the menu (nine if you count his new gluten-free pizzas), is the Pizza Romana, baked at 700 degrees F. in an electric brick oven. It's long and wide (about 4 feet long and 18" wide, by my estimation), and a great "table pizza" for a large group, as our neighbors at the next table over were -- and they seemed exceedingly happy! You get to choose four toppings from four different ingredient sections, so it really is a  crowd pleaser. Our table didn't order one so I can't report on the crust but, judging from the pizzas we did order, I can't imagine it being anything but great.

Our group, on the other hand, got a few Napoletana-style pizzas (the Championship Margherita, naturally, though they were out of the San Felice dough balls but, as you can see in the webisodes, Caputo and San Felice are comparable so we were very happy). I also ordered a Spacca Napoli pizza from the Napoletana section of the menu, which is made with mozzarella di bufala and cherry tomatoes -- similar to the same version under a different name we had at Una Pizza Napoletana the previous night. The only difference was the crust (Una uses a wild yeast crust and I'm not sure what flour but it seems different from Tony's -- both are superb in their own way and the table was divided over whose version they preferred -- a nice dilemma to have).

But the surprise hit of the night was the Tony Two Times pizza, listed in the Classic American category. I'll return to this in a moment but first let me tell you about all the other categories: there's one called Detroit Style (square, butter toasted corners, takes 25 minutes so you know it's got to be loaded); Sicilian Style (you can see that in last week's webisode); California Style (lots of wild flavor combo's made in a wood-fired oven with Caputo flour -- kind of a Napoletana crust with creative toppings not found in traditional Naples pizzerias); Classic Italian (Tony calls one of them The Cal Italia and describes the crust as "medium" in thickness -- I wish I had tried one of these for comparison purposes but I totally missed it on the far right side of the menu); Coal Fired Style, based on the classic New Haven and Lombardi's/Totonno's NY pizzas, baked in a 1000 degree oven); and finally, St. Louis Style (thin crust, provel cheese -- I'm probably one of the few non St. Louis natives who actually loves this style, but not as much I love the Coal and wood-fired styles).

There are also lots of salads, stromboli, calzone, killer meat balls (Tony is rightfully very proud of these and we got two orders), sausage and peppers, burgers with burrata cheese and other creative burgers, Chciken Parmigiana with pasta -- I mean the menu is like Disney World --something for everyone and too many things to experience in just one or even four visits. So I will be back. I'm especially upset with myself for missing a chance to try the coal-fired clam and bacon pizza. I simply missed it in the nearly hidden bottom middle of the menu, until we had already stuffed ourselves silly. I will be sure to get that the next time I'm in SF.

Oh yes, the Tony Two Times is listed thus: "mozzarella, two times the garlic, and two times the sausage, two times the bell peppers."  Yes, this was a garlic and sausage blast and we all had to have a slice just in self defense! But what really pleased me was how good the crust was. This was, in my estimation, a NY Style pizza crust comparable to the one served at Apizza Scholls in Portland (one of my favorite pizzerias in the country). It was an unexpected surprise and pleased me greatly.

Let me say this: when you go, whether with a group or alone (and I suggest with a group so you can try lots of things), take your time before ordering because the menu is so extensive you will invariably miss something and experience buyers remorse. But it's brilliant on Tony's part because then you feel compelled to return again and again. Of course, this only works if you really believe he pulled it off -- that he can actually back his boast to have mastered all these various styles. Personally, I'm convinced and impressed, and kudos to his team of pizzaioli and also his front of the house staff who were all gracious and friendly, not just to us but to the entire packed house. I have never been a fan of people trying to do too much, but Tony is Mozartian in his prodigiousness. Tony's reminded me of the scene in Amadeus where the king accuses Wolfie of using too many notes and he replies, "No, there are just the right amount." Only a rare few can work on that kind of canvas.  And by way of contrast, Anthony Mangieri is Chopin-esque in his minimalism and tight focus at Una Pizza Napoletana -- I felt fortunate to have experienced them both in successive nights.

Before I sign off I want to mention that, in celebration of completing our successful photo shoot, we (my wife Susan, co-author Denene Wallace, and Denene's mom Dot) headed up to Santa Rosa on Saturday. Denene and I were guests on The Good Food Hour on KSRO radio (one of the longest running radio food shows in the country), with my old friend Steve Garner, where we made the first official announcement of title of our book: The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking, with a publication date set for August, 2012. Before the show we stopped by the bakery to see what was there in its place and, low and behold, it was a gluten-free bakery called The Bliss Bakery. Couldn't have planned it better if I tried and I wish them the best of success.

After the radio show we gathered with friends and headed to Guy Fieri's new restaurant, Tex-Wasabi, in downtown Santa Rosa (only a few miles from where Susan and I used to live and where our bakery, Brother Juniper's was located -- it was kind of a homecoming of sorts). Guy is Santa Rosa's biggest star these days and his first restaurant, Johnny Garlic's, is still going strong, just a short hop from where our bakery was and where we first met Guy when he was just a newbie in the business -- who knew??.  The lunch at Tex-Wasabi was really fun--Guy has picked up some great tricks while on the diner and dive circuit and the best of them are on his very eclectic menu, including some innovative sushi and beautifully smoked meats. It was, like Tony's, an example of what a prodigy can do when he has enough money (or backers) to go for the big statement. I'd go back for the roasted chili peppers appetizer alone, but if I still lived in Santa Rosa I could see myself eating there a lot -- it's what I call fun food, and it's done well. Like Tony, he pulled it off. Way to go Guy!

Okay, enough -- my head is still spinning and jet lag is biting me in the butt, but this will give you a taste of how the quest just never seems to end -- and why should it? More soon….

Peter's Blog, Oct. 28th, SF
Peter Reinhart

Today is the last day of our photo shoot and we have only three shots left to take but time is running out, so I can't elaborate on last night's blow out at Tony's Pizza Napoletana (how could we not go there after spending the last two months in webisode world with all those Tony's videos?). However, I'll post more later this weekend, when things settle down. We were in Tony's, at the bar while waiting for our table, watching the ninth inning of the World Series. There were two outs and two strikes when they told us our table was ready. I figured the game was essentially over (how wrong I was!) so we went to the table, out of sight of the TV in the bar. Over the next half hour or so we kept hearing cheering from the bar and our waiter gave us updates, but I kept thinking how I was missing one of the greatest World Series games ever. But all that was forgotten when the pizzas came! I'll go into more detail in my next Peter's Blog, but just wanted to give you the context. As for now, I have to get back to the photos--they're turning out great and I can't wait for you all to see them when the book comes out next year. I'll get back into this story as soon as the dust settles and we get through the shoot....

Peter's Blog, Oct. 26th, SF
Peter Reinhart

Wed. We're halfway through the photo shoot and have come with some great shots and lots of product to bring to Omnivore tonight at 6 PM. There's always something going into or coming out of the oven, eventually being styled by Karen Shinto into a composition that Leo can assess and light for the camera. The rest of us gather around and offer suggestions or ooohhs and aahhh's and then Leo pulls the trigger and a number of variations of the original shot show up a video monitor until we have some that everyone likes. We've been very happy, and the collaborative process seems to be working.

I'm writing this now on Thursday, the day after the Omnivore event and after an exciting evening of pizza at -- here it comes....Una Pizza Napoletana, the one-of-a-kind pizzeria helmed by the now legendary Anthony Mangiere. I'll come back to that in a bit but first, a quick recap of Omnivore. Omnivore Books is owned by Celia Sack, and has, in the few years since I've been dropping in, established itself as a serious destination cook book store (and also a sweet pet supply store in the adjoining location next door), despite the small space located way out in Noe Valley. Celia runs a fine author program too, bringing in many A-list writers as well lesser known niche writers like me. Last evening she was able to draw about 30 people, some who had traveled from as far as Monterey and the East Bay. Denene had a chance to tell them her story, of creating the gluten-free, sugar free recipes that the book is based upon, as a way to heal her body and reverse her type-2 diabetes. The crowd, which mainly came to hear about pizza, seemed really interested in the gluten free phenomenon and they all got a chance for a sneak-peek taste of some of the products that we brought from the photo shoot.

Afterwards, a few of us headed over to 11th and Howard St., a rough looking neighborhood with and lots of locked doors, and nearly walked right past Una Pizza Napoletana until we caught the reddish glow emanating from a blue mosaic tiled domed oven and then saw a dining room full of happy pizza freaks. Once inside, I saw Anthony Mangieri woking at a small, spare pizza table, his back to the oven, which he would then face, pivoting around with a loaded peel as he slid another pizza through the open door. Two minutes later a beautiful, puffily charred pizza emerged, landed on a plate, which was then quickly escorted by one of the servers to whoever ordered it. Anthony was so focused on filling the steady stream of tickets that he hardly noticed me clicking away on my Leica Lumix while we waited for a table to clear for our group of eight (it was about a 20 minute wait). We ordered 6 pizzas among us, as they were running low on dough balls and a few people came in after us, but we could easily have consumed a whole pizza per person. They were wonderful--both traditional in appearance and balance of ingredients but also distinct and uniquely unlike anyone else's Napoletana pizzas.

I loved the slight tang of his naturally fermented dough-- perfect in San Francisco, which made me wonder why more pizzerias didn't capitalize on the ambient, only-in-San Francisco sourdough cultures. The crust was light and tender, but full of the ciabatta-like structure that I crave in pizza. We were all happy campers, whether we ordered the Margherita, or two variations -- one with smoked mozzarella and arugula, and the other with sliced cherry tomatoes and garlic as well as fresh mozzarella. So I waited till the dough had run out and Anthony was able to decompress a bit from his lazer-like focus and introduced myself. I instantly liked him and his earnestness, and introduced him to Melissa (my editor from Ten Speed Press) and Leo, our photographer and asked him if he'd be willing to let us come back with the Pizza Quest crew someday. He said yes, so I decided not to push into interview mode but to allow him his well deserved after-performance wind-down. There's so much I want to talk with him about -- I think there's a lot going on below the surface that contributes to the depth of our collective experience. Leo and I discussed, as we left, how much it seemed like Anthony's make-up station was like an altar, and how he was like the high priest as he placed his pizzas into the consuming fire of the domed oven that looked like a miniature Byzantine church. It was like a laicized iteration of a sacred ritual, a sacramentalizing of an otherwise ordinary mundane event. In other words, a manifestation of everything I've been writing about for twenty years -- that every meal has the potential to be a Last Supper, a bringing together of heaven and earth -- or not. It all depends on the eyes of those doing the looking (or eating), and also those doing the cooking. I could go on and on about this but want to wait till I get back to have a real sit-down with Anthony and see how much of this is conscious on his part and how much just unintended grace. Should be a lively discussion. I'll be back one more time this week with a wrap up of our SF adventure. We now have only four more beauty shots to take on Friday, as well as the author shots (Denene and I are already planning our wardrobes!). Brad has promised to insert a few of the photos I'm sending him tonight (he's the only one on our team who knows how to load photos into the blogs--something I still have to learn), so keep checking back. More to come from San Francisco....

Peter's Blog, Oct. 25th, SF Dateline!
Peter Reinhart

Here I am in San Francisco, shooting the photos for the upcoming book on Gluten-Free baking. I took a few photos of our team, hard at work, baking, shooting and tweaking the book photos (the "beauty shots" as they're called), and matching the copy to the photos. We're having a ball! Last night we had dinner at one of my favorite SF attractions, The Ferry Terminal Market (more on that later) and we're planning to visit a pizzeria tomorrow or Thursday night, but I won't say which one until I have something to report. The shoot will take all week and then Susan will fly in and we'll be doing a quick swing through Sonoma County, our old stomping grounds, on Saturday before flying home. My co-author, Denene Wallace, is here with her mom, Dot, and they're doing most of the baking while I get to, well, blog and schmooze -- a great gig! Leo Gong, who did such a fabulous job with my last book, "Artisan Breads Everyday," is once again behind the lens. Our editor, Melissa Moore and art director, Katy Brown, are also here, and our food styllist Karen Shinto, along with Leo's wife, Harumi, and their adorable mini-dachshund Samantha, the team mascot (last time I was here, three years ago, Samantha was only about about 2 pounds and 10 inches long; now she's an enormous foot long, and a whopping 9 pounds -- and is fully grown. She runs the show and everyone adores her. Anyway, I'll keep adding to this blog as the week progresses but want to get something off to you today (Tuesday). I'll send photos to Brad and he'll add them in as they come--I'll let the photos do most of the telling this week and next week, when I'm home and have a chance to reflect on the experience, I'll post a more reflective piece. So, for now, here's the team, and I'll keep adding to this posting throughout the week, so keep checking back. Also, be on the lookout for a recipe on Wed., a new video on Thursday, and more photos as I get them.

SPECIAL ALERT! Last week I erroneously stated I'd be at Omnivore Books at 7 PM on Wednesday but it is actually at 6 PM. I hope this doesn't screw up anyone's plans and I do hope to see you at 6 PM at Omnivore!

Wed: I said I'd keep adding on to this blog posting but instead, I'm going to post a new one and date it Oct. 26th. It will post later today. That way, for those who have been keeping up, you don't have to re-read all the earlier postings, and it will serve more as a progression. More soon....




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Vision Statement

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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