Our First Quest
As Brad told you, these photos are from our very first quest, during the summer of 2009. We traveled from LA to San Francisco, with many stops in-between, and met quite number of interesting people, many of them not shown here in these photos (for instance, we had some great slices at the legendary Cheese Board in Berkeley, on their wonderful sourdough crust–we’ll have that for you in a subsequent webisode).
We began the tour at La Brea Bakery, where, in addition to baking some of the best bread in America, they make the pizza dough for Nancy Silverton’s Pizzeria Mozza. By my estimate, it looked like about 700 dough balls a day–that’s a lot when you think about making that many pizzas every day–I mean, that’s a lot of pizza!. From the bakery we went to Pizzeria Mozza and met up with Nancy and her head pizzaiolo, Matt Molina. We have some great footage of Matt creating a few of his signature pizzas in an upcoming webisode segment. We spent most of the day with Nancy and some of her friends, food writers Russ Parsons (LA Times) and Kristine Kidd (Bon Appetite Magazine and, now, a major food blogger). In an upcoming segment you hear a little of our table talk as we devoured a number of the fabulous Mozza pizzas. Russ, who had been making fun of the notion of Hawaiian pizza, with ham and pineapple, became an instant convert when he tasted Nancy’s version.
We traveled north and spent some time in the sweet town of Cayucos, California, in the Central Coast with Chef Jensen Lorenzen and his wife Grace, who run the Cass House Inn, and create great menu items in their new wood burning oven located in the center of their vegetable and herb garden. We bought some freshly smoked fish at Ruddell’s Smokehouse, just a few yards from the Inn (and also some fantastic cookies at the Brown Butter Cookie Store, also just a few yards away–the whole town is only a few yards long, it seemed), and then proceeded to turn the fish and garden veggies into some killer pizzas. All of this will be coming your way on an upcoming webisode.
Of course, as you saw on the opening webisode, we also discovered the Taco Temple, in Morro Bay, and almost changed the name of project to Taco Quest. Owner Adam Pollard made me a sea scallop taco that I’d fly back tonight for, if I could. That’s what’s so great about the “quest;” it draws us into all sorts of unexpected side adventures.
For example, when we visited Craig Stoll and Anthony Strong in San Francisco at their Pizzeria Delfina, we unexpectedly stumbled upon one of the best food streets in America, what they call, The Gastro (well, we were only blocks from the famed Castro District). The Bi-Rite Creamery is setting all sorts of new benchmarks for the next generation of ice cream flavors (and their gourmet market across the street isn’t too shabby either), and the bread and pastries at Tartine Cafe are nationally acclaimed. Craig Stoll has already won a James Beard Award for his Restaurant Delfina, and now his pizzeria Delfina is slammed night and day. All of these places are within a thirty second walk from each other. You’ll see lots of footage from here in the coming weeks.
Tony Gemignani was, at one time, the practically unbeatable world champion acrobatic dough tosser who many of you have seen on the Tonight Show and David Letterman. But now he’s upped his game even further and is the world champion Margherita Pizzaiolo, having won the title in Naples against, dare I say it, the pizzaiolos of Naples. He and his brother have operated a successful pizzeria for many years outside of San Francisco (Pyzano’s, in Castro Valley), but now he has opened a new pizza fantasyland in the heart of San Francisco’s North Beach, called Tony’s Pizza Napoletana. He has four different types of ovens, depending on the style of pizza you want (New York, American, Sicilian, or Napoletana), and he just opened a by-the-slice operation next door. If you order his championship Margherita, it will be made by Tony personally, but get there early as he only makes a certain number each day. In addition to getting some great footage at Tony’s new pizzeria, he also took us out to the Central Valley to visit the folks at Stanislaus Tomatoes, where the harvest was just about to begin. We learned that two weeks before those beautiful Italian plum tomatoes were to be harvested they cut off the water to them, which causes the leaves to fall off and the sugar to ripen and the tomatoes to turn red and fall of the vine with just a gentle shaking. We got there just as the first ones were ripening and I got to shake some off the vine–and we captured it all on film.
There’s a lot more to share, so keep checking the gallery for more photos. We’ll keep them coming till we run out. And don’t forget, send us some of yours too!
Recent Articles by Peter Reinhart
- Pizza Quest, Season Three, Episode 4: Pizza Champion Tommy Garnick’s Artisan Journey in the Desert
- Pizza Quest, Season Three, Episode 3: Marc Forgione, From Iron Chef to Peasant
- Pizza Quest Season Three, Episode 2: Alan Cahn, The Transformation-Meister
- Pizza Quest, Season Three, Episode 1: “Pizza Quest,” the book!
- Pizza Talk, Season Two, Episode 13: The Sourdough Club, Vanessa Kimbell
- Pizza Talk, Season Two, Episode 12: The Cheese Dude Returns!
Pizza Quest Info
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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