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Peter’s Blog, May 31st

Hi Again,

As the song goes, June is busting out all over. So many cool things happening everywhere that I wanted to mention a couple of them for those of you who, like me, enjoy discovering things at the front edge of the wave, before the rest of the world catches up.

Two that I’m tracking are the following: If you’ve followed some of the “Comments’ we’ve received every now and then from Rob DiNapoli, of DiNapoli Tomatoes, he and Chris Bianco have teamed up for a signature line of organic canned tomatoes that will be available only to restaurants (sorry folks, not the general public, at least for now). I recently got to taste them in action at Kelly Whitaker’s Pizzeria Basta and I hope to have them again soon when I go out to visit Chris at Pizzeria Bianco (don’t have a date lined up yet but as far as I’m concerned, the sooner the better). We hope to get both Chris and Rob on tape one of these days so that they can tell you all about their new tomatoes themselves but, for now, let me say this: you can really taste the difference. For anyone who thinks that the sun rises and sets on San Marzano only (and the real thing is pretty awesome, so this is no knock on them), I can’t wait to do a blind tasting between the Bianco-DiNapoli and the best of the San Marzano’s — as you should all know by now, not all San Marzano brand tomato are created equal and many are not even from San Marzano. The marinara pizzas I had at Pizzeria Basta with the new product pretty much blew me away, and I now have one lone #10 can of the the Bianco-DiNapoli tomatoes sitting right behind me as I type these words (thank you Rob!!), waiting for the big showdown. I am saving them for an upcoming “cutting” (side by side tasting panel) with the creative folks from the new pizza restaurant with whom I’m consulting (yes, you read that right–we’re a few months away from opening so this is just a tease–I’ll fill you in all the juicy terroir and post the press release when it’s closer to opening). More to the point, and we’ll try to get more on this directly from Chris Bianco when we get to Phoenix, it looks like he’s planning to bring out some other exciting signature products over the next year or so. If he brings the same level of intense passion to any of these that he does for his pizzas and tomatoes, we’re all in for a great and exciting ride. More news as we get it….

Along that same path, though, and the second piece of front of the wave info I want to share with you, we also tasted some amazing pizza dough at Kelly’s Pizzeria Basta courtesy of Keith Giusto, whose Central Milling brand of flour is now offering no less than four types of organic pizza flour, two of which are in the Italian -00- (Double Zero, super fine grind) style. Keith and Nicky Giusto, who are behind this new product line, sent me samples of all four and tonight (Memorial Day) I tested out two of them in my Forno Bravo Primavera Oven, along with a test drive of a new pizza dough made from 100% organic sprouted wheat Flour from Lindley Mills, which I wrote about in a previous Peter’s Blog (check the archives if you missed it). We had four guests tonight and they were each properly impressed by all three doughs–one of them voted for the sprouted wheat dough and said he’d be a regular if we made that one at the new restaurant–and the others voted for the -00- Normal (we also served a –00–“Fortified” which is designed more for regular 600 degree pizza ovens and not my 1000 degree Primavera (okay, we actually cooled it down to 800 degrees for the pizzas — but I kept it at 1000 degrees on Saturday when I fired up the best steaks I’d ever made or eaten in my life, but more on that below).
The point is, we’re starting to see what happens when American farmers, millers, and chefs get together and say, “Let’s see if we can learn something from the Italians and, maybe, even top them.”  Keith Giusto is one of the most knowledgeable bakers and millers I’ve ever known (I used to buy his flour when I had my own bakery in Santa Rosa and he was a frequent visitor, always teaching me new tricks), so I was thrilled to run into him at Basta, where I flipped over the dough made on his flour and arranged to get the samples now sitting in my cellar. Based on today’s bake, I foresee at least one of the four types, and maybe more than one, working its way onto the menu at the still to be disclosed new pizzeria coming soon to Charlotte. And, did I mention that all of these products: the Bianco-DiNapoli Tomatoes, the four Central Milling pizza flours, and the sprouted wheat flour are all certified organic (I did mention it, but it’s important enough to mention it again)?

So, what you just read is we, here at Pizza Quest, briefing you on the future; new products coming soon, and all of them organic and steeped in sustainable farming processes, and this is just the tip of the wave. There’s a lot more like this still coming. Like I said, June is busting out all over and, hey, it’s just May 31st!

Oh yes, as promised, here’s how I did the steaks, and I still can’t stop thinking about how good they were–and I rarely eat steak. But these were as tender as butter and better than anything I’ve ever had at Ruth’s Chris or any other fancy steak house. Of course, the key is the oven — mine was so hot I thought it might lift off:
–Crank up the oven to around 1000 degrees. Put a large, dry (not greased) cast iron pan in the oven until it begins to turn grey–that is, give it at least 5 minutes to get super hot (mine actually did turn grey on the side closest to the fire, but I had it in for about 20 minutes–I thought it might smelt into iron ore).
–Season both sides of two 1 1/2″ thick rib eye steaks (bone in or out–we couldn’t get any with the bone in but it didn’t matter in the long run) with lots of freshly cracked black pepper and a splash of coarse salt (I used red sea salt from one of those plastic grinders you can get at Trader Joe”s, but kosher salt would do as well). Mist one side of each steak with olive oil from a can (or brush it on lightly).
–Be sure to have well insulated oven mitts or pads, and a pair of long tongs, and a timer nearby. Pull the pan out far enough so that you can drop the steaks in it without burning the flesh off your arm. Lay the oiled sides down in the pan and return it to the oven. Give it exactly two minutes.
–Pull the pan out and use the tongs to flip the steaks over. The bottom side will have caramelized so beautifully you will start to cry.  Return the pan to the oven for 1 1/2 minutes for rare, and 2 minutes for medium rare (if you cook it any darker than medium rare you’ve just ruined a beautiful piece of meat and dishonored the steer who gave his life for you). Pull the pan out (you will need double thick mitts and a place to land the sucker–I use a metal table parked next to the oven). If you like it a little more on the medium side, leave the steak in the pan for another 30 seconds. Otherwise, transfer the steaks to a serving platter and let them sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. I suppose you could pull the old Ruth’s Chris trick and lay a pat of butter on top of the steak as soon as you get it out of the pan but, frankly, we didn’t do that and didn’t miss the butter at all.
BTW, you can probably use another cut with equal success, such as a T-Bone,  Porterhouse or NY Strip, and probably even a Filet Mignon, but I’m partial to Rib Eye. If you make these steaks, please write to this Blog’s Comments section and let us know how they turned out.

And have a wonderful June! More next week….



You can’t, sadly. It’s available only to pizzerias, as the supply is limited. However, go to the DiNapoli website for contact info and write or call them. You never know….

Bryan S

Hi Peter,

Love the post. I happen to be going to Boulder, CO next week on business and Pizzeria Basta is at the top of my list. Are there any pizza or food places that are musts?



I went to Pizzeria Basta in Boulder, Colorado and got to see Kelly Whitaker make some of this amazing pizzas. I had the daisy, which is tomato sauce, hand stretched mozzarella, basil, extra virgin olive oil. It ranks right up there with one of the best pizzas I’ve had. May be the best sauce. I really liked this pizza was mostly sauce and lightly topped with mozzarella. It was as good as Delfina and Motorino. Can’t wait to go back!

I am going to try newly opened (jan ’11) Pizzeria Locale tonight from the same people that run Frasca Food and Wine. They brought in the state’s first Stefano Ferrara “mobile” oven.


Send us a review of Locale, B-ry — I’ve been hearing great things about it but when I tried to eat there they were so crowded that it was going to be at least an hour wait, so we ended up going somewhere else. Is it as good as the buzz?


(part 1)
While in Boulder, CO last week I went to Pizzeria Locale after having an amazing meal at sister restaurant Frasca Food and Wine the night before. I made a reservation for 6pm (the only one available) and when I got there it was jam packed and buzzing.

I sat down at the bar, which faces the oven where you share the counter with the pizzaiola’s making the pizza. What a joy and treat to be able to watch this process. This was especially so for a home pizza enthusiast like myself. There are so many things that can be learned from watching experts. Watching them stretch the dough, top the pizzas and work the oven is so much fun.

I started with a few small appetizers. The arancini and the veal meatballs were to die for.

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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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