Tuesday, March 16, 2010

An affair to remember.....

A love affair that is. One that is timeless through the ages, one that Bill Shakespeare has nothing on, and one that is largely misunderstood by many, specifically my wife. For when she called recently and told me that I really should start writing again and I told her the blog ideas that had been floating around my head, she said "huh," then silence. That is Rebecca for "I think your idea is lame or simply sucks." Always a critic! In fact she has never really gotten my love, passion, obsession, and all around affinity for the glory that is Pizza.

Call it good geography or just plain luck but I was born, then raised in parts of this country where food, in many forms, many of them gluttonous, is taken very, very seriously. Born with New Yorker and Jersey blood then brought up in the unappreciated, underdog town that is Buffalo.

Here's where some of you may skip to the next blog. By all means. I have every intention of trying to hit 1000 words on a subject that in my mind deserves the honor.
Ahhhh, pizza. Where to begin? When you get down to the science of it, is there a greater form of the food groups rolled into one? This is to say...back when there were 4 food groups. Wheat, vegetable, dairy, and protein in varying quantities, layers, and forms, baked into ooey, gooey, ecstasy. It is only fitting that after pizza my favorite food is the sandwich, a close cousin that also deserves it's 15 minutes of fame.

So, Buffalo and pizza and crust. 1st off, if any pizza joint owner or operator does not know what a "slice" is, please close your doors tomorrow. Even if you don't offer them. A pizza is a pie and sometimes you just want a slice or two, especially after a show at MSG and you have to navigate your saucy girl and friend back through the snow to any train to Newark. I digress. Pizza has lots of forms. NY style floppy, full square foot, paper thin slices to regular tossed, to Sicilian to Chicago style. Depends on your mood I think. Here's my top choices:

A place in Wall N.J. I think is named Vinnie's. I got off a plane from months in Europe, rode home, then to NJ with my folks. This was the 1st meal I remember back on US soil and one I will never forget. Ridiculously thin, mammothly large pizzas with the only one true topping, pepperoni. We got a couple to split between like 6 people.....my dad ordered 1 more just for me to eat and I think I ate it all. The perfect balance of tart tomato with nothing else to get in it's way, good mozzarella, and huge greasy pepperoni. One more thing....if you go into a pizza place and you don't see crushed red pepper, oregano, garlic powder, or parm shakers or any combo of those on tables or readily available....carry your happy butt back out and save disappointment.

2nd choice...Marvino's in Buffalo. Thicker, almost sicilian style crust. Call me crazy but the junk pizza I craved on thursdays in middle school.....the only day I think I was allowed to get cafeteria food was bad sicilian pizza. Marvino's was not junk. Great sauce, great mozz., and small, thick pepperoni like Bocci's. The main reason I even put them on the list is because they offer half a large. Really....Half a large pizza and the bizarre pizza box to prove it. There is a certain amount of planning involved in transport since any ex. pizza maker aficionado knows there is major continental drift with liquid cheese. Cut liquid magma xtra cheese pizza in half and if you don't place the box just right in your Bronco II and shift carefully all the way home, you'll crack open that 1st Natural Ice, pop on the Big Lobowski, and open a half moon of dough with a side of cheese.

3rd choice....I dated a girl eons ago that had a huge italian family. Either her or her father took me to La Bella Sicilia in Cheektowaga NY. It blew me away. NY style with no bells or whistles. It was always packed and the togo pickup room had this screen door in the summer that blasted hot pizza goodness out into the sunshine and my memory.

4th choice....Andriaccio's in Mayville NY. The best chicago style pizza I have ever had the pleasure to taste. There is something so ridiculously awesome about taking a staple, flip it upside down and it's beautiful. The sauce on chicago style must be more substantial and herb driven to shine.

5th choice.....Siena Amherst NY. When I finally decided on culinary school, I needed to get my feet wet in fine dining. I had made pizzas, thousands of them, but never in a wood burning oven. I didn't know what mire poix was. I still feel like an idiot. So, I'd put on my whites, load wood in from out back, take off the cover and feed the beast, replace the cover, and prep. I went from canned sauce and bagged cheese to pomodoro, extra virgin, asiago, fontina, gorg, prosciutto, cappy, fresh herbs, and a ridiculous amount of heat. 700 degrees. I remember that you could conceivably fit 4 or 5 pizzas in at once without getting to close to the wood and more importantly, coals. Then you had to be a master with a 5 foot flat hoe. Turning, swapping spots, cause in less that 2 minutes your pies were at risk of burning up, and if you did not sweep and move, soot was the extra topping..and bottom. Paper thin pizza, fabulous ingredients, and the flavor of the fire piercing every bite. Awesome.

6th.....Bozanna's Clarence NY. Arguably one of the the best and worst things you will ever eat. Construction. Now, this was 9 years ago when I would watch and I have heard rumors that the glory days have passed but here is what I remember. Thick dough. Tomato paste like sauce. 1/2 to 3/4 inch slices of mozzarella, not shredded, completely covering the sauce. Then a bucket of pepperoni. This is not an exaggeration. Enough pepperoni to cover every bit of white. Into the oven. Then more pepperoni a bit later to cover the ones that shrunk. We took years to actually order whole pies. It started as a trek for slices and blue cheese. For every slice, you were subliminally inclined to purchase a 3 oz. cup of what was more closely wall paper paste than blue cheese. There was technique. 1st...the roni dip. Peel off the first three or four layers of pepperoni and dip in the bleu. Once you were close enough, you could try to tackle the beast. My first time, I think I made it through two thirds of a slice. May sound gross or off putting but when you are 19 or 20, who am I kidding....if I still lived there....it's heaven.

7th.....Sergi's Canton NY.....my 1st stint at college at St. Lawrence granted me two things. A head full of Phish and Fat Rolls at Sergi's. Envision a deep fried calzone about the size of a large sub of course pepperoni and cheese for $5 and that was the minimum delivery fee. Enough said I think.

I went cold turkey for a while. France killed my Pizza love. I got hooked on kebabs, the France equivalent of gyros sold by real life gypsies. In France they used Comte and Emmential for pizza, their sauce was terrible, and they insisted on cracking an egg on it just before it came out. Love the egg but not many were good. Even the ones we hoped to be so.

A year later, I took an overnight train from Paris to Rome with my folks. We walked from the apartment we had rented to the Vatican and the old city. I remember the roof top gardens. I remember eating lunch with my parents, neapolitan pizza of just cheese, sauce, crust, down the street from Vatican city and later me and my mom picking up a slice of sicilian style on a late morning stroll. I remember the first bite of each. I remember that city. I remember those sights, sounds, and smells by taste but I guess I'm to greedy to share too much. It's as if I may loose a piece if I try to put them to word.

Till next time.....

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