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'Uni' Pizza Napoletana, Manhattan's $8 Slice

'Uni' Pizza Napoletana, Manhattan's $8 Slice

"Uni" Pizza Napoletana. No, that's not a typo. I'm not referring to the dearly departed "Una" Pizza Napoletana, which Anthony Mangieri, after having left my heart broken in New York City, reopened in San Francisco. And I was certainly not referring to Ike Sewell's "Uno" Pizzeria in Chicago, which lays claim to having invented Chicago's deep-dish pizza, which is much loved in that city, but which some pizza purists (like me) think is an abomination. However, like those two pizza genius/inventors, I had for at least 10 years dreamt of a pizza that was so outrageous that I hardly dared mention it to anyone lest they question my very sanity.

My first real sushi omakase was at the venerable Sushi Yasuda and involved at least 40 pieces of sushi, the meal continuing way past Yasuda's hesitantly asking me not once, but twice, "Are you still hungry?" He was less hesitant about presenting me with the more than $300 bill, which I happily paid as I was in sushi nirvana, particularly after sampling and comparing three different kinds of uni (sea urchin), from California, Hokkaido, and even from Russia. Trouble was, I was still hungry after all that. Still hungry and still definitely drunk from pleasure and too much sake, I staggered into the nearest pizzeria. Sushi omakase followed by pizza became as natural to me as the cliché cigarette after sex.

As uni became more ubiquitous throughout New York City and the country, no longer being relegated to sushi connoisseurs, it started showing up in more and more dishes across many culinary borders: uni risotto at Bar Masa, uni crostini with lardo at Marea, uni-stuffed langoustines at Soto, uni butter pasta with caviar at Le Bernardin. So instead of uni sushi followed by searching for the nearest pizzeria to finish my evening, why not just save a step and find a place that would serve uni on the pizza?! As far as I knew, it had never been attempted. A Google search under "uni pizza" only makes reference to my own profile on Chowhound many years ago where I sheepishly asked why it didn't exist, which met with a deafening silence of no responses. Were we about to make pizza (and sushi) history?

Certainly it's been done in Japan. It has to have been done there, right? But were we destined to be remembered for introducing New York City to something as great as Anthony Mangieri's authentic, but original Neapolitan-style pizza? Or were we to be remembered like Ike Sewell for creating a pizza abomination? Getting to an age where I have to start thinking about my own bucket list, I had to find out.

At Eataly, I met my editor from The Daily Meal Arthur Bovino, the only person who would humor me. The retail raw seafood stall offers whole wooden trays of uni, just as I've always watched the sushi chefs dole out their uni from, for $22 apiece. One tray looked different — holding much larger and firmer pieces of uni. The sign confirmed it was California gold: uni from Santa Barbara (who must have been the patron saint of sea urchins). I pointed. "That tray is twice the size, $44," I was advised. Gold indeed. Sold.

We took the tray around the corner to Eataly's Rossopomodoro Pizzeria looking for a worthy pizza to be adorned by our precious purchase. After being told it was a 30-minute wait and they no longer did takeout, we left Eataly with our uni tray and began to wonder whether ordinary pizza would suffice. Sensing my dejection, Arthur suggested Zero Otto Nove, the Bronx Arthur Avenue spin-off two blocks south of Eataly on 21st Street, which makes some of the best Neapolitan-style pizza in the city. We ordered two margherita pies on the way so they'd be waiting for us.

Creamy fresh mozzarella on wood-oven blistered dough with San Marzano tomato sauce and basil. The Italian flag-colored pizza was beautiful, but would it remain so after being violated by a topping usually reserved for vinegar rice enrobed in seaweed? We carefully spooned the urchin gonads on the pie in a symmetrical pattern so as not to disturb anyone (except for the bartender at Zero Otto who was now regarding us as demented and was likely considering calling the cops if not the Verace Pizza Napoletana Association, the one responsible for prosecuting crimes against pizza).

The heat from the pizza radiated through the uni, rendering the urchin roe slightly creamy. It then began to run together with the moisture seeping out from the mozzarella and the tomato sauce. The hazelnut color of the uni worked its way throughout the pizza. Folding a slice brought all the colors and the flavors together.

And the taste? Let's just say I was going to need a cigarette afterwards. Seriously though, great pizza is the perfect palette for the finest ingredients and uni pizza is no exception. The slightly briny seafood flavor of the urchin melded naturally with the acidity of the tomatoes and the sweet creaminess of the cheese.

How could we let the world know of our discovery? Now that $1 slice joints have proliferated as quickly as the economy has deteriorated, I wonder if New York City and the world is ready for a chain of Uni Pizzerias? Only problem is that after being rejected by my editor for expense reimbursements, I'm not sure about a business model where I'd have to charge at least $8 per slice.

Pepe’s Pizzeria Napoletana

At Pepe’s, the greatest (and original) of the pizzerias on New Haven’s Wooster Street, you walk into a room with an open kitchen in back where white-aproned pizza men enact a ritual originated by Frank Pepe in the 1920s: bombs of dough are flattened on a marble table, clouds of spice are strewn in an instant, and long wooden bakers’ peels are used to inject pizzas deep into the coal-fired oven. It is a hypnotic scene, untouched by time or fashion.

Crust is what makes a Pepe’s pizza outstanding. It is Neapolitan style — thin but not brittle, with a real bready flavor. Cooked at high temperature on the brick floor of the ancient oven, it is dark around its burnished gold edge, and there is a good chew to every bite. The pizza men aren’t too fussy about scraping the oven floor, so it is likely the pizza’s underside will be speckled with burnt grains of semolina and maybe even blotched by an oil spill where another pizza leaked, all of which give the mottled oval a kind of reckless sex appeal that no tidy pie could ever match.

Frank Pepe, New Haven pizza’s Zeus, started very simply, selling pies that were nothing more than tomato with a few pinches of anchovy. To this day, Pepe’s premier pizza is made without mozzarella. It is called a white clam pie, and it is nothing but crust strewn with freshly-shucked littleneck clams, olive oil, garlic, oregano, and a dash of grated cheese. Without a mozzarella mantle, the dough develops wicked resilience, its mottled surface frosted gold. Mozzarella with onion (but no tomatoes, and perhaps a bit of garlic added) is another long-time favorite, as are the more traditional configurations with tomato sauce, cheese, pepperoni, and sausage. (Pepperoni is especially wonderful, as are freshly-roasted peppers.) Broccoli and spinach are more recent additions to the kitchen’s repertoire they are well suited to a white pie with mozzarella and garlic. But if you are coming to Pepe’s for the first time, try the white clam pie. It’s Roadfood heaven.

Note: Several other Pepe’s have opened in the Connecticut area, and they are very, very good, even if they don’t have the burnished character of this original.

Directions & Hours

  • Monday: 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM
  • Tuesday: 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM
  • Thursday: 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM
  • Friday: 11:00 AM – 10:00 PM
  • Saturday: 11:00 AM – 10:00 PM
  • Sunday: 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM


Price $
Seasons All
Meals Served Lunch, Dinner
Credit Cards Accepted Yes
Alcohol Served Yes
Outdoor Seating No

What To Eat

White Clam Pizza

Pepperoni Pizza

Original tomato pie

Original Tomato Pie with Mozzarella

Fresh Tomato Pie

The $10 NYC Lunch

So it's not too difficult to recommend michelin star places or expensive steakhouses. But where can you get a good lunch for around $ 10 ? It can be a little over, or a little under, but it has to be good.

While everybody knows Famous Ray's and Gray's Papaya, I was thinking places that are a little more exotic, or off the beaten path. This can include carts and food trucks if they are especially good.

I'll start it off with a couple of my favorites:

Mei Li Wah bakery in Chinatown for an assortment of buns. You can get like 10 different kinds and it's still under $ 10. Been around forever and there is a reason why.

Halal Kitchen on 4th Avenue in Brooklyn close to Barclay's. Not because it's halal, but because it's good. Lots of choices here, but I really like their fried chicken. I think 4 fried wings and fried rice with an egg is about $ 8.00.

L & B Spumoni Gardens in Brooklyn for a couple of slices. I think its like $ 6. Spumoni optional.

Uncle Gussy's Food Truck, 51st and Park. Beef & lamb gyro is $ 8.

Rei Rei Kan, E 10th St. Good Japanese style ramen for around $ 10, I'm partial to the Shoyu with pork, kamaboko and boiled egg.

NY Style Pizza

The most common and now quintessential form of NY pizza has thus become the type that is cooked in gas ovens rather than the Neapolitan-American type cooked with coal. NY style pizza is sold either as whole pies or by the "slice" — a triangular wedge cut from a whole pizza. Typically, an 18" NY pizza yields eight slices. With the exception of Patsy's, none of the original coal oven pizzerias sell pizza by the slice. The availability of slices of pizza fundamentally changed the nature of pizza in NYC, liberating it from the restaurant and substantially lowering the financial barrier of entry. NY style is virtually defined by the low cost of entry, the immediacy of service, and the portability of the product.

The NY style pizzas tend to have far more cheese than Neapolitan-American coal oven pies. The cheese typically covers the entire pie, with sauce only poking out along the circumference. A low moisture mozzarella is used rather than fresh mozzarella, which is not well suited to the lower temperature and longer cooking times of the gas ovens. Gas fired pizza lacks the sooty exterior that is a hallmark of coal fired ovens, but it still has plenty of crunch and snap to go along with the pliancy and springiness of the dough. In their purest form, NYC pizzerias will sell only pizza. Of course, many shops long ago added hero sandwiches and pasta dishes to their existing pizza menus, and later still wraps and even juices. These types of establishments might not have the culinary bona fides of the dedicated pizza joints, but they certainly serve a valuable function in many neighborhoods and any independent, locally owned NY pizzeria stands as a bulwark against a fast food joint or national chain store.

Dom DeMarco of DiFara Pizza

At its best, of course, a local pizzeria transcends the neighborhood and becomes a destination for diners. There is perhaps no greater example of this than Di Fara in the Midwood section of Brooklyn. It is run by Dom DeMarco who is as close to sainted as a pizzaiolo can be, and he has been slinging pies since 1961. But there are numerous others classic NYC style pizzerias that are worth a trip such as Joe's Pizza in Greenwich Village, Joe & Pat's on Staten Island, Lou & Ernie's in the Bronx, Rose & Joe's in Queens, and Sal & Carmine's on the Upper West Side, to name but a few.

'Uni' Pizza Napoletana, Manhattan's $8 Slice - Recipes

Jeff Varasano's Famous New York Pizza Recipe

One of the 'Elite 8' Pizzerias in the US by Every Day with Rachael Ray
One of America's Perfect Pizzeria's: Zagat
And Many Other Awards

Main Restaurant Website

Last Updates (color coded so you can see new edits):
10/18/06 (Text changed in Purple)
11/6/2007 A few new Pizzeria Rankings - Some of the best pizza in NY is also the newest
03/13/08 Lots of new Pizzeria Rankings
04/10/08 - Minor edits to big table of pizzerias
6/24/08 Added a Google Map of the world's best pizzerias
5/2/12 Videos explaining the various styles of pizza
3/29/18 I'm releasing a huge Library of Video, These were recorded in 2011, but I've only release for staff training, until now!

Pizza is the most sensuous of foods. I get emails from around the world and one of the most common goes something like this: "Jeff, I had this one perfect pizza at a corner shop in Brooklyn in 1972 and I've been thinking about it ever since." I love that!. That's passion. Do you know how many forgettable meals have come and gone since then. What kind of pizza leaves a 35 year impression? Let me describe it to you. The crust is slightly charred. It has a crisp outer layer, but inside it's airy and light. The ingredients are not piled high, but instead are perfectly balanced. It's sweet, salty, full flavored but not greasy. The tomatoes burst with flavor. Each bite makes you hungrier for the next. If this is what you want, you've come to the right place.

This pizza is modeled after Patsy's on 117th street in NYC. I have been working on this for SIX years, but FINALLY I can report that I have achieved my goal. Many people have tried my pie and swear it is not only the best pizza they've ever had, but a clone of the original Patsy's recipe. This margarita pie is incredibly light and perfectly charred. It took just 2 minutes and 10 seconds to bake at 825F.

Reproducing this was no easy feat, but since moving to Atlanta what choice did I have? Dominos? It's been a bit of an obsession. I've had a lot of failed experiments. However now I can honestly say that the recipe is fully accurate and reproducible. The final breakthrough came in Jan 2005 when I finally got a handle on the proper mixing equipment and procedure. But do not think that following this will be easy. It's not. It will still take practice. Many others have confirmed that by following these steps they too have come to near perfection. This may be the most detailed, accurate and complete recipe on the net for making a true Pizza Napoletana. Pizza inspires passion. I've gotten about a thousand emails representing every continent. If you'd like to contact me, feel free to write at [email protected] . It may take a little time for me to respond, but I try to answer all emails personally. I'm going to start a photo gallery, so if you have some success, send me a photo and I'll add it for others to see!

At the bottom of this page, I have a List of the Best Pizzerias in the World which I've also places on this Google Map of The World's Best Pizzas. In addition I've created a second Google Map of Fan Favorites - places that have been recommended by fans of this site. I can't really vouch for these but if your in the area check them out and let me know your opinion.

This dough was hand kneaded and baked in just 1 minute 40 seconds

Me - Do I look happy or what?

Check out this perfect char

Even blurry pizzas are Tasty!. This pie baked in just 1 minute 40 seconds

What's better than a light springy crust with a perfect char

One of my best tasting pies ever:

Check out many more photos at the bottom.

I am going to add a lot more instructions and photos over the next couple of months, including specifics on how to culture the dough, so check back here occasionally. I may even do a few seconds of video here and there.

Let me start off by saying a few things. First, this is about a certain style of pizza. This site is about the kind of pizza that you can get at the oldest and best places in the U.S. or in Naples. This is not about Chicago style or California Style or trying to reproduce Papa John's garlic sauce. This is about making a pie that's as close to Patsy's or Luzzo's or Pepe's or some of the top Brick Oven places. Not that these pies are all identical - but they share certain basics in common.

Second, I want to say that there is a LOT of misinformation out there. Take a tour of the World's top pizza places (there's a list at the bottom of this page). None of these places publish their recipes. They don't write books. You are not going to see any of these places represented at the "U.S. pizza championship" where they compete at dough tossing or who makes the best smoke pork mango pizza.. The real pizza places are not at some trade show out in Vegas where they hawk automatic sauce dispensers and conveyor belt ovens. But somehow though, all the attendees of these shows declare themselves experts and write books and spread the same false ideas. There are about a hundred books and internet recipes that claim to give an authentic or secret pizza dough recipe. Oddly, while many claim to be secret or special, they are practically all the same. Here it is in summary. If you see this recipe, run screaming:

Sprinkle a yeast packet into warm water between 105-115 F and put in a teaspoon of sugar to feed it. Wait for it to foam up or 'proof'. Add all your flour to a Kitchen Aid heavy duty mixer, then add the yeast and salt. Now mix until it pulls away from the side of the bowl. Coat with oil and leave in a warm place until it doubles in bulk, about 1-2 hours. Punch down, spread on a peel with some cornmeal to keep it from sticking and put it on the magical pizza stone that will make this taste just like Sally's in your 500F oven.

I assure you, this will not make anything like a real pizza. It's weird - even chefs whose other recipes all come out pretty good, like Emeril, simply pass around more or less this same terrible recipe.

Pizza is a true specialty item and a real art. It takes passion to make it right. I wasn't a restaurateur when I started out. But I did have a passion for doing this right. I'm not going to give you the 'easy home version'. I'm going to give you the version that makes the best pie I know how to make, even if it takes a bit more effort (ok, more than just a bit)

There are a lot of variables for such a simple food. But these 3 FAR outweigh the others:

The kind of yeast culture or "starter" used along with proper fermentation technique

All other factors pale in comparison to these 3. I know that people fuss over the brand of flour, the kind of sauce, etc. I discuss all of these things, but if you don't have the 3 fundamentals above handled, you will be limited.

1- It's all in the crust. My dough is just water, salt, flour and yeast. I use no dough conditioners, sugars, oils, malts, corn meal, flavorings or anything else. These violate the "Vera Pizza Napoletana" rules and I doubt that Patsy's or any great brick oven place uses these things. I've only recently begun to measure the actual "baker's percents" of the ingredients. Use this awesome spreadsheet to help you. The sheet allows you to track your experiments. Here's a basic set of ratios. The truth is that a lot of these recipes look the same and that you can vary these ingredients by several percentage points and it's not going to make a huge difference. You really have to learn the technique, which I'm going to explain in as much detail as I can, and then go by feel. Really, I just measure the water and salt and the rest is pretty flexible. The amount of flour is really, "add until it feels right." The amount of Sourdough starter can range from 3% to 20% and not affect the end product all that much. Weights are in grams. I also show this as both "Baker's Percents" (This has flour as 100% by definition and then all the other ingredients as their proportionate weight against of the flour) and using the Italian method which actually makes more sense to me, of showing the base as 1000 grams of water and all the other ingredients in proportion to that. Both methods are attempts to make the recipes scalable. Note that the addition of the poolish, which is half water, half flour, actually makes this a bit wetter, around 65% hydration . Note that this table had an error on it which was corrected on 11/30/06:

Ingredient 1 Pie 3 Pies 5 Pies Baker's % Grams Per Liter of Water
Filtered Water 110.00 330.00 550.00 65.50% 1,000
King Arthur Bread flour, or Caputo Pizzeria flour 168.00 510.00 850.00 100.00% 1,527
Kosher or Sea Salt 6.00 18.00 30.00 3.50% 55
Sourdough yeast culture (as a battery poolish) 15.00 45.00 60.00 9.00% 136
Instant Dry yeast - Optional 0.50 1.50 2.50 0.25% 4.50
Total 299.50

If you use Caputo or any 00 flour, you may find that it takes a lot more flour for the given amount of water. Probably a baker's % of 60% or so. One reason I like to feel the dough rather than strictly measure the percent hydration is that with feel you don't have to worry about the type of flour so much. A Caputo and a Bread will feel the same when they are done, even though one might have 60% water and the other 65%. It's the feel that I shoot for, not the number. I vary wetness based on my heat - higher the oven temp, the wetter I want the dough.

I've heard it said that NY has the best pizza because of the water. This is a myth. Get over it. It's not the water. The water is one of a hundred factors. I filter my whole house with a huge 5 stage system, so I use that. If I didn't have that I'd spring for a $1 bottle of Dasani. That will do it too.

Salt only the final dough, never your permanent sourdough culture. For that matter, your culture is fed only water (filtered or Dasani) and flour. Never add any other kind of yeast, salt, sugar or anything else to your permanent culture.

I use a sourdough culture that I got from what is probably the best pizza in the USA - Patsy's Pizza on 117th street in NYC. The place has been there for 80 years. The 'battery poolish' is about 50/50 water and flour.

Buy the book "Classic Sourdoughs" by Ed Wood from to learn how to use a sourdough starter. The term sourdough does not necessarily mean that this has a San Francisco Sourdough flavor. The term sourdough just means any yeast other than "baker's yeast" which is what comes in the dry or cake form. There are 1000's of types of yeast. But the commercial products are all the same strain ( Saccharomyces cerevisiae) regardless of the brand you buy or whether it's dry or cake form. Commercial or "baker's yeast" gives a fast, predictable rise, but is lacking in flavor. All other yeasts are called sourdough. San Francisco sourdough is one strain. But there are 1000's of others. I doesn't have to taste sour, like San Francisco, to be called sourdough. It's just a term. You can "create your own" culture by leaving some flour water out on the counter. There are lots of kinds of yeast in the air in your kitchen right now and one of them will set up shop eventually in your flour water and begin growing. What will it taste like? Well, it's like setting a trap for an animal and waiting for dinner. It could be a pheasant. It could be a rat. You have no way of knowing. Do yourself a favor and skip this part and just buy or obtain a known high quality starter. sells strains from the world's best bakeries. I've seen many bogus things about the use of starters. A classic is that you can start a wild culture by setting out some flour, water and baker's yeast and the baker's yeast will 'attract' other yeasts. This is alchemy. It's like saying I put out dandelions and they attracted peaches. It makes no sense. Another myth is that you can get the same flavor out of packaged yeast as you can out of a sourdough culture if you handle it right. This is also alchemy. Can you get parsley to taste like thyme if you handle it right? These are distinct organism, like spices, that all have a different flavor. If you use a starter, and you should, then learn from Ed Wood.

A sourdough starter actually consists of 2 separate organisms which exist in a symbiotic relationship. There is the yeast and the lactobacilli. Here's the cliff notes version of what's happening: All flavor really comes from the lactobacilli, all the puff from yeast. The yeast operate well at high temp. The lactobacilli at any temp. Therefore, to develop highly flavored dough put it in the fridge. The yeast will be mostly dormant, giving time for the lactobacilli to produce flavor. The flavor takes a day or more. So you have to keep the yeast on ice that long. Then you take it out of the fridge and let the yeast take over and produce gas. The yeast only needs an hour or two to do this part. This can happen very quickly in a warmer. There is no need for a gradual rise, because at this point the flavor is there. You can smell the alcohol in the dough. The yeast are just adding the bubbles at this point. This technique of refrigeration is called a "cold rise". There are warm rise methods that work too, but I have not gotten the best results with them after numerous attempts. In Naples they virtually all use a warm rise, so I don't doubt the technique can be made to work well. I may revisit this section later.

The lactobacilli and yeast exist in pairs. Not every flavorful lactobacilli has a competent yeast partner. You may find that you've got a culture that has a great flavor, but the puff is not there. No problem. Give it a boost with plain old Baker's yeast, which has little taste but plenty of puff. I use 1/8 teaspoon of instant dry yeast for each batch of 3-5 pies, to give it an extra rise, but 100% of the flavor is from the Patsy's culture.

There are 2 ways to ferment the dough: you can use a 'warm rise' or a 'cold rise'. The warm rise is harder. You simply leave it out at room temp and wait for it to rise. This is hard to control because it could take 10 hours or 24 hours. Tiny, tiny variations in room temp and the amount of yeast you started with will make all the difference. And if it's not risen optimally when you use it, the dough may end up flat and lacking in oven spring. So timing a pizza party this way is hard. By far the easier way to ferment the dough is the cold rise. And the results are just as good if not better. I prefer to age my dough at least 2-3 days in the fridge. I've aged it up to 6 days with good results. However, my culture is very mild. With some cultures 24 hours is the right amount of time and 2 days would be too much.. You have to get to know your culture. They are all different.. 24 hours is the minimum with a cold rise. There's more on this technique down below.

2- Flour: There is a lot of emphasis put on using the right type of flour. Personally, I think this focus is misplaced. Of course, it's important to use high quality ingredients. But improving your dough making technique is much, much more important than hunting down the exact right type of flour. The truth is that almost all flours sold are pretty high quality especially compared to what was available 60 years ago when Patsy Lancieri was making amazing pizza. That alone should tell you something. I currently use either using King Arthur Bread Flour or a blend of this with Caputo Pizzeria flour. I actually think that you can buy any bread flour available at your local supermarket and you'll be ok.

Let me give you a quick flour primer. You can do a lot more internet research if you want, but here's the basics. There are two variables I want to focus on, the Percentage of Protein or 'gluten' and the type of mill. This chart will give you some typical ranges. However, there are no governing standards, so some vendors may call their flour High Gluten, for example, even though the product would fit into another category in this chart:

Giusto, King Arthur, Gold Medal, White Lily

Giusto, King Arthur, Gold Medal, White Lily

Giusto, King Arthur Sir Lancelot, Gold Medal All Trumps

Lately I've gone back to using King Arthur Bread Flour. I've used AP successfully as well. The kneading seems to be more critical. Most pizza places in NYC use Hi Gluten Flour and many internet sources insist that Hi Gluten Flour is necessary to make real NY pizza. This information sent a lot of people off ordering expensive mail order flours. However, according to pizza guru Evelyn Solomon, the old timers used flour in the 12% range, which would be a bread flour. This confirmed what my own tests had shown me all along. Bread flour from the supermarket is just fine for making pizza. It has certainly been proven that you don't need high gluten flour to make highly structured bread. Ed Wood from makes great artisan bread using AP. In Naples they use 00 flour which has less gluten than AP. I've had great and horrible pies with all kinds of flours from all kinds of pizzerias. And I've made great and d horrible pies with all kinds of flours myself. Kneading and overall technique is more important than the flour in my opinion.

Since putting up this site I've been urged to try other flours. I've made pies with at least 20 flours including these:

King Arthur All Purpose (KA AP) - 11.7% Protein

King Arthur Bread (KA Bread) - 12.7% protein

King Arthur Sir Lancelot (KASL) aka Hi Gluten - 14.2% Protein

Gold Medal Bread Flour (formerly labeled Harvest King) - 12.5% protein

Caputo Pizzeria 00 (11.5%, but also a finer mill)

Giusto's Artisan Unbleached - 11-11.5% protein

White Lily Bread Flour - 12.5 % protein

I can make a nearly identical pie with any of these except for the Italian 00 flour. It's mostly technique. I'm not saying that the type of flour makes no difference, but I am saying that it's a small difference and I've had great pies from restaurants with varying types of flour. Don't get too hung up on it. One is not 'better' than the other, it depends on the style you want. Currently I use a 50/50 blend of Caputo and KA Bread. Caputo gives bigger bubbles and a lighter spring. But I prefer to mix it with Bread flour to give it more strength. In Naples, the dough is very soft and hard to hold and often eaten with a knife and fork. NY street pizza is easily folded and held. They typically use a strong Hi Gluten Flour. My pies are closer to the Neapolitan, but not quite. You can still hold it, but sometimes it flops a bit at the tip.

The 00 has a finer mill and also it will absorb much less water than the other flours. The 00 flour really is quite different than the others. If you are baking at under 750F, you should really not use 00. It will never brown and you'll have much more luck with another flour.

The ratio of Flour and water can dramatically change the characteristics of the dough. Having said that though, I don't measure my "% hydration". I do it strictly by feel. Lately my dough has been much much wetter than ever before. Wetter dough stretches easier with less pull back. It seems to develop faster in the fridge. And it provides more steam for more puff in the final baked crust. The higher the temperature of the oven, the wetter the dough should be. At super high heats needed to make a pie in 2 minutes or less, you need a lot of moisture to keep it from burning and sticking to the baking surface.

3- Kneading - This is one of the most important steps. Follow along carefully. There are 100 recipes on the net that say you dump all the ingredients together, turn the machine on and you will have a great dough. It's not true. But once you understand these steps your dough will transform into something smooth and amazing.

Kitchen Aid Mixer vs. Electrolux DLX mixer:

I started a little revolution on when I dumped by Kitchen Aid Mixer and bought an Electrolux DLX mixer. The DLX is a MUCH better machine. However, if you follow ALL the techniques here, you can get a good dough out of a Kitchen Aid. The DLX is easier to use. You can make a dozen pies or more in it at a clip, no problem. And you can really just let it do it's work alone. With the KA you sometimes have to stop it and pull the dough off the hook and continue. So I like the DLX. But I know many of you have already bought Kitchen Aids. As long as you follow the process carefully, you should be OK. The DLX takes a while to get used to, but now I'm really rocking with it. See Dough.htm for early experiments. Join for info on the DLX and how to use it. I use a DLX with the Roller and Scrapper attachments. I will put up photos of this process at some point. Some one else has posted a video of a DLX

The Wet-Kneading Technique with Autolyse

I call this process Wet-Kneading. It's the key to great dough:

Autolyse - Autolyse is a fancy word that just means one simple thing. The flour and water should sit together for at least 20 minutes before kneading begins. It's a CRITICAL step. Some say that you should mix just the flour and water together, then after 20 minutes add the salt and yeast, then mix. Others say you can add all the ingredients at the beginning. I have found very little difference.

Pour all the ingredients into the mixer, except just use 75% of the flour for now. So all of the water, salt, poolish (Video of Poolish), Instant dry Yeast (if used) and 75% of the flour are put into the mixer. Everything should be room temperature or a bit cooler.

There is no need to dissolve the yeast in warm water or feed it sugar. 'Proofing' the yeast was probably required decades ago, but I've never had yeast that didn't activate. The yeast feeds on the flour so you don't need to put in sugar. The proofing step that you see in many recipes is really an old wives tale at this point.

Mix on lowest speed for 1-2 minutes or until completely blended. At this stage you should have a mix that is drier than a batter, but wetter than a dough. Closer to batter probably.

Cover and Let it rest for 20 minutes. One of the most important things I've found is that these rest periods have a huge impact on the final product. I've seen so much arguing online about the proper flour for making pizza. "You need super high protein flour to get the right structure for a pizza dough". People argue endlessly about brands and minor changes in flour blends, types of water, etc. A lot of this is myth and a big waste of time. The autolyse period is FAR more important to creating structured gluten development than is the starting protein percentage. Autolyse and knead properly and AP flour will produce a great pizza with a lot of structure. Do these steps poorly and bread or high gluten flour will not help you at ALL. This step reminds me of mixing pie dough. After you add the water to pie dough, it's crumbly. But after sitting for 20 minutes, it's a dough. The water takes time to soak in, and when it does it transforms the pie dough. It's really a similar thing here with pizza dough

Start Mixing on Low speed for 8 minutes. 5 minutes into it start adding flour gradually.

This part is critical and it's something that I did not understand at all until relatively recently: Even if the dough is very sticky - that is it does not have enough flour in it to form a ball and it is still halfway between a batter and a dough - it is still working. This is where MOST of the kneading occurs. The gluten IS working at this point even though it's not a dough yet.

If you are using a KA, and you lift the hook, the dough should fall off by itself. The hook should look like its going through the dough, and not pushing the dough around. It should be that wet until nearly the end.

With the DLX you can play with the scrapper and the roller, pressing them together to allow the dough to extrude through the gaps. This really works the dough. The DLX mechanism is totally different than a regular mixer.

After the first 6-8 minutes increase the speed of the mixer slightly. I never go higher than 1/3 of the dial on my mixer. Keep in mind that in the old days they mixed this by hand (Anthony at Una Pizza Napoletana in NYC still does). You should add most of the remaining flour. But you still want a very wet dough, so don't go crazy.

At some point during this process the dough should be getting much firmer and should form more of a ball. Mix another minute or so a this stage You may find that the dough is sticking to the roller /hook and not really working too much at this point. This is why it's so important to do most of the mixing at the earlier, wetter stages. Once the dough is at this point, it is done. My recommendation is this: DON'T BE A SLAVE TO RECIPES AND PERCENTAGES . It's fine to use the spreadsheet or other measures as a guideline, but you have to judge how much flour goes into the dough by feeling it. Do NOT force more flour into the mix just to reach a number. If the dough feels good and soft and you still have flour you have not put in, don't sweat it. Leave it out. In the end you need a wet dough. In fact, even the dough has formed more of ball, if you let it sit, it should spread out a little and look a little limp. This is what you want, not a tight ball, but a slack, wet soft dough.

One of the best ways to see how your dough is doing is to sprinkle a little flour on in and just feel it. It should feel baby bottom soft. If you don't sprinkle flour it will just feel sticky and not look smooth. But sprinkle a tiny bit of flour and now its soft and smooth. This is what you want. This is a much gentler recipe than most and it shows in the final dough.

With Hi Gluten flours a commercial mixer and a dry dough, you will find that the dough is tough to work and consequently both the machine and the dough will get very hot. Commercial bakers compensate by starting with cool water and by measuring the temperature of the dough as they go. The procedures I'm outlining don't require this. The wet knead technique and the lower protein all but eliminates the friction. You can expect the dough to heat only about 3-4 F while mixing, so it's not an issue.

Let it rest for 15-20 minutes. If you were to do a window pane test before the rest, you might be disappointed. Afterwards it will test well:

Much talk on the web says that the dough's extensibility/elasticity will be affected by how long the dough rises and at what temp and the kind of yeast. In my opinion, these are very, very minor factors. The mixing/kneading process and the hydration are 90% of the battle. After the dough has been kneaded and rested for a few minutes, the deed is done. It's either going to spread well or it isn't. You can't fix it that much at this point by adjusting rise times and temps. If you find that your dough is not extensible enough or rips when you stretch it, odds are HIGH that it has not been autolysed long enough, not kneaded well enough and/or it's too dry. If you are using a Kitchen Aid Mixer you may notice that the ball sticks to the hook and kind of just spins around and doesn't seem to be really working. Mixing an extra 20 minutes seems to do nothing because it's just spinning helplessly on the hook. Ugh. Mix at a wetter more pliable stage and you can fix this problem

Pour out onto a floured surface and portion into balls with a scrapper. I use a digital scale. The dough at this point should be extremely soft and highly elastic. I use 310g per 13" pie. The more elastic the dough, the less you need.

I store the dough in individual 5 cup Glad plastic containers as you see below. I wipe them with an oiled paper towel - super thin coating. This will help them come out of the container. But I don't want any oil in the dough. The rules for "Vera Pizza Napoletana" say no oil. I probably have literally one or two drops per ball. Oil the container and not the dough. You only need a drop or two of oil cover a whole container - you can kind of polish it with oil using a paper towel. In contrast, you'd need a teaspoon to oil the dough because you can't spread it so thin. Also the ball would probably need oil on both sides, which is bad because by oiling the top of the dough (which will end up being the bottom of the pizza), you are going to get oil on your pizza stone which will burn at high temps in an unpleasant way. Since you want to minimize the amount of oil, oil the container. For similar reasons, I don't use zip loc bags. Use a container.

How wet should the dough be? I think many will be surprised to see just how wet I have my dough. With each of these, you can click the photo to enlarge. I'm showing these because I want you to get a sense of how that dough should look and feel. This high level of hydration is not necessarily best for low temperature ovens. But if you are cooking at 800F, like Patsy's, this is what you want:

This dough has rested for 20 minutes in my DLX mixer. You can see how wet it is. This is enough for 6 balls of dough.

It almost pours out (with a little push from a spatula). But you can see how easily it stretches and how wet it still is. I don't know the %hydration of this dough but it is 65% or higher, I'm sure.

This is the unshaped mass. Next I sprinkle a little bit of flour on it and knead it by hand for 30 seconds, just to reshape it.

In just a few seconds it looks totally different. The outside is drier because it has been sprinkled with flour. Inside it is still very wet and as I cut it with a dough scrapper into balls, I have to sprinkle a little more, just to keep it from sticking to my hands.

I cut it and put it into these easy to find Glad containers. They cost about $1 each at the supermarket..
I've got like 15 of them. They are perfectly sized for individual dough's. I strongly prefer these to plastic bags. They are sealable and that keeps in the moisture. They stack easily in the fridge, and the dough comes out easily and without deflating the dough in the process. I spread the container with a drop or two of olive oil.

This is how the final ball looks when it goes into the fridge

I let them rest another 10 minutes, then put them in the Fridge for 1-6 days. If your dough is very wet it may start out as a nice looking tight ball, but over time in the fridge it looks like it's sinking into a disk. This may appear worrisome. When you see dough sinking there may be several causes. Dough that is 'slack' - overworked and/or old, will sink like this. But if you've followed these instructions this is not the reason your dough is sinking. The sinking is caused by the fact that the dough is very wet. Don't worry about it. It's probably going to be very good.

This is the dough several days later. It's been sitting out warming up for about an hour. Notice that it has not risen that much. It does have more volume - probably about 50% more than the dough above. But it's also changed shape - it's so wet and soft and when it rises it kind of just spreads out. This is what you want. This dough is ready for baking.

Most recipes say that the dough should double in size. This is WAY too much. In total the dough should expand by about 50% in volume. It would seem like the more yeast bubbles in the dough, the lighter the pizza will be. This is the intuitive guess. But it's not true. The yeast starts the bubbles, but it's really steam that blows the bubbles up. If the yeast creates bubbles that are too big, they become weak and simply pop when the steam comes resulting in a flat dense, less springy crust. Think of blowing a bubble with bubble gum. How tight is a 2 inch bubble? It depends: As you start with a small bubble and blow it up to 2 inches it's strong and tight. But at 4 inches it's reached it's peak.. Now if it shrinks back to 2 inches, it'll be very weak. So a 2 inch bubble is strong on the way up and weak on the way down. You want bubbles on the way up. If the dough is risen high, the bubbles are big and the dough will have a weaker structure and will collapse when heat creates steam. The lightest crust will come from a wet dough (wet = a lot of steam), with a modest amount of rise (bubbles formed, but small and strong). Some people start with a warm rise for 6 hours or so, and then move the dough to the fridge. I'm not a huge fan of this method. Once the bubbles are formed, I don't want the dough to get cold and have the bubbles shrink. This weakens their structure. What you want is a steady slow rise, with no reversals. Always expanding, just very, very slowly.

My oven takes about 80 minutes to heat up. The dough finishes rising in about the same time. So I take the dough out and start the oven at the same time. 80 minutes might seem like a fast rise, but the real development is done in the fridge. Here is where experience will make a difference - I look at my dough a few hours before bake time and I make an assessment. If the dough has not risen much in the fridge I will take it out earlier than 80 minutes. If it's risen too much, I leave it in the fridge till a few minutes before bake. It really takes a good eye. You can make a last minute adjustment to speed it up by warming it. Before I turn my bottom oven on the cleaning cycle, I warm up my top oven to about 95F. If I think I need to speed up the dough, I can then place it in the 95F environment for while before baking. It's a little harder to make an adjustment the other way. If I find that it's rising too fast and my oven won't be ready for an hour, I'm kind of out of luck. I could chill it, but it's going to weaken if I do that. So I try to err on the side where I still have some control.

The softer the dough, the faster the rise. It's simply easier for small amounts of carbon dioxide to push up on a softer dough. If the dough falls a little after rising, you've waited too long and you will find it's past it's prime. Ideally you should use it well before it's at it's peak. This takes experience. You are better off working with a dough that is under risen, than over risen.

Over risen dough (don't do this).

When you spread the dough, you will find that it's not great for spinning over your head. It would have been really great at this when you first did the windowpane test. But now that it has risen it's soft like butter and just stretches easily. Don't worry about the spin. If you want to impress everyone with spin, make a drier dough with a hi gluten flour and more salt and let it age for just a few hours and you can spin all you want.

Never use a rolling pin or knead the dough or man handle it. You are just popping the bubbles and will have a flat dough.

Build a little rim for yourself with your fingers,. then spread the dough. Can you see how smooth this dough looks?

Spread the dough on the counter and then move to the peel. Marble is the perfect surface for spreading dough. One goal is to use very little bench flour, especially if you are cooking over 800F. At high temps, the flour will turn bitter, so you are better off shaping on the counter, then moving to the peel, which will result in less bench flour. With a very wet dough this takes some practice. You don't necessarily have to use a lot of bench flour, but it does have to be even. You don't want the dough sticking to the peel, of course. I put flour in a bowl and dunk the dough lightly, getting all sides including the edge, then move it to the granite counter. I put just a tiny amount on the peel, which I spread evenly with my hands. When I move from the counter to the peel, most of the flour on the dough shakes off.. Once on the peel, shake it every once in a while to make sure the dough is not stuck. Always shake it just before placing it in the oven, otherwise you may find that it's stuck to the peel and falling off unevenly onto the stone. At that point you probably can't recover well and you'll make a mess. So always shake just beforehand. When I make the pie, I work quickly, so as not to let the moisture in the dough come out through the tiny dry flour coating. Then, and this is important, I shake the peel prior to putting it in the oven, just to make certain it's loose. In fact, you can shake it at any time during the process. If you are taking too long to put on the toppings or there is some delay, shake again. Make sure it never sticks. Don't resort to using too much flour or any cornmeal or semolina. It just takes practice to use very little flour, yet still keep it from sticking.

If you've made the dough correctly you should be able to spread it with no problem. If it is pulling back on you and trying to shrink, you have not mixed it enough. If you've done half the steps above, you should not be experiencing this problem at all though.

You can spread the dough a bit at a time. Do it half way, then wait 10-15 seconds, then spread a little more, then a little more. Be gentle with it.

This photo is from the same pie as this one. This pie was very interesting for many reasons. Although I have a lot of practice handling wet dough, this is the first time I've tried to hand knead in at least 5 years.

I started in bowl with 75% of the Flour (KA Bread), the salt, water, poolish and a pinch of IDY. I did a 12 minute autolyse, 6 minute hand mix with a spoon, adding flour along the way and 15 minute post mix rest. Then I hand kneaded for 1 minute. Did another 5 minute rest (It didn't feel smooth, so I wanted to rest it again), then another 30 second hand knead, then shape. I'm guessing it was a 65-66% hydration, same as the dough photos above. I know that is very high for a hand kneaded dough and it takes some practice. But it didn't stick to my hands at all because I've gotten used to how to handle high hydration dough. The trick is to keep the outside dry with just the thinnest coating of flour. Actually, I only keep the side near my hands coated, the other side is wet. Then I pull the dough expanding the dry side and close it in towards the wet side. This is repeated over and over. As the dry side stretches, it gets a little wetter, then your just dip in in flour again and continue. This baked for 1:40. The cheese, unfortunately, was Polly-O dry mozz as I was desperate.

4- The Oven: I've got my oven cranked up to over 800 F. Use this section with caution: i.e. no lawyers please. I'm just telling you here what I did. I'm not telling you what you should do. You are responsible for whatever you choose to do. In Naples, Italy they have been cooking pizza at very high temperatures for a long time. There are some real physics going on here. The tradition is to cook with a brick oven. I don't have a brick oven. So this is what I do:

On most ovens the electronics won't let you go above 500F, about 300 degrees short of what is needed. (Try baking cookies at 75 instead of 375 and see how it goes). The heat is needed to quickly char the crust before it has a chance to dry out and turn into a biscuit. At this temp the pizza takes 2 - 3 min to cook (a diff of only 25F can change the cook time by 50%). It is charred, yet soft. At 500F it takes 20 minutes to get only blond in color and any more time in the oven and it will dry out. I've cook good pizzas at temps under 725F, but never a great one. The cabinet of most ovens is obviously designed for serious heat because the cleaning cycle will top out at over 975 which is the max reading on my Raytec digital infrared thermometer. The outside of the cabinet doesn't even get up to 85F when the oven is at 800 inside. So I clipped off the lock using garden shears so I could run it on the cleaning cycle. I pushed a piece of aluminum foil into the door latch (the door light switch) so that electronics don't think I've broken some rule by opening the door when it thinks it's locked. Brick ovens are domed shaped. Heat rises. There is more heat on top than on the bottom. A brick oven with a floor of 800F might have a ceiling of 1200F or more, just a foot above. This is essential. The top of the pizza is wet and not in direct contact with the stone, so it will cook slower. Therefore, to cook evenly, the top of the oven should be hotter than the stone. To achieve this, I cover the pizza stone top and bottom with loose fitting foil. This keeps it cool as the rest of the oven heats up. When I take a digital read of the stone, I point it at the foil and it actually reads the heat reflected from the top of the oven. When it hits 850, I take the foil off the top with tongs and then read the stone. It's about 700-725. Now I make my pizza. As I prep, the oven will get up to 800Floor, 900+ Top. Perfect for pizza. Different ovens have different heat distributions. I experimented extensively with foil to redistribute the heat. I tried using one layer, multiple layers and I adjusted the amount I used on the top and the bottom. I also played with using the shiny side up or down, etc. Eventually, I worked out a simple system for myself. Some have tried to get high heat using a grill. This can produce high heat, but all from the bottom. One could adjust the differential, by playing games with foil. But an oven with heat from above is better.

The exact temp needed depends on the type of flour and the amount of water. The more protein, the quicker it burns. Hi Gluten flour may burn at these temps. In general, I recommend higher gluten flours for lower temp ovens. This will yield a more NYC style pie. For a more Neapolitan pie I recommend lower protein flours and a hotter oven. I use Bread rather than KASL at these high temps. Caputo Pizzeria 00 flour has even less protein than KA bread. See my report below. Also the drier it is the more it burns. So in general, at high temps you need a very wet dough.

I make sure that I cover any oven glass loosely with 2 layers of foil because it will shatter if a drop of sauce gets on it. With the foil it's fine. I make sure the foil is loose. If it's fitted to the glass, it will transfer heat too quickly and the glass is still in jeopardy. Another problem is that once the cleaning cycle starts, it just pumps heat into the oven and I can't reduce the temp. If I get a late start (my guests are late or my dough needs another 30 minutes to rise), I can't just shut off the oven and then start it up again in 15 minutes. Once I cancel the cleaning cycle, I can't start it up again until the oven cools below 500F (at least on my Kitchen Aid oven). Therefore I have to wait and cycle back around. It's like an hour ordeal. But I have worked around these issues and I now have enough experience that I can pretty much control my temperature. I can cool the stone, for example, by placing a metal sheet pan on it for a minute or so. It will absorb a tremendous amount of heat very quickly. I never do this with Teflon which releases unseen toxic chemicals over 600F. I Remove this pan with the peel, rather than with oven mitts to prevent burns. Occasionally I also place something in the door jam, like a meat mallet, for a few minutes to let heat out.

Brick Oven vs. Other Ovens : I have a list of my favorite pizza restaurants at the bottom. All but one of these use coal fired brick ovens. But interestingly, the number 1 place uses a regular old gas fired oven that you see in any pizza store in NYC. This is Johnny's in Mt. Vernon, NY. Worth a pilgrimage for sure. They also use dry sliced Mozzarella instead of fresh. Go figure. That place is an enigma. They are also very secretive. I can tell you they definitely use a sourdough culture because I obtained it from pizza place across the street (yeasts can take over a neighborhood) but it died out. I'm going to get it again someday.

Mmmmm. You don't need a brick oven to perfectly char a pizza. This was done in an electric.

Patsy's is #2 on my list. It used to be #1 but my last 3 trips to were disappointing. There is a new guy working the oven and the pies are coming out like dry crispy flatbreads. It was NOT good. And I saw a review in a magazine that had a photo of a Patsy's pie and that one also looked dry and crispy and the article even described it that way. Yuck!. The reviewer at also mentioned that he might downgrade Patsy's if they slip any more . So this means that Johnny's, which used to be tied with Patsy's, now sits alone at the top of my list. I've got it as Johnny's, Patsy's, Sally's, Luzzo's, Una Pizza Napoletana, me, then Sac's. Frankly, if they don't shoot the new cook, Patsy's could drop from my top 5 because right now it's resting on it's laurels. Lombardi's is just OK in my book. Nods for history, but too thick and gummy. Grimaldi's and John's are not in my top 10 either. But the original Totonno's is up there somewhere.

Back to the Brick oven thing. I once bought a Patsy's dough and rushed it home to my oven in Atlanta and baked it. The dough itself was incredible. It was the most windowpaning, blistering and elastic dough I've ever seen, by a wide margin. Very impressive. But when I baked it, it was just ok. It tasted a little flat. It had less of a charred flavor even though it had a charred color. It actually tasted exactly like my own pies tasted at that time. By that was a long time ago. My own latest pies have overcome a lot of this. I'm aging my dough longer than Patsy's and I think that is making up for some of the difference. My opinion is that the coal and the fire adds about 10-20% but the rest is the heat distribution. If you can get that right in a regular oven, you are going to be thrilled with the results. Johnny's proves this beyond a shadow of a doubt. My latest pies are nearly perfect too. Some of these pies look & tasted just like a Patsy's pie, I'm not sure you could tell the difference. And believe me, I notice small differences or I wouldn't have come this far. These latest pies are really, really close. The photos above, as well as those below are good examples. I can't get advantages of the brick oven, but I make up for it by aging the dough longer and this imparts extra flavor.

Of course, if you do have access to brick oven, especially one that uses coal, by all means use it. But LEARN to use it. I've seen too many brick oven places that make terrible pizza. Why? Because they think that having the oven is all they need to do. You still have to have everything else right. And I've even seen brick ovens where the heat is not right. I just saw a place with a Brick oven that had it set to 395F. Such a total waste of time. The oven does not work by magically transmitting brick flavor into the dough. It works by generating more heat than a regular oven. At least that's 90% of it. Yes there is a dryness to the wood burning and a smokiness and these are advantages of a brick oven. But mostly it's the super high heat that is important. Go the extra mile and get yourself the right digital thermometer and work the oven correctly. This will take a lot of practice. Check out Frankie G's cool brick oven and video.

My first Brick Oven Experience : I just tried a friend's brick oven. We had a lot of trouble holding the temp right and most of the pies were cooked at 500-600F. So I'm not done experimenting yet. But I can say this: a 7 minute pie in a brick oven does taste better than a 7 min pie in an electric. So there definitely is something good going on in that oven. It has to do with the dryness of the bake. I will post more on this as I make progress.

Dec 2006: I've now made 5 Brick oven batches. I'll fill in more detail later, but here's a photo of a 57 second pie. It looks pretty cool, but it was by no means my favorite pie:

5- I use a Raytec digital thermometer. I notice that every spot in my oven is a different temperature. I've learned what's going on inside. These brands are much cheaper than the Raytec. I haven't used them, but they look fine to me and are much cheaper, under $60:

6- Dry mozzarella cheese : This step is totally optional and I don't do this anymore. Early on I was having problems with my mozzarella cheese breaking down due to the high heat. I was also having problems with the sauce sogging up the dough. So I used dry boars head mozzarella, sliced on a machine under the sauce. This protected the dough. But I've since improved both my sauce and wet mozzarella management so I don't use dry cheese anymore. However, I should note that the only pie that I've tasted that might actually be better than Patsy's is Johnny's in Mt. Vernon. They use only dry sliced cheese. I'm not sure of the brand, but it is fantastic. Patsy's does not use this step, nor is it true Neapolitan.

7- Lay fresh basil right on the dry cheese or sauce. It's important that the leaves get a bit wet or they'll just burn. Just tap the tops with the bottom of the sauce spoon to moisten. Basil is great fresh out of an herb garden. I will post more on this someday. Don't wash your basil. It just kills it.

You can put the basil on before the pie bakes or after

8 - Sauce: For years I was so focused on the dough that I let the sauce lapse. I just didn't do much with it. But now I feel that my dough is consistently great, I have focused more on the sauce and it has really transformed into something wonderful. The key step is something I call 'Tomato Rinsing".

But first let's start with the tomatoes themselves. There is a lot of talk about buying tomatoes grown in the San Marzano Valley which has rich volcanic soil. Others claim the region is now polluted. I don't know. All I know is what I taste. I've not been too impressed with San Marzanos I've tried. These are in rough order with the best at the top.

The Rise of the Neo-Neighborhood Pizzeria

A look at the sainted NYC slice&rsquos current renaissance.

New York City’s bond with pizza is long, storied, and preserved, mosquito-in-amber style, under layers of glistening auburn grease. It’s a relationship that stretches farther than the most epic Instagram-ready 𠇌heese pull,” to the coal-fired ovens of early twentieth-century Italian immigrants like Gennaro Lombardi, who opened what is widely considered America’s first pizzeria on Spring Street in downtown Manhattan (purportedly in 1905). Several of these relics are still standing, from Coney Island landmark Totonno’s, to John’s in the West Village, to the original Patsy’s in Harlem, one of the few spots around town to find coal oven-cooked pizza by the slice.

The flavors of history are also conjured inside the tiered, gas-powered deck ovens of old-school slice shops like Di Fara in Midwood, Brooklyn, where grated hard cheeses, hand-snipped basil, and a garnish of olive oil lend the pizzas an air of gravitas Howard Beach, Queens’ New Park Pizza, which anoints its white pies with veritable lakes of smooth ricotta and Louie & Ernie’s in the Bronx, which imports its full-cream mozzarella from Wisconsin and its incredible fennel-accented pork sausage from S&D deli right down the street. Enterprises like these helped turn pizza into a ubiquitous convenience food, establishing the New York-style slice as an iconic foodstuff indelibly tied to the city’s cultural identity.

Lest anyone wax too nostalgic, however, Brooklyn-born chef Nino Coniglio (of exemplary throwback shops Williamsburg Pizza and the Brooklyn Pizza Crew) is quick to point out, “just like there’s shitty pizza in Naples, there’s plenty of shitty pizza in New York, too.”

At the same time, there’s a cheesy, saucy galaxy between the NYC pizza landscape of today and that of even twenty years ago. In that time, we’ve seen booms in both dollar slices and the char speckled rounds of wood-fired Neapolitan-style operations like Una Pizza Napoletana, Roberta’s, and Ops not to mention the introduction of an increasing number of regional styles, including Chicago deep dish, rectangular Roman pizza al taglio, thin and crusty Roman round pies, and the crunchy, pillowy, cheese-encrusted squares made popular in Detroit. This pizza proliferation shows no signs of stopping, either. Next year, Emily and Matt Hyland of ultra-popular Emily and Emmy Squared plan to open a restaurant devoted to Rhode Island-style grilled pizza, while the namesake owners of Frankie’s 457 will team up with Long Island’s grandma pizza legend Umberto Corteo for a slice joint of their own.

Recently, another pizza revolution has been brewing, with many of the city’s most forward-thinking pizzaioli trying their flour-dusted hands at revamping the archetypal New York slice. Like the neo-bistros of Paris, these neo-neighborhood pizzerias champion a similar ethos of toying with traditions and using the highest quality ingredients available while refining their baking and dough fermentation techniques to achieve supernal results. One of the first was Frank Pinello, who opened Best Pizza in Williamsburg nearly a decade ago, kicking off a wave that’s steadily spreading through the five boroughs.

Some, like Coniglio, have dedicated themselves to honoring their dough-tossing predecessors, eager to recreate the definitive pies of their youth yet still embracing experimentation. At nouveau-retro gem Scarr’s on the Lower East Side, the eponymous Scarr Pimentel mills some of the flour for his dough on-site. In South Williamsburg, L’Industrie’s Florentine expat owner Massimo Laveglia takes a different approach, sourcing primarily Italian ingredients but baking and selling his pies in classic NYC fashion.

And then there’s the brothers Bergemann, Mike and Pete, who spent a year testing dough recipes before opening Corner Slice in the Gotham West Market with ramen savant Ivan Orkin. The efforts paid off: their squares are among the finest you’re likely to encounter. Even St. Louis pizza specialists Speedy Romeo have gotten in on the game, launching a late-night gonzo pop-up called Stiletto’s from their Lower East Side location, where you’ll find Provel cheese slices nestled with broccoli or lashed with black truffle ranch dressing.

This fall, “international pizza consultant” Anthony Falco helped Adam Elzer launch Sauce Pizzeria, which serves its slices with little cups of sauce intended for dipping any leftover crusts. An offshoot of Elzer’s Sauce restaurant on the Lower East Side, the East Village shop cranks out phenomenal thin crust pies, pairing textbook cheese and upside-down (cheese first, then sauce) slices with saucers of “Grandmother’s tomato gravy.” The vodka pizza competes with Staten Island’s Joe & Pat’s (which conveniently opened a branch around the corner should you wish to do a taste test), and the homemade sausage is made with heritage pork. An unexpected standout is Elzer’s homage to tacos al pastor – and his past as a onetime partner in Empellon – which brings together chile-rubbed roast pork, pink pickled onions, and roasted pineapple sauce.

A third-generation pizza maker, Frank Tuttolomondo runs the year-old Mama’s Too a block away from his family’s nearly 50-year-old shop Mama’s Pizzeria on the Upper West Side. While he hasn’t strayed far from the nest physically, his pizza is leagues above most of the competition. Like Dom DeMarco of Di Fara, Tuttolomondo blesses his burnished, puffy-rimmed house pies, which sport a collage of aged mozzarella and tomato pulp, with two-year aged Parmigiano-Reggiano. Then come the basil leaves. Falling somewhere between pillowy Sicilian and sturdier Roman pan pizza, his lofty squares are hefty enough to stand up to all manner of toppings, from sauteed crimini mushrooms to fennel-packed sausage braised in red wine.

Fanatic turned prolific pizza pro Paul Giannone opened Paulie Gee’s Slice Shop this past summer in tribute to his favorite childhood pie parlors. There, he and head chef Andrew Brown bake gorgeous, crisp-bottomed rounds and exceptional squares with fragrant sesame seed-paved crusts in a Wes Anderson-level detailed space decorated with black-and-white checkerboard floors, vintage video games, and bright orange formica banquettes outfitted with faux-wood grain tabletops. If Prince Street Pizza’s “spicy spring” is one of the city’s best pepperoni-topped square slices, then Paulie Gee’s Slice Shop’s Hellboy – dappled with hot honey and ‘roni cups so oily they practically sparkle – is surely its triangular, by-the-slice equal.

It’s also worth noting that some of Giannone’s best efforts also happen to be vegan, as with the “supreme” scattered with roasted peppers, fake pepperoni, and Brooklyn-based NUMU mozzarella made from coconut oil, or a square showered with Follow Your Heart vegan parmesan swirled with shimmering pools of caramelized Vidalia onions. It’s a bold move that would probably earn him the ire of his idols – at least until their first bite.

Una Pizza Napoletana

Fri night my wife and I went to Una Pizza Napoletana to try for ourselves one of the most disputed Pizza places in NYC. This place seems to be either loved or hated. And I will say, if you are going to Una Pizza Napoletana to get a pie with all the toppings, you will hate it. If you are going to experience what a singular expression of Napoletana pizza is with the FINEST preparation and ingredients then I agree that it is one of the finest. I would only compare it with Di Fara in terms of quality. They are both excellent and I would lean towards Di Fara for the only reason that you have more diversity. But getting to Di Fara is another story. Una Pizza Napoletana was wonderful and I cannot get over the ABSOLUTE dedication that Anthony has partaken in the preparation of each and EVERY pizza. Sure it is expensive but at the end of the day I would much rather spend my money on something that I know is being created by a singular person who puts all his attention to each order rather than some other place that is more concerned with turn over than the absolute art of pizza making.

6. the assembly

There is a very particular order in which Mangieri layers the ingredients of the Apollonia pizza. He starts by putting down a layer of diced buffalo mozzarella, spreading it atop the dough evenly.

After adding garlic, Mangieri adds the salami, salt, and pepper.

Next comes the egg, and then the basil leaves.

Right before putting the pizza into the oven, Mangieri adds a swirl of Dickson Napa Ranch olive oil. It's a mild extra virgin oil that Mangieri says adds a final bit of weight to the pizza and ties the whole thing together. Some extra virgin oils can be expensive, "heavy, and greasy" Mangieri says, but he like Dickson for being both light and "economically practical."

Una Pizza Napoletana is home to a custom-built wood burning oven from the legendary Stefano Ferrara. Mangieri says knowing how to use an oven as powerful as a Ferrara takes time: "A lot of people don't know how to use the oven. Buying a Ferrara is like buying a guitar and thinking you can play Hendrix." Mangieri burns oak for "bottom heat" because it's slow burning, and then pairs it with a hard wood that burns hot and burns faster than oak. ("I use oak and other kinds of wood, but I won't say which," Mangieri tells Eater in an effort to keep some of his secrets.)

Mangieri likes to cook three pies at a time, and has developed a rhythm around this practice. "I make a little train," he explains. He put the three pies in a line perpendicular to the opening of the oven, with the "first" being the furthest in. He rotates the first pie and after it's finished, he moves the second pie into the back position and third into the middle spot. He then rotates both remaining pies halfway, and by that point the second pie is done. Then he moves the third pie to the backmost position. Depending on what's going on with the oven's heat (which usually stays somewhere around 900 degrees), Mangieri may "dome" the pie right before removing it. While it may sound like a lot of movement, the entire process is extremely fast. A pie cooks in about one minute.

After the pie comes out of the oven, Mangieri tops it with grated parmigiano. He notes that the wetness of a sauce changes the character of the baked dough, so a white pie like the Apollonia puts more attention on the crust. "The dough really shines through on this pizza."

Recipe Summary

  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • ⅔ cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 (10 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 pound shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ½ cup grated Romano cheese
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the warm water in a large bowl. Let stand for 1 minute, then stir to dissolve. Mix in the flour, salt and olive oil. When the dough is too thick to stir, turn out onto a floured surface, and knead for 5 minutes. Knead in a little more flour if the dough is too sticky. Place into an oiled bowl, cover, and set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk.

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F (245 degrees C). If using a pizza stone, preheat it in the oven as well, setting it on the lowest shelf.

When the dough has risen, flatten it out on a lightly floured surface. Roll or stretch out into a 12 inch circle, and place on a baking pan. If you are using a pizza stone, you may place it on a piece of parchment while preheating the stone in the oven.

Spread the tomato sauce evenly over the dough. Sprinkle with oregano, mozzarella cheese, basil, Romano cheese and red pepper flakes.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until the bottom of the crust is browned when you lift up the edge a little, and cheese is melted and bubbly. Cool for about 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Capo’s: A Slice of Chicago in SF

Tony Gemignani (pictured) made a big impact on North Beach with Tony’s Pizza Napoletana and the adjacent slice shop that followed. Late last year, he opened a restaurant with roots in Chicago: Capo’s, a pizza place with a full bar, mood lighting, and cozy booths.

So far, Chowhounds like the pizzas, which come in an array of crust options: deep dish, cast-iron pan, stuffed, or cracker thin. The Old Chicago, with Italian sausage, meatballs, tomato sauce, and three cheeses, impressed Frosty Melon. Even the heated-up leftovers were good.

Servings are huge and heavy (unlike at Little Star, another local Chicago-style pizzeria, there isn’t a choice of small or large pies). Plan, like Frosty Melon, to go home with leftovers, unless your party is big and hungry.

And Pius Avocado III recommends against dining at the bar—it can be difficult to navigate a sloppy, overflowing slice.

Capo’s [North Beach]
641 Vallejo Street, San Francisco