The Church of Pizza

If you think Pizza Hut makes pizza, you won’t get this — but if you ever fell in love with real pizza, and then moved to a place where there wasn’t any, you’ll understand.

Pizza — for those of you who, like me, hail from the pizza-less hinterlands where your choices are limited to Pizza Hut, Pizza Inn, Domino’s, and stuff that comes out of a box — is an art. It is a science. It is even more than a bit of a religion. What it isn’t is sugary bread dough with ketchup spread on top. And after you’ve had the real stuff (for those of you who live in South Florida, Vito’s Gourmet Pizza, 1321 N University Dr in Coral Springs [(954) 755-3601], is a genuine shrine), you can’t go back.

So my guy is Italian on his father’s side. Close to the boat, knows where his family came from in Italy, can cook. Oh-my-God, can cook. And we’ve been yearning for pizza, because there is none here. We’ve looked.

Yearning, he found, and discovered that, holy shit, you can worship at home.

 So first we made our own pizza oven. It tells how on the website, though it doesn’t tell how to cut tiles. That neat narrow row of cut tiles in the middle that make the tiles all fit? That was me, and I did that because I watched a guy tile the floor of a house I was buying about twenty years ago, and I remembered how he did it, and figured I could, too. And I tried it, and didn’t break a tile. Yes, I’m bragging. I’m damned proud of those tiles. I can’t cook, but I can do other stuff. (Oven photo is post-pizza, by the way — the mess is cornmeal, which is essential to the making of great pizza.)

With the oven in place, my hero made pizza dough from scratch by hand — no fancy mixers or anything. Put together a number of lovely pies with various from-scratch sauces, because stuff from the jar doesn’t even come close to what he can do by hand. Loaded them up with toppings.

This beauty right here is one of his artworks. Usually we just have extra cheese, but this one he did with pepperoni, and it was really pretty. And tastes even better than it looks.

So here we are, with a home that smells like a pizzeria, with real pizza a couple of times a week so hot the cheese comes off in strings when you bite into it, with a crust that is both crunchy and chewy, and with slices that fold the way New York slices are supposed to fold, and …. amen. Is all. Just, amen.

Now I’m proselytizing for, because I just know there have to be a few of you out there who know what you’re missing and are suffering. It cost us ten bucks for the tiles at a flooring place that had them left over from a job. That’s it. Ten bucks, plus ingredients that they even have here in the pizza-less wastelands, and we were on the way to heaven. We have a pizza peel and a good cutter on the way now, but you don’t need anything else. If you miss good pizza (or have never had good pizza), you, too, can be saved. Better yet, you can save yourself.

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12 responses to “The Church of Pizza”

  1. Ezreas Avatar

    Can I borrow your son?

  2. PolarBear Avatar

    I’m playing with on IE6 it here at home. At first, it looked fine. Then I stretched the screen a little wider, and things got a little skewed. (The last pizza photo slides to the right, for instance.) And the far right parts of the third column ease off the edge of the page (Specifically, Hawkspar Revio), and I can’t scroll over to them–that happens no matter how wide it is. When I narrow the window, the pizza picture drops into place.

    I’ve noticed this on different templates I’ve tried, but I’ve never bothered to find out why. It seems related to the three column format. Monica? You checking in? What’s your experience with this?

  3. arrvee Avatar

    I hate you, I hate you, I hate you!

    Those pictures make me crazy. I can smell it. I can taste it. I can feel the cheese burn the roof of my mouth. I’ve had a lifelong love affair with homemade pizza, but my health issues now make it strictly a spectator sport.

    Hah! See how much you enjoy it with a good dose of guilt on the side!

    Seriously, though, I’m glad you discovered the secret and have someone handy that knows how to make real sauce. Enjoy!

  4. lyricalmoon Avatar

    The cornmeal isn’t used in the crust. It’s used on the bricks and on the peel to permit the crust to slide, and to prevent it from burning.

    I know. I don’t like the texture of the cornmeal though, so I use flour on the peel and nothing on the stone. It’s a little tricker to prevent it from sticking to the peel, but the flavor is worth it. To me at least. The flour does burn a little but it adds to the wood fired oven taste. Four the crust I use regular flour+ 1 cup cake flour, no oil. The cake flour makes the crust a little softer, lack of oil keeps it chewy.

  5. FrankA Avatar

    I will email you my Zaa Crust recipe. If I had known that you were suffering from withdrawal, I would have sent it sooner.

  6. Steph Avatar

    Amen to the ‘za.

    I haven’t gotten around to lining my oven with quarry tile (“…yet,” she added ominously.) but when I want really good pizza, I get out my 9″ cast iron skillet, invert it, spritz it with Pam, and drop the dough directly on the back. Bakes up nice and crispy.

    Those tiles also help to make awesome bread, or so I’m told.

  7. Linda Avatar

    The best pizza on the planet was my grandmother’s. But you’d probably call it foccacia, if you saw it because it doesn’t look like what we think of as pizza. She made it in a large jelly roll pan and the crust rose to the top. She didn’t put cheese on it. She put sausage, tomatoes, spices. It was wonderful. We kids loved the leftover dough she cooked in a cast iron skillet and spread butter on. She learned it from her mother, who learned it from her mother back in some small village in Calabria in southern Italy somewhere.

    Homemade pizza is one thing I’ll be doing when we’re back on our own. You can get a pizza stone that’s the right size for the pizza instead of messing with individual tiles. It works just as well.

    I leave mine in the oven all the time. It evens out the heat so you don’t have hot spots, which makes everything cook better. In a gas oven, you can put it on the oven floor below the racks. In an electric oven you put the bottom rack in the lowest position and put the stone on the rack.

  8. izzybaz Avatar

    I love making homemade pizza. I had to convert my husband from Pizza Hut to the glory of the homemade variety. I think he thought I would use Ragu sauce and one of those Boboli bread things. Now, however, he loves it – I’m especially proud of my sauce. I’m still working on perfecting the crust, it’s my weak point.

  9. Holly Avatar

    Welcome to the club. 😀 I’ve found that I prefer the flavor of flour to prevent sticking. The flour burns a little giving it a nice toasty flavor. and if you put most of the cheese under the sauce it comes out less rubbery.

    The cornmeal isn’t used in the crust. It’s used on the bricks and on the peel to permit the crust to slide, and to prevent it from burning. For the crust, he uses an unprocessed wheat flour and adds gluten.

  10. lyricalmoon Avatar

    I forgot to thank you for the link. Thanks!

  11. lyricalmoon Avatar

    Welcome to the club. 😀 I’ve found that I prefer the flavor of flour to prevent sticking. The flour burns a little giving it a nice toasty flavor. and if you put most of the cheese under the sauce it comes out less rubbery.

  12. PolarBear Avatar

    Oh, what a heavenly crust!

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