Category Archives: Pizza Today Articles

Tony’s Trending Recipe: Asparagus Pizza
July 31, 2019

Tony’s Trending Recipe: Asparagus Pizza

It’s just about that time of year for Asparagus. I have made this recipe using all types of asparagus such as white, pencil, purple passion, Mary Washington’s and Jersey types. This is one of my favorite pizzas and I’ve used it in competition. It’s super delicious. Enjoy.

Author: Pizza Today
Recipe type: pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 9- to 13-ounce dough ball
  • 7 ounces whole milk shredded mozzarella
  • 6 asparagus (trimmed to 5½ inches, blanched then sautéed in olive oil, salt & black pepper
  • 6 5-ounce slices smoked pancetta
  • Pinch crushed red pepper
  • ½ 1-ounce graded Asiago cheese
  • Lemon wedge

Instructions

  1. Preparing your asparagus, blanch asparagus. You want to make sure your asparagus is still firm so do not blanch too long. Depending on how thick the asparagus is will determine the length of time to blanch.
  2. Transfer your asparagus into an olive oiled sauté pan on medium heat.
  3. Sauté asparagus for 2 minutes and season with sea salt and pepper.
  4. Let cool and set aside.
  5. Once cooled wrap each asparagus with pancetta.
  6. Shape and stretch your dough into a 12-inch circle.
  7. Evenly place your mozzarella over your pizza leaving a ¼-inch border.
  8. Place your pancetta wrapped asparagus in a star pattern.
  9. Carefully place your pizza in the oven.
  10. Carefully take your pizza out of the oven when ready.
  11. Cut into six slices in between each asparagus.
  12. Top your pizza with a drizzle of olive oil, grated Asiago, crushed red pepper and a squeeze of lemon.
  13. Serve.

RESPECTING THE CRAFT features World Pizza Champion Tony Gemignani, owner of Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco and Pizza Rock in Sacramento.  Tony compiles the column with the help of his trusty assistants, Laura Meyer and Thiago Vasconcelos. If you have questions on any kitchen topic ranging from prep to finish, Tony’s your guy. Send questions via Twitter @PizzaToday, Facebook (search: Pizza Today) or e-mail jwhite@pizzatoday.com and we’ll pass the best ones on to Tony.

Tony’s Trending Recipe: Stuffed Squash Blossom Pizza
July 31, 2019

Tony’s Trending Recipe: Stuffed Squash Blossom Pizza

Squash blossoms are also known as zucchini flowers. They are in season from the end of spring to the beginning of fall. They are delicate flowers that are commonly used on pizzas in Italy. I recommend stuffing them with a semi soft cheese such as ricotta, gorgonzola, or mascarpone. Try battering them and frying for an amazing antipasto. Here is a delicious pizza recipe with burrata that I know you will enjoy.

Author: Pizza Today
Recipe type: pizza

Ingredients

  • 6 prepared squash blossoms filled with ricotta (see preparation)
  • 1 dough ball that makes a 12-inch pizza
  • 5 ounces whole milk mozzarella
  • 4 ounces ricotta in a pastry bag
  • 2 ounces burrata
  • 2 ounces Prosciutto Di Parma (sliced thin)
  • Crushed red pepper
  • Shaved Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

Instructions

  1. Squash blossom preparation: Gently open the blossom and check it by turning it upside down to give it a gentle shake.
  2. Next, remove any pistil or stamen by using your fingers to snap them off. There could be insects in the blossom, so double-check the inside.
  3. Gently rinse the blossoms if needed and lightly pat dry.
  4. Trim stem off.
  5. Using a pastry bag, fill the inside of each blossom half way with ricotta.
  6. Season with salt and pepper, then set aside.
  7. Shape and stretch your pizza into a 12-inch circle.
  8. Add the mozzarella (leaving a ¼ inch border).
  9. Place the stuffed squash blossoms onto the pizza in a star-like pattern.
  10. Drizzle olive oil over the blossoms, and the pizza, then place into oven.
  11. When finished, remove the pizza from the oven and cut into 6 slices (cut between the squash blossoms).
  12. Add pieces of burrata, crushed red pepper, shaved Parmigiana and slices of prosciutto.
  13. Salt, pepper and lightly oil your burrata.
  14. Serve.

RESPECTING THE CRAFT features World Pizza Champion Tony Gemignani, owner of Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco and Pizza Rock in Sacramento.  Tony compiles the column with the help of his trusty assistants, Laura Meyer and Thiago Vasconcelos. If you have questions on any kitchen topic ranging from prep to finish, Tony’s your guy. Send questions via Twitter @PizzaToday, Facebook (search: Pizza Today) or e-mail jwhite@pizzatoday.com and we’ll pass the best ones on to Tony.

Tony’s Trending Recipe: Chicken Parm Pizza
July 31, 2019

Tony’s Trending Recipe: Chicken Parm Pizza

Four years ago, I started a fundraising event with the San Francisco Giants. Baseball players Brandon Belt, Joe Panik and I created two 20-inch pizzas that would be sold by the slice. For each slice sold we donated $1. Joe Panik is from New York and mentioned to me that he hadn’t come across a Chicken Parm Pizza on the West Coast. I explained to him that it’s a pizza that’s not very common in California, but that we could definitely make one for him.

Well, it turned out to be a huge hit! In fact, it has raised nearly $50,000 for the George Mark Children’s House. So, with that said, I thought you might want to give it a try as a limited-time offering on your menu.

Experiment with it and see how it does in your shop!

Author: Pizza Today

Ingredients

  • 26-32-ounce pizza dough
  • 14-16 ounces whole-milk sliced mozzarella cheese
  • 16 ounces toasted bread
  • 1 ounce parsley, finely chopped
  • 11-13 ounces tomato sauce
  • 6 ounces chicken breast (see prep and additional ingredients below)
  • Pinch of chopped garlic (1/2 teaspoon)
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • Oregano
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Shaved Parmigiano (optional)
  • 1 pound flour
  • 6 ounces buttermilk

Instructions

  1. Chicken Parmigiana preparation: Ground toasted bread with parsley and a heavy pinch of salt and pepper.
  2. Take your chicken, butterfly it and slightly pound it thin.
  3. Then dredge it in flour and buttermilk.
  4. Transfer chicken into the breadcrumb mixture.
  5. Place chicken on a lightly oiled half sheet pan and par-bake at 550 F for 5 minutes.
  6. Then fry the chicken for 3 minutes at 375 F.
  7. Pizza preparation: Shape and stretch your dough into an 18- or 20-inch circle. This is a “sauce on top pizza,” otherwise known as an “upside down pizza.”
  8. Add your ingredients in this order: sliced mozzarella, tomato sauce and garlic.
  9. Place pizza into your oven.
  10. While the pizza is cooking, fry 1 piece of chicken.
  11. Once fried, carefully cut into thin strips and set aside. When the pizza is finished, remove it from the oven and cut into desired slices.
  12. Once cut, place your chicken over the top of your pizza, finish with a heavy amount of grated Parmesan, oregano, olive oil, salt and pepper.
  13. At this time you can add the optional shaved Parm.
  14. Serve!

RESPECTING THE CRAFT features World Pizza Champion Tony Gemignani, owner of Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco and Pizza Rock in Sacramento.  Tony compiles the column with the help of his trusty assistants, Laura Meyer and Thiago Vasconcelos. If you have questions on any kitchen topic ranging from prep to finish, Tony’s your guy. Send questions via Twitter @PizzaToday, Facebook (search: Pizza Today) or e-mail jwhite@pizzatoday.com and we’ll pass the best ones on to Tony.

Tony’s Trending Recipe: Pulled Pork & Sweet Corn Pizza
July 31, 2019

Tony’s Trending Recipe: Pulled Pork & Sweet Corn Pizza

Step by step instructions on how to make Tony’s Trending Recipe: Pulled Pork & Sweet Corn Pizza right at home!
Author: Pizza Today
Recipe type: pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 9- to 13-ounce dough ball
  • 6 ounces whole-milk shredded mozzarella
  • 5 to 6 pound pork butt (makes enough pork for
  • 12 to 15 pizzas)
  • 2 medium sized sweet corn
  • Butter
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • 3 to 5 dashes Red pepper powder or Calabrese chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons of chopped cilantro
  • Queso Fresco or Cotija cheese
  • 3 ounces brown sugar
  • 3 ounces dark Agave nectar
  • 1 orange cut into 8 wedges
  • 3 ounces fresh Tamarind pitted or paste
  • 3 ounces brown sugar
  • 7 orange wedges
  • 3 Serrano peppers sliced
  • 1 habanero sliced in half
  • 3 ounces tamarind
  • 3 ounces dark Agave nectar
  • 1 red bell pepper sliced
  • ½ sliced white onion
  • Salt & black pepper

Instructions

  1. Corn preparation: Cover the corn with EVOO, butter, salt, black pepper and a light amount of red chili powder or Calabrese powder.
  2. Wrap in foil, place onto a half sheet pan, or on a 14-inch pizza screen.
  3. Bake for 15 minutes in a 550 F oven.
  4. Turn the corn cobs half way around and continue to cook for another 10 to 15 minutes or until corn is ready.
  5. Let your corn cool.
  6. Using a knife, trim the corn from the stocks and set aside.
  7. Pork preparation: Use a medium size cast iron pot or roasting pot with lid that is preferably oval.
  8. Generously salt and pepper the entire piece of pork.
  9. Add olive oil to your pot then place your pot on medium to high heat.
  10. Carefully sear all sides of the pork.
  11. Place your pork into the pot and fill ¾ full of water.
  12. Then add the following ingredients below: brown sugar, orange wedges, Serrano peppers, habanero, tamarind, dark Agave nectar, red bell pepper, white onion, salt & black pepper.
  13. Place your covered pot into the oven and cook pork at 500 F for three hours.
  14. Take pot out when the pork is ready.
  15. Let pork rest covered in the pot for 30 minutes.
  16. Carefully take the pork out of the pot, set onto a cutting board.
  17. Let cool for 30 minutes.
  18. Trim off the fat and place the fat back into the juice in the pot.
  19. Carefully shred pork and place into a container and set aside. Remember the pork will still be hot so be careful.
  20. Place your pot on a stove top on high heat and reduce for 15 minutes. This will intensify the flavor of your au jus.
  21. Turn your au jus to low heat and be ready to serve a side of hot au jus.
  22. Pizza: Shape and stretch your dough into a 12-inch circle.
  23. Place shredded mozzarella and cook the pizza until ready.
  24. Take pizza out of the oven and cut it into desired slices.
  25. Using tongs dip the pulled pork into the hot au jus then evenly place your pork on your pizza.
  26. Add corn, cilantro, salt and queso fresco or cotija cheese.
  27. Garnish with a orange wedge. The squeeze of the orange makes your pizza really pop with the added acidity.
  28. Finish with a few dashes of red pepper or Calabrese powder.
  29. Serve with a side of hot au jus.

RESPECTING THE CRAFT features World Pizza Champion Tony Gemignani, owner of Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco and Pizza Rock in Sacramento.  Tony compiles the column with the help of his trusty assistants, Laura Meyer and Thiago Vasconcelos. If you have questions on any kitchen topic ranging from prep to finish, Tony’s your guy. Send questions via Twitter @PizzaToday, Facebook (search: Pizza Today) or e-mail jwhite@pizzatoday.com and we’ll pass the best ones on to Tony.

Respecting the Craft: New York Slices
December 14, 2018

Respecting the Craft: New York Slices

I ask some other pros for their take on the quintessential slice

“How many slices should my New York slice pie be cut into, and what size should this pie actually be?”

I get questions about this all the time. Can it be an 18-inch cut into six slices? Or should it be a 20-inch cut into eight slices? Maybe even a 22-inch cut into four slices? I asked a few of our industry heavyweights and here is what they had to say.

Salvatore Vitale
Joe’s Pizza, New York City, NY

This place is legendary in our industry. Many operators around the world look at Joe’s as the example of true New York-style pizza. I sat down with Salvatore Vitale.

Q: When did Joe’s open and when did you start working there?

A: My grandfather started in 1975. I have been going and helping since I could remember. I’m 32 and started full time at 17. But I worked weekends since way before that.

Q: What size are your whole, round, slice pies — and how many slices are they cut into?

A: Our house is 21 inches with eight slices each.

Q: What do you hate when you go into other slice concepts or see what other concepts are doing?

A: Pineapple on pizza. My grandfather would smack me upside the head just for thinking about it.

John Arena
Metro Pizza, Las Vegas, Nevada

John is a pizza industry guru, New York native, pizzaiolo, consultant and contributor to Pizza Today.

Q: When did you get into the pizza business?

A: I started making pizzas professionally in 1967.

Q: What size are your whole, round, slice pies — how many slices are they cut into?

A: When I started a large pizza was 16 inches. Our current slice size is 18 inches, cut into six or eight slices depending on location.

Q: What would you call the standard New York-sized slice?

A: Today standard is 18 to 20 inches.

A: What other sizes do you see in NY?

Q: In the old days most places that sold slices made one size. If you needed more or less you could order slices. The no-slice places, including bars and restaurants that served pizza, would often have a 12- or 14-inch available.

Scott Weiner
Scott’s Pizza Tours
New York City, NY

Pizza Today’s “Man on the Street”, Scott is an all-around pizza enthusiast. This New Jersey native celebrates all things pizza.

Q: When did you get into the pizza industry and what is your occupation?

A: I officially entered the pizza industry when I launched my company, Scott’s Pizza Tours, in April 2008. I currently run Scott’s Pizza Tours, a tour company featuring over 50 independent pizzerias in NYC. I also run the nonprofit Slice Out Hunger, which funds hunger relief organizations through events and campaigns at pizzerias around the U.S.

Q: What would you call the standard NY size slice?

A: A standard NYC pie is 18 to 20 inches round (and) cut into 8 slices.

Q: What do you hate when you go into slice concepts or see what other concepts are doing?

A: Not much hate, but it’s not typical New York to have a thick triangle slice or one that isn’t foldable. Heat lamps are not legit. There has to be a cheese slice. Pepperoni is NOT the default in NYC. I think that’s about it.”

Thanks to these three for sharing their experiences on NY slices. At my Slice Houses, I prefer a 20-inch cut into six slices. I like my slices a little bigger. As for pet peeves, adding pepperoni and cheese on top of a slice that’s already been cooked and then reheating it for a minute is a no-no for me.

RESPECTING THE CRAFT features World Pizza Champion Tony Gemignani, owner of Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco and Pizza Rock in Sacramento. Tony compiles the column with the help of his trusty assistants, Laura Meyer and Thiago Vasconcelos. If you have questions on any kitchen topic ranging from prep to finish, Tony’s your guy. Send questions via Twitter @PizzaToday, Facebook (search: Pizza Today) or e-mail jwhite@pizzatoday.com and we’ll pass the best ones on to Tony.

Respecting the Craft: Classic Chianti
November 1, 2014

Respecting the Craft: Classic Chianti

For many years Chianti has been called the wine of Italy. Well known for its original straw bottle, Chianti goes very well with pizza and pasta due to its light character and good acidity content. Other wines, such as Barberesco, Lambrusco or Gragnano, are also amazing and considered to be pizza wines — but Chianti always reminds me of that go-to wine during lunch or dinner.

After the 2014 World Pizza Championships in Italy, my wife and I decided to visit two very special wineries in the Chianti region. Rufino and Cecchi. Cecchi was founded in 1893. We had several different styles of Chianti. My favorite was the Chianti Classico Riserva di Famiglia, which has to be aged for at least two years before the release. The Riserva is a more structured and powerful kind of wine. It ages well, and the complexity and elegance are noticable. This, like all other Chiantis, pairs well with foods that are robust and have rich sauces.

Many ask about the straw bottle Chianti was famous for and the unusual shape which you tend not to see anymore. Two reasons: one was for transporting. Back in the day this protected the bottle from breaking, especially with horses going through steep terrain. The other was that many Italians would spray the bottles with cold water and the straw would keep the bottles cooler, especially in the warm summers of Tuscany.

We also visited the Ruffino winery. The Chianti produced here reminded me of my grandfather’s wine. The first sip I took instantly brought back memories of watching my grandfather drink wine at the dinner table. He would have a jug under the table and pour it himself. It brings you back to a time when things were so much simpler and less rushed. It was amazing. Here, Edoardo Torna, my wife and I engaged in similar stories of growing up with family dinners of pizza and pasta while sipping on Chianti.

The legend of the Black Rooster symbol that is on chianti bottles had always been a question I wanted answered. The Black Rooster has always been the symbol of the entire Chianti region. The origin of this is lost in time: an amusing legend narrates of the rivalry existing in the Middle Ages between Siena and Florence.

According to this legend, in order to cease their endless fighting, the two Tuscan cities decided to leave the definition of their respective boundaries to a remarkable feat between knights; they were to leave their hometowns at cockcrow and wherever they would have met each other, that exact spot would have been the border between the two republics.

For this purpose, the citizens of Siena raised a beautiful white rooster, which grew big and fat. The Florentines, instead, chose a black rooster and never fed him, so that on the fateful day he was so famished, he started to crow even before sunrise. As a result, the Florentine knight was able to set out very early in the morning. He met the knight from Siena in Fonterutoli — merely twelve Kilometers from Siena — as the latter had left much later. This is the reason why almost all of the Chianti territory was united under the rule of the Florentine Republic.

Even if this is merely fictional, it is confirmed that the Black Rooster profile has represented the emblem of the historic Chianti League, which ruled over these lands since the beginning of the 14th century. The artist Giorgio Vasari painted the Black Rooster on the ceiling of the Salone dei Cinquecento in Palazzo Vecchio, as an allegorical representation of the Chianti region. The Consortium has ultimately selected this seven-century old symbol as a certification of its wines.

Like many Italian products, there’s so much history behind Chianti. You can never go wrong by serving it.

RESPECTING THE CRAFT features World Pizza Champion Tony Gemignani, owner of Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco and Pizza Rock in Sacramento.  Tony compiles the column with the help of his trusty assistants, Laura Meyer and Thiago Vasconcelos. If you have questions on any kitchen topic ranging from prep to finish, Tony’s your guy. Send questions via Twitter @PizzaToday, Facebook (search: Pizza Today) or e-mail jwhite@pizzatoday.com and we’ll pass the best ones on to Tony.

Respecting the Craft: Do as the Romans do
October 27, 2014

Respecting the Craft: Do as the Romans do

Roman-style dough can be made several ways. One of the best recipes I have worked with is a bulk ferment. To do a bulk ferment, mix the dough and then, instead of cutting and balling it, divide the large dough in fourths, place into sealed containers and let rise for 48 hours in a refrigerator before cutting, balling, proofing again and using.

Typically a Roman dough recipe has a high percentage of water. I feel most recipes lack salt, so in the recipe below we will have three percent salt to our flour weight.

Since this recipe has such a long maturation I suggest using a flour that has at least 13-percent protein. I use a preferment/starter in my recipes, but the one below will be easier and give you great results. The water could be increased if desired.

For your convenience, I’m also listing the amounts in baker’s percent.

50 pounds flour (13 percent protein)  – 100 percent
34 pounds cold water (45 F)
1 pound warm water (85 F) – Total water = 70 percent
24 ounces fine sea salt – 3 percent
16 ounces extra-virgin olive oil – 2 percent
4 ounces dry active east – .5 percent
8 ounces dry malt  – 1 percent

Use a 60-quart mixer. Add your flour to the bowl. Blend your malt into the flour. Mix the cold water into the flour for 1 minute on slow speed and then let it sit for 45 minutes covered (this is called an autolyse method).

Using a wire whisk, activate your yeast and warm water and let sit for 10 minutes. Mix warm water and yeast mixture into the bowl and start mixer. Mix for 3 minutes and add salt. Mix for 3 minutes then add oil. Continue mixing for 3 to 4 minutes.

Take dough out of mixer and divide into fourths. Place pieces separately into large, air-tight containers and place into the refrigerator for 24 or 48 hours.

Take out of refrigerator and place all pieces into mixer and mix for 1 minute to degas. Take the dough out of the mixer and cut into 26 to 35 ounce dough balls depending on your desired thickness after baked and shape into football/oval shapes. Your dough should be a bit tacky. If it is too tacky you can either add flour or do a stretch and fold method.

Let rise overnight, covered on sheet pans or dough boxes in a refrigerator, or let rise at room temp for 8 hours before use.

There are several ways to prepare your Roman style pizza. Here are three methods:

  • Take your dough out of the fridge for 1 hour before use. Place dough into a well-seasoned sheet pan. Cover with olive oil and then push your dough out as far as you can. Place it in a warm area for an hour and then stretch your dough to the corners and let re-rise for two hours. Top and bake at 535 F in a gas or electric brick oven. This will be similar to a Sicilian-style pizza.
  • Or you can dust your dough with flour and semolina. For thick pizza gently shape and stretch your dough, not degassing it. Place on a three-foot wood peel. Top and bake at 535 F in a gas or electric brick oven.

For thin pizza, roll your dough using a sheeter or rolling pin. Roll it thin enough to cover the board. Dock your pizza, then top leaving a one-inch border. Next, cut about ½-inch of your dough off using a pizza wheel. Top and bake at 535 F in a gas or electric brick oven.

RESPECTING THE CRAFT features World Pizza Champion Tony Gemignani, owner of Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco and Pizza Rock in Sacramento.  Tony compiles the column with the help of his trusty assistants, Laura Meyer and Thiago Vasconcelos. If you have questions on any kitchen topic ranging from prep to finish, Tony’s your guy. Send questions via Twitter @PizzaToday, Facebook (search: Pizza Today) or e-mail jwhite@pizzatoday.com and we’ll pass the best ones on to Tony.

Respecting the Craft: Pizza Romana
September 1, 2014

Respecting the Craft: Pizza Romana

One of my favorite styles of pizza is pizza Romana. Some people can get confused because, like New York-style, there are sub-categories. For example, there’s Pizza in Teglia (pizza in the pan), Pizza al Taglio (pizza by the slice), Pizza a Etro (pizza by the meter), Pizza Focaccia and Pizza in Pala (pizza on wood peel). All of these styles can be thick or thin.

Over the years I have been back to Rome several times. My recent trip was to do even more research on the Roman craft. I stopped by Pizzarium for a short visit. There, pizza maker Gabrielle Bonci uses a 00 and/or 0 Stone Ground Ancient Grain and blends his flour making an amazing crust that’s light, airy and digestible. This type of flour and method will become very popular in the U.S. and I am already using the same flour today in my San Francisco location.

I visited several other Roman pizzerias such as Boccacia, Garden Pizza, Roscioli Forno and Pizza Pazza. All of them have different methods using a type 00 flour with no added blending. Some of the more popular ingredients used are squash blossoms, Romanesco, basil, Pecorino Romano, ricotta, fresh mozzarella, Bufala mozzarella, tomato, arugula, eggplant, sausage and cured meats.

Roman-style pizzas can be cooked in several different types of ovens such as electric, gas and wood-burning brick ovens. They could be cooked directly on the brick or in a pan, but either way is “right.” I tend to see a higher hydration and a lack of salt in the dough, which is typical for most Roman-style dough recipes.

Pizza Romana is one of the most popular pizzas in my restaurants. I use an Italian oven and a German electric brick oven in five of my locations. Both work great. The Roman pizzas I make are nearly three feet long. What’s great about these ovens are they are very versatile and deep with a stone bottom, have multiple chambers and you can control the heat source at the bottom and top unlike any oven with added convection. They are great for cooking in the pan or on the stone and make amazing thin-crust pizzas.

The size of this pizza is great for a family of four and can range from $25 to $40. It’s communal and sits well without getting soggy. Typically, I have seen more white pizzas (no sauce) than sauced — and several of the preferred ingredients tend to go on after the bake. This method of more finishing ingredients rather than cooked makes a stronger pie. Finding a box for to-go orders is sometimes a challenge depending on the length of your pizza, but some box companies do make a long rectangular box.

I know you probably want to try it after the brief introduction. So next month I’ll feature a basic Romana dough recipe and will offer step-by-step instructions on how to make this great pizza.

RESPECTING THE CRAFT features World Pizza Champion Tony Gemignani, owner of Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco and Pizza Rock in Sacramento.  Tony compiles the column with the help of his trusty assistants, Laura Meyer and Thiago Vasconcelos. If you have questions on any kitchen topic ranging from prep to finish, Tony’s your guy. Send questions via Twitter @PizzaToday, Facebook (search: Pizza Today) or e-mail jwhite@pizzatoday.com and we’ll pass the best ones on to Tony.

Respecting the Craft: Everyone’s a Critic
August 21, 2014

Respecting the Craft: Everyone’s a Critic

Being critiqued is difficult for any restaurant owner. And it’s not just newspaper and magazine critics anymore. These days there are so many critics or “want to be” critics out there when you take Bloggers, Yelp, Tripadvisor, etc. into account. It can be tough, especially when you go into a new market where you have no customer base and are trying to create one and mesh with the community. Typically writers have their favorite spots, so turning someone from the dark side to your side can be very challenging. Typically a true critic will give you six to eight weeks before coming in. They should be unannounced and come in at least three times. Other professional critics — typically with newspapers, magazines, blogs and freelancers — do sometimes inform the owner. That is great for me because I could let them order but also drop some items which I feel are my best and want them to try.

Yelp has really changed the entire critiquing system. Everyone’s a critic. It’s pretty bad, when you think about it, because it’s difficult to know who to believe. Are these real customers reviewing your store or are they false statements made by competing pizzerias, an ex-girlfriend or boyfriend, an employee of Yelp, a past enemy, etc. I used to read these all the time. It became a bad habit. I do take them into consideration, but I also have to read between the lines to make sure they are legit. For me Tripadvisor has the best, most honest reviews — at least in my experience.

When I opened up my new stores I was really under the microscope even more than ever due to my credentials and longevity in the industry. The build-up and hype with a strong marketing team behind it does bring you to a level where you can’t just be average. You really have to go above and beyond to make sure every pizza, the experience and the service are at their finest. It’s very stressful. I feel having a PR agency is important for an opening. You could pay an agency for a three-month launch, for example. This can help you with access to several media outposts and sometimes one on one with writers and some critics. I am personable and like to talk to everyone — especially someone writing about my food. It’s great when a true critic can come in well after your opening and not be pre-judgmental. Those are the ones I really enjoy. The worst ones are the ones that come opening week — rookies.

But you have to be prepared because someone is always watching and always ready to write a blog about you.

RESPECTING THE CRAFT features World Pizza Champion Tony Gemignani, owner of Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco and Pizza Rock in Sacramento.  Tony compiles the column with the help of his trusty assistants, Laura Meyer and Thiago Vasconcelos. If you have questions on any kitchen topic ranging from prep to finish, Tony’s your guy. Send questions via Twitter @PizzaToday, Facebook (search: Pizza Today) or e-mail jwhite@pizzatoday.com and we’ll pass the best ones on to Tony.

Tony Gemignani talks secrets to great pesto
August 13, 2014

Tony Gemignani talks secrets to great pesto

Q: Can you tell me how to make a great pesto?

A: I sure can!
Pesto is traditionally a sauce made from fresh basil, pine nuts, olive oil, grated cheese and garlic that have been ground together in a mortar and pestle. Here at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana we stick to tradition in that we always use fresh basil and pine nuts. But, like many others, we change the recipe slightly to make something new. In making pesto you always want to use the freshest basil you can find. In using fresh basil, your final product will have more flavor and have a more vibrant green color. There are a few tricks to maintaining that green color, although some pizzaioli and chefs will disagree. One of which is to blanch your basil quickly in boiling water for 1-2 seconds and then quickly transfer it to cold water (this seals in the color). Adding lemon or lime juice to your recipe will also aid in preserving the green color we all know and love.

We use an extra virgin olive oil of good quality, but one that does not have such a distinct flavor of its own that it will over power any of the other flavors. At Tony’s we always use pine nuts in our recipe instead of other nuts. Pine nuts are generally one of the more expensive nuts on the market. Switching to another nut such as walnuts, almonds or even cashews could lower your food cost. It also would provide the added bonus of changing the flavor of your pesto to make it more your own.

In some areas of the country depending on the season, basil can be hard to come by or can be expensive. So changing to another green is a way some restaurants and chefs work around those problems. Other common ingredients used are arugula, spinach, or even sun-dried tomatoes and red peppers. Just like mentioned previously, the flavor and intensity of all herbs and vegetables varies throughout the year depending on what season it is. Garlic is subject to this fluctuation as well. The intensity and spiciness of garlic fluctuates throughout the year and there are a couple ways to counteract this. You could just add less garlic to your recipe to cut down on the intensity or you could add something sweet to counteract the spiciness. At Tony’s, we like to add a little bit of agave nectar to cut down on the garlic’s spiciness.

When it comes to the cheese in pesto we like to use Parmigiano Reggiano in both grated and shaved forms. Using the cheese in both forms adds a little bit of texture to the pesto so it’s not all one smooth consistency. When we blend all of the ingredients together here at the restaurant we hold back some of the oil so as to keep it more paste like and thick. A thin layer of oil at the top helps keep oxidation at bay and keeps the color bright green. When we want to use the pesto we take a small amount and thin it out with the remaining oil we reserved.

RESPECTING THE CRAFT features World Pizza Champion Tony Gemignani, owner of Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco and Pizza Rock in Sacramento. Tony compiles the column with the help of his trusty assistants, Laura Meyer and Thiago Vasconcelos. If you have questions on any kitchen topic ranging from prep to finish, Tony’s your guy. Send questions via Twitter @PizzaToday, Facebook (search: Pizza Today) or e-mail jwhite@pizzatoday.com and we’ll pass the best ones on to Tony.