Pizza Terroir

Updated April 25, 2008 12:01 pm

$483.00 for a decent slice of pizza in San Francisco? Is this the going rate at some trendy, fashionista-friendly pizzeria down on Union Street? Fortunately it’s just Wired Magazine’s Joe Brown’s MSRP for a proper slice which includes a plane ticket to New York to pick up the perfect pizza.

Now, I’ve had a couple of slices here and there-a couple in NYC and one or two on trips abroad. But my favorite remains Old Chicago in my hometown of Petaluma. Of course, a steady deep dish diet would probably be the death of me, so, after sampling my current neighborhood pizzerias I’ve settled on my favorites here in the City. And while proximity is important, (after all who wants to walk far for their fix?) I’m also on the lookout tangy sauces, tasty pepperoni, and flavorful crusts. Right now Serrano’s on 21st at Valencia fits the bill; you’ve got to love a place where you can call ahead for a slice. The pizzas are just the right balance of cheese to sauce, wonderfully flavorful overall, and I’ve never had a soggy slice–a big complaint her in the City.

But Brown’s article highlights a point about flavor I’ve never considered-the age of the ovens used in NYC pizzerias.

“As you cook, some ingredients vaporize, and these volatilized particles can attach themselves to the walls of the baking cavity,” Tisi says. “The next time you use the oven, these bits get caught up in the convection currents and deposited on the food, which adds flavor.” Over time, he says, more particles join the mix and mingle with the savory soot from burned wood or coal — the only fuels worth using — to create a flavor that you can’t grow in a garden: gestalt, if you will.

Yes, gestalt does sound a little California hipsterish, but isn’t that gestalt the reason we sometimes grill meats, cedar plank fish or even toss a couple of wood chips in the smoker? Were always on the lookout for those “volatized particles” and the flavor they produce.

NYC may have the best pizza because they’ve got the most crud in their ovens, but I’m going to skip the plane flights on Friday night and stick by my local pizza crew.

Read Joe Brown’s Wired article here: Why New York City’s Iconic Pizza Is So Tough to Replicate

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