The Pizza Post

All right, folks. I know I’m going to get all kinds of flak for this, but I have to ask:

Where’s the decent pizza in Philadelphia?

Maybe it’s just that I spent this weekend in New York, where I spent four years enjoying the delights of Lombardi’s (and, during my gluten-free time, Risotteria). I’m also missing the pizzas of Pittsburgh: the flavorful crusts at Church Brew Works, the wood-fired creations in the back at Enrico Biscotti, the gooey grease bomb at the O.

I’ve had OK pizza in Philly. Dock Street isn’t bad; the soup-nazi types at Lorenzo’s don’t live up to the hype. We even have a pizza truck (!) in my neighborhood, which would be totally awesome if the slices didn’t taste like cardboard. But I have to be honest, most of what I’ve tried has been abysmal. The best pizza I’ve had in Philadelphia was one I made myself.

But I know, I know, deep in my heart, that Philly’s got good pizza. It’s here, somewhere. I want to believe.

So I’m asking you, dear readers: Enlighten me. I promise to review the top picks.

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Heirloom Tomato Pizza

Heirloom Tomato Pizza

This was our first attempt at homemade pizza in years, and we were very pleased with the results.  I should admit up front that, since it was a work night, we didn’t attempt to make the dough from scratch– that’s more of a Sunday project.  We bought a blob of pizza dough from Trader Joe’s instead.  But we had some beautiful fresh orange and red heirloom tomatoes straight from the farm, fresh mozzarella, local raw-milk gruyere, a monster of a shallot and some fresh garlic, all from the Headhouse Square Farmers’ Market.  The fresh ingredients really made a difference!

Joe stretched the dough out to about a foot in diameter– it was quite springy so that wasn’t an easy task, even for someone who used to work at a pizza shop.   We started with a gentle drizzle of olive oil and some chopped shallots and garlic.  Not too much,  you don’t want to overwhelm the flavors of the tomatoes and cheese.  Next, a layer of grated fresh mozzarella, then a quick grate of a much smaller amount of gruyere.  Finally, sliced orange and red tomatoes arranged on top of the pie and drizzled with a hint of olive oil.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  We don’t have a pizza stone (although, ahem, my birthday is November 15), so we baked the pizza on a cookie sheet.  It worked out fine, although a pizza stone would have crisped the bottom of the crust a bit more.  The directions on the dough said to bake it for 8-9 minutes, but the tomatoes and mozzarella release so much water that we ended up baking it for about 12 minutes to get some nice browning going.

When it had about 3 minutes to go, Joe sprinkled some chopped fresh basil on top of the pizza. 

The result was one of the better pizzas I’ve had in a long time.  The tomatoes were bursting with flavor, the basil was delicious, and the garlic and shallots gave it just enough of a kick.  The crust wasn’t massively flavorful– when we do it from scratch we’ll salt and season it a bit– but it was perfectly serviceable and had a nice texture to it.  I’d prefer homemade, but for an after-work meal on a Wednesday night the packaged dough made this an easy, quick meal.  Not bad for a first attempt!  I’ll post a picture tonight if our crappy Earthlink internet access is up to it.

Also:  The Real Potato received our 5,000th hit today!  Woohoo!  Cookies for everyone!

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