Category Archives: Pizza

Did my Husband and I Invent the Food Crawl in the 80’s? I Think we did!

If you search for the term “food crawl” on the internet you won’t find too much information. However, on the Food Network, Cooking Channel and in many culinary magazines you hear and read about it quite frequently.

I would define a food crawl as follows: where one goes on a culinary tour to different restaurants to sample food. For example, you can do one in search of the best restaurant, or specific food such as coffee crawl, or taco crawl. There is also a progressive food crawl where you might have drinks and appetizers at one restaurant, dinner at another, then dessert and coffee at different location. Living in NYC, food crawls are a part of daily life. Any big city will afford you this opportunity. My husband and I were doing food crawls since we met without even knowing it – we’re such trend setters! More often than not, we had dinner one place and dessert at another. Recently we were in NYC and while waiting to be seated at Lombardi’s Pizza (just had to get in another pizza plug!), my husband showed up with a tray of Melissa’s Cupcakes for us to nosh on while we waited 45 minutes for our table! After dinner, we went to Rice to Riches for rice pudding for dessert. That was a food crawl too.

When my husband and I first met, I remember one time we decided to walk to dinner from  his apartment on West 53rd and 8th down to the East Village (around 10th street) where we would end up at a place called PizzaPizza. It was about an hour walk to get there. We were starving so we decided to stop in at Luigi’s Pizza across the street and share a slice before we headed downtown – just the fuel we needed! On our way, we passed so many pizza places it seemed there was one on at least every other block! Somewhere along the way we stopped in at one of the Ray’s* Pizza places just for fun. We each took a bite but didn’t really like it. It was very cheese heavy so we tossed it and kept walking. Then we came across Lazarra’s Pizza on 38th street By the time we got to PizzaPizza, we were very happy to sit down, and very ready to order a pizza! In the end, Luigi’s was the best of the night and we had invented the food crawl!

So why am I telling you all of this? Saturday my family did a local pizza crawl in honor of National Pizza Week and so that I could share it with you. We chose 3 places that are in the top 25 here in Columbus. It was my son’s last day of winter break so we chose pizza places near the bus station that would get him back to college. Ironically, they are in the top 4 of that list! First stop, Harvest Pizzeria in German Village. We have been there before and absolutely love their pizza. We thought just like with Luigi’s we should start out with something tried and true – just in case! We ordered two pies – one with mushrooms and the other vegetable. The pizzas are baked in a wood burning oven and the crust was light and delicious with just the right chew and char on the crust. It’s not NY pizza, but that’s more than okay, it doesn’t have to be. It’s unique and stands on its own. I always get the almond pesto on the side, just to drizzle on top – so good, I started making it at home! We’re Harvest Pizza lovers in my house as you can tell!

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Harvest Pizzeria in German Village

An hour later we headed over to Yellow Brick Pizza in Old Town East. We have heard so much about it, we wanted to give it a try. We ordered a regular cheese pie so that toppings didn’t get in the way of taste. This was my husband’s favorite place of the day. It was a good solid pie. The pizza had a nice crispy crust, just the right amount of cheese, and a great tasting sauce. What more can you ask for? Tater tots apparently because they’re on the menu with a variety of toppings! Of course we got those too! They were good, probably better with toppings and a drink but we were there for the pizza.

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Yellow Brick Pizza in Olde Town East

Last but not least was Bono Pizza. Bono Pizza was my white whale (you know as in Moby Dick – the one that got away)! About 6 years ago we passed a small little place in the Short North that had a sign in the window – Bono Pizza to go. They were closed but I wrote down their number so I could get their hours and pick up a pie to try another time. I went there again a couple months later and the sign on the window said sorry, ovens are out. 3rd time will be a charm – right? A few weeks later I went back and they were closed; they had moved to a new location. I forgot about them for a while, then one day I was driving my son to baseball and saw a sign for Bono Pizza. I quickly pulled into the parking lot. They were located in a convenience store and had pies to go after 5pm. We missed them again!

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Bono Pizza in Grandview

This past summer, while in the area, I saw a sign that said we’ve moved. For some reason I felt compelled to follow the signs to their new location – I didn’t want pizza but wasn’t giving up. I found them located in an apartment complex and yes they were closed for lunch but now I knew where they were. It’s an odd location, very small, and less than fancy but there’s something warm about the place. Saturday, I finally caught the white whale! We dropped Jarred off at the bus, did a few errands and headed over for dinner (of course I called them on the way to make sure they were open!). I couldn’t believe after 6 years we finally did it. Was it worth it? Read on to find out!

The restaurant is located in an apartment complex which is a little unusual but seems to work. One thing we loved was the red and white checkered tablecloths. It reminded us of NYC pizza places. We ordered three 10 inch pies and loved the Margherita pizza with extra garlic they call The Caroline. It really was delicious. The dough was crisp and tender and had a nice wood charred flavor, add in the fresh mozzarella – it was a winner! As for the other two, we just ordered the wrong pies. So we are going to judge solely based on the Margherita pie which was amazing.

End of day results… You can see why all three are among the top 25 best pies in Columbus. All different, all very good in their own right. Ethan and I selected Harvest Pizza as our favorite. My husband’s favorite was Yellow Brick Pizza. Bono was a top contender but I think at a disadvantage, it was the last pie of the day, we were a little full, and I guess after 6 years, my expectations were just too high. Jarred’s favorite was Zen Cha Tea (no pizza), but that’s another story! All in all it was a really fun day. I finally caught the white whale, we had some great food, and so many laughs along the way and I would go back to any of them in a heartbeat! Can’t wait until next year’s National Pizza Week! I have so much more to share, more recipes, more stories, I may not be able to wait! In the meantime, check out the places I’ve mentioned plus these I have been to (also in the top 25) … Mikey’s Late Night Slice, Natalie’s Coal Fired Pizza, and Borgata Pizza Cafe. Only 19 more to try!

*There are dozens of pizza places with the name Ray in it all claiming to be the first and one and only original. There are often debates as to whether they are related in some way. Off the top of my head, there is Ray Bari, Original Ray’s, Famous Original Ray’s, Ray’s, I think there is even a World Famous Ray’s Pizza. Check out this blog to find out more about Ray’s pizza and for a funny clip on Seinfeld about Ray’s thepizzasnob.net/2012/07/08/a-slice-of-new-york-city-the-real-rays-pizza-5/

Grandma Pizza, We don’t have that in Columbus!

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When my husband was scouting out the Columbus area for our move 12 years ago, he would call me and tell me what he found that was familiar to us. While he was busy researching the best school districts, I asked things like, do they have a Lord & Taylor there. Is there a  Bloomingdales? And, oh, make sure you try the pizza I can’t move anywhere that doesn’t have good pizza! I have to be honest, the reports weren’t so promising.* That was coming from my husband who can eat almost anything. The best he came up with was California Pizza Kitchen. While I do enjoy their pizza, and sometimes crave their tricolore** salad pizza, it’s not New York Pizza!

How could this happen? A Brooklyn girl living someplace without good pizza, unheard of, unthinkable! Then I thought, if I learned to make it myself, I wouldn’t have to go without. So this began my journey on learning how to make the best tasting pizza I could! Pizza that would rival some of the best I’ve had in NY.

While still living in NY I purchased dough from my local pizza place just to get the hang of it. I bought a pizza stone and pizza wheel to cut the pizza. I was ready! From there, I researched cookbooks, cooking shows and asked an Italian neighbor of mine who made pizza regularly to help me. While this isn’t the first pizza I learned how to make, I wanted to share it first because it’s the easiest, absolutely delicious, and is made in a standard sheet pan. The ingredients are very simple and rustic. Most people are familiar with the round pizza, and square Sicilian, but the grandma pie is a whole different ballgame. Some people think it’s a thin Sicilian pie, but it’s not. The crust is almost like a thin focaccia and crispy on the bottom.  It’s not so easy to find outside of Long Island where it originated. That is unless you go to Italy where someone’s grandmother makes it for you, hence the title Grandma Pizza.

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So what exactly is a grandma pie? According to a Newsday article (Long Island newspaper) written by Erica Marcus…

“Variations abound, but the basic outlines are as follows: a thin layer of dough is stretched into an oiled, square “Sicilian” pan, topped sparingly with shredded mozzarella, crushed uncooked canned tomatoes, chopped garlic and olive oil, and baked until the top bubbles and the bottom is crisp.

[Michele] Scicolone [Manhattan resident, Italian food expert, and co-author of Pizza: Any Way You Slice It] observed that grandma pie sounded a lot like “pizza alla casalinga” (housewife-style pizza), “the kind of pizzas you’d get in Italy if you were invited to someone’s home.”

New Yorkers take their pizza seriously. If you would like to read the whole story, you can find it at this link:

http://long-island.newsday.com/restaurants/feed-me-1.812004/grandma-pizza-the-full-story-1.825269

So here it is, my version of Grandma Pizza adapted from Cooks Country…

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Dough
1   1/2 cups bread flour (plus more for kneading)
3/4 cup warm water (105 to 110 degrees)
2  1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons of olive oil

Recipe for the topping follows at the end.

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For the dough:  Coat a rimmed baking sheet (half sheet pan 18 x 13) with 2 tablespoons of good olive oil and set aside.

In a measuring cup add the warm water, sugar and yeast. Allow it to proof for about 5 minutes or until the yeast has activated and is foamy on top.

In a large bowl add the flour and salt. When the yeast is proofed, add the tablespoon of olive and stir into the flour mixture. If the dough feels too sticky, add a little more flour. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until soft, smooth and elastic about 5 to 7 minutes.

Transfer the dough to greased sheet pan and turn it to coat. Stretch dough to about a 12 by 8 inch rectangle. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 45 minutes to one hour. While the dough is rising, put the topping together.

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Topping
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves of garlic minced fine (or more if you like garlic as much as I do!)
8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese (use a good quality mozzarella)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons fresh basil

Place tomatoes in a colander and drain well. I leave it draining about 30 minutes. Then combine tomatoes, oil and garlic in a bowl and stir well. That’s it for the sauce!

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After it has doubled in size, stretch dough to the corners of the pan and let it rest for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, adjust your oven rack to the lowest position and the heat oven to 500 degrees. Now it’s time to assemble the pizza. Sprinkle the cheese over the dough leaving 1/2 inch border around the edges. Top with tomato mixture and then place in the oven. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and when you lift a corner of the crust you see it’s well browned underneath. Transfer to a wire rack to yield a crispy crust.  Enjoy!

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* 11 years later we have several really good pizza places here. Tomorrow I’m planning on doing a food crawl at a couple of them. One we love, the other we can’t wait to try. I’ve been told it’s the best pizza in Columbus. I’ll be the judge of that!

**tricolore is the name and spelling of the salad at CPK, this is not a misspelling on my behalf.  It’s a caramelized Parmesan pizza crust (I get whole wheat) topped with spring salad mix, diced tomatoes and shaved Parmesan cheese with their homemade Dijon balsamic vinaigrette dressing. I highly recommend it, salad and a pizza all in one! Yum!

 

 

A Day in Brooklyn… Sal’s Pizzeria

At first you might wonder how this classifies as one of my favorite things on a food blog. It won’t take you long to see why.

In 1989 I moved back to Brooklyn for a few years and shared an apartment with my sister. I’d have to say they were really fun years, probably some of the best in my life. We lived on Court Street in what is known as the Cobble Hill/Carrol Garden’s area. Back then, the neighborhood was rich in Italian culture and walking home from the train at night from the hustle and bustle of the city was like really coming home. You could pass by the fish store and the owner would wave to you from the window, Jim or Andy from the fruit market ran out to tell you what came in fresh that day, and the smell of bread from the many bakeries permeated the air in the street.

Saturday was laundry day and my sister and I would walk a few blocks to the laundromat put our clothes in a machine and walk across the street to Sal’s Pizzeria for a couple slices of pizza while we waited for the clothes to wash. In my mind, this is some of the best pizza there is. My sister and I love pizza, always have but it has to be really good pizza. Back then no one worried about eating too many carbs, or food allergies, or about eating dairy – you just ate and enjoyed. In addition to their pizza, the pasta is so fresh and light – don’t even get me started on how delicious the eggplant parmesan is!

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In April, we were in NY and had what we called a “Brooklyn day” with my sister and her kids. We try to do that whenever we can. Each time we do, having a slice at Sal’s is a must. Sal’s son John is the owner now. Both of his parent’s have since passed away. The restaurant was opened in 1957 and his father bought it in 1970 when John was just 10 years old. He told us how cool he and his siblings thought it was that they owned a pizza place. They would go there after school, eat there, do their homework there, then he and his brother and sister helped serve dinner. He still lives around the corner. This guy is the salt of the earth and whenever we go back to Brooklyn and eat at his restaurant (which is every couple of years) he always remembers us and that is something special; especially since we haven’t lived there in over 20 years.

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Going there really is like coming home. The pizza is just as delicious now as it always was. While the area around his restaurant has changed, the high quality and integrity of their food remains the same. On this visit we sat in the extension of his restaurant, Mama Maria’s named after his mother. We ordered a delicious black kale salad with pine nuts, and wish I had the recipe for the dressing – one of the best salads I have ever had! Of course we had to have pizza so we ordered a plain cheese pie. In addition to that we had the bruschetta pizza filled with sweet teardrop tomatoes and garlic. My son ordered fettuccine Alfredo that was so light and fresh with just the right amount of everything. Finally we had to have a cannoli but sadly found out that it’s no longer on the menu. It was his mother’s secret recipe. Instead he offered us tiramisu – who could say no to that? It was light, creamy, and had just the perfect hint of cocoa, espresso and cinnamon.

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Now we are into the next generation of our family. As you can see, they love it as much as we do and always look forward to going back. With the changing landscape of Brooklyn, Sal’s Pizzeria is a refreshing historic gem. I only hope the gentrification of this area can appreciate what they have and support him. I know I’m doing my part all the way from Ohio!  Sal’s Pizzeria/Mama Maria’s 307 Court Street, Brooklyn, New York. 718-852-6890