New York-style, Chicago deep dish ... they are all well and good, but if you want to meet a tribe deadly serious about “pie,” come to New Jersey. (Although if we were being honest, I think we can pretty much all agree that Chicago pizza flat-out weird. I kind of feel like Chicagoans actually think it’s weird too, but defend it out of civic, Windy City pride).
The people of New Jersey, the state of my mother’s birth, have the highest of standards for pizza. But it’s not a style, or a topping, or a shape, or a novel interpretation of the concept of the food itself.
In a food fanaticism/demand for perfection that rivals the French’s attitude toward bread, it’s the quality of the finished product and the adherence to some commonsense parameters that is what makes one pizza, from one pizzeria, sublime, and the other a maddening, saddening, ill-formed attempt.
I’ve heard it said that bad pizza is still pizza, and better than no pizza at all.
I couldn’t disagree more.
But I have enjoyed some really crappy food stuffs that were called “pizza.”
This pitiful hamburger sprinkled pie from the “Ye Olde Pizza Shoppe” (honest to dog Gentle Reader, the actual name) at the strip center were the base exchange was, was horrible. But enjoyable if not considered pizza, but something … uh … some type of edible food product?
The deep-dish from one chain pizza joint is kinda good enjoyed as unhealthy food delivered on this crispy, buttery, pillowy crust-type thing. Sorta like the enjoyment of the infrequent Big Mac.
If you are going to run an establishment shouting to all and sundry that you make the most authentic pizza in the village, then you gosh darn better do it, or you get no love from me.
If you have a pizza joint and like a type of pizza, but with a twist, then acknowledge if in the name. Don’t put something on the menu, call it a pepperoni pizza and include the unexpected, “interesting” ingredient of squid.
Call it, “Horrific twist on an already problematic pizza.”
The pizza that I’ve called you here today upon which to expound is the white pizza.
The operative word here, as anyone who has even the most basic comprehension of reading the English language should know, is white.
As in marshmallows in a snowstorm and a writer’s empty page.
Spinach is none of those things.
Nor is tomato … nor is bacon, red onion,or green, red or yellow pepper.
So, for the love of those who hail from the Garden State and its descendants, knock it off with the color!
Think of white pizza like Vichyssoise, the white, chilled potato soup from France. There is no color in the traditional version. They take the no color thing so seriously, it should be seasoned with only salt and white pepper.
Classic: mozzarella, ricotta, garlic. Classic optional: sweated onions, leeks or white mushrooms.
On the menu call it “thoughtful twist on a delicious pie”: sliced potatoes, brie or white asparagus.
I think the state of New Jersey’s attitude toward “pie” is so strong within me that it (and my Aunt Bobby’s amazing cooking) informed my existential beliefs about everything culinary that came after.
Terrific if you dine at my table, because the foundation of my cooking is the quality of both ingredient and treatment.
Probably less so if the topic of food is less than riveting to you.
Thanks for your time.
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I’ve been playing around with reheating pizza to get it as close to parlor fresh as possible. Foil and baking works pretty well, but you often get a soggy bottom.
My oven has a convection setting, which is the same thing as an air fryer. The pizza in the photo was my first try, a little tinkering is still obviously needed.
I urge you to also play around with the air fryer/convection to get a crispy bottom, gooey cheese top.
Just rest it on a cooling try, or that crispy bottom you’ve struggled for will get a soggy as a tissue at a wedding.