Monday, May 4, 2009

Epicurean Adventures: Battle Pizza in New Orleans

I've found that, unable to imitate the deep dishes of Chicago and the thin crusts of New York exactly, New Orleanians have come to call their own pizza chains "New Orleans pizzas." Now, this would be no problem, given that California has their own Pizza Kitchen among other locales, but there is a distinct disconnect and lack of continuity with "original New Orleans" pizzas. Some are thin crusted and crackly like saltines (Reginelli's tends to waver in this direction); others yet are buttered like the Pizza Hut crusts (tasty Italian Pie, but it's too bad they tend to be inconsistent); yet another pizza purveyor makes a tangy, acidic sauce that I think of as heartburn under cheese (*ahem* Slice ... the owners claim to make New York style pizza since they're also from that state, but quite honestly, their abrasive, sour, and stomach-charring marinara would never be found in a respectable parlor in my stomping grounds).

The closest I've found here, though are two places: Brooklyn Pizzeria in Metairie, and closer to home, The Dough Bowl, also affectionately known as The Boot Pizza. There are differences between the two, such as the slightly tangier sauce of Brooklyn Pizzeria (whose proprietor is actually not from Brooklyn, but learned from a Brooklyn pizza master, bringing the secrets down South) and the more preferable, less intensely spiced sauce of The Dough Bowl. Brookyn Pizzeria also has on their menu real garlic knots, which are essentially hard-shelled (like a stadium soft pretzel) knot of dough coated in olive oil and plenty of roasted garlic and parsley. Unfortunately, the garlic flavor doesn't quite permeate as I'd hoped, but it was a fair attempt. The Dough Bowl doesn't even try and just offers bread sticks, but at $6 for 8, I wasn't tempted to try, especially since my order is always for a 20-inch whopping big pie.

Regardless of these minor differences, the necessary similarities to label it as real "New York" style are still there.

  1. Foldability: in order for it to truly be New York pizza, the pizza must be of a large enough size and thin and pliable enough crust to fold over itself without breaking anything more than the very small amount of outer crunchy layer along the spine of the fold.
  2. Size: the slices must be large enough to fold and much bigger than your hand. A single slice of pizza should be equivalent to at least two Pizza Hut or Domino's slices.
  3. Sauce: red, mild marinara is the classic sauce choice, and the balance of tomatoes should be such that the natural sweetness of ripe Roma tomatoes shine through. More sugary than tangy, it should still not have the taste of added sugar like Southern "tomato gravy." Rather, it should have very small chunks of crushed tomatoes and the balance of herbs should complement rather than overpower the taste of tomatoes.
  4. Cheese: chewy mozzarella should fully cover the pie, but not in a quantity that no red sauce is visible. Ideally, the cheese oozes and strings out when the slices are separated, but this glorious effect is only possible while the pie is piping hot. Otherwise, for a neater slice, you should be able to part each piece with minimum mess since the cooled cheese breaks apart rather neatly.
  5. Grease: many choose to dab the golden sheen off the tops of their pizzas, but on most occasions--unless I'm feeling rather fatter than usual or my skin is having an oily day-- I embrace the pooling grease. For it to be really, really New York-y, when you fold your pizza slice, the yellowish oil should intermingle with the tomato sauce and drip down, once folded, funnel-style as a vivid orange waste onto your paper plate. I believe in the natural filtration of this method, but it's also dangerous to your clothing if you're even twice as "graceful" as me.
  6. Crust: this is the most important component. Foldability has already been considered, but for authenticity, it's crucial that the bottom of the pan be dusted with flour for the appropriate amount of crunch. To dust the bottom with any other substance (i.e. cornmeal, as Slice does - pagh! Cornmeal only belongs on the bottoms of BAGELS) is essentially sacrilege, and it changes the texture and flavor. the edges should be no more than an inch and a half, and the sauce and cheese goodness should wash upon those virgin white shores of crust gently at that level. Any less and you've got no crust for your sad-eyed dog (oh, Baxter!); any more, and you know you're getting gypped on ingredients. The taste should be slightly sweet in a yeasty way, but also really neutral so that it doesn't overshadow your toppings, and there should be a surface crunch and pockets of bubbles within the dough for thinner spots.
The Dough Bowl/Boot Pizza
1039 Broadway
Frat Row, Uptown, attached to frosh dive and destination The Boot
Super-handy pickup window late at night
New Orleans, LA 70118
504.861.2200

Brooklyn Pizzeria
4301 Veterans Boulevard
Metairie, LA 70006
504.833.1288

Brooklyn Pizzeria Drive-Thru
(I know!)
1809 Veterans Boulevard
Metairie, LA 70005
504.834.1030

2 comments:

  1. How does New York Pizza on Magazine stack up?

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  2. Good question -- I'll research this and get back to you as soon as I can! No promises on timeframe, though (lol) -- my wedding is in 2 weeks so my life is chaos. But what's better than pizza for a tight schedule? ;)

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