The Pizza Machine


If you’re fanatical about pizza I think it’s only a matter of time until you try making your own.
My “pizza story” is a common one amongst pizza obsessives.
After eating enough pizza, eventually you start to to think you could do better yourself.
But you’ll soon find there are some significant challenges in creating good (or dare I say “great”) home pizza.
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Troja est ….pizza

Troy is….pizza

I’m fascinated with pizza. (hence this somewhat narcissistic blog)..

I find it incredibly interesting how the simple pizza can be created in so many different ways.
So many different pizza styles, so many different oven types, different pizzaioli, different pizzerias…
All producing what is called PIZZA.

Sometimes these differences are associated with a location. Think “NY-Style”, or “Chicago Deep Dish”, or “Trenton Tomato Pie”.
Sometimes a pizza style is associated with the particular oven type. Gas-deck ovens usually equal “NY-Style” , while wood fired ovens usually equal a “Neapolitan” pie.
Sometimes its a combo of the two, location and oven, that define the pie, like New Haven’s coal fired pizza.
You may not care for some of these pizza adaptations, but they’re all still PIZZA.
(I have another post bubbling-away that will address my view on the “definition” of pizza)

I find these many faces of pizza to be fascinating.

What if there were a place where you could try many different versions of the pizza?
Where you could try different styles of pie, made in different oven types, by different types of pizzaioli, in different types of establishment?
All within walking distance..
Wouldn’t that be grand?

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For the Love of the Red-Sauce Joint

Perhaps this post doesn’t make sense in light of the recent announcement of the closing of Donna’s Restaurant.
Bear with me, this post is not about Donna’s (well not really).
I believe the closing of Donna’s is an abnormality, but still an unfortunate event nonetheless.
I don’t believe it to be indicative of anything greater. We don’t know the full story, nor do I want anyone to speculate.
Restaurants open, restaurants close., for many, many complicated reasons.
I wish the folks at Clark House Hospitality much good fortune. I’m sure they will continue to succeed elsewhere.
Keep in mind, I’ve been poking away at this post for weeks, regardless of Donna’s status.
This post is about a bigger discussion.. At least I think it is..

So why do we love our Italian-red-sauce restaurants?
I’m certainly not the first to pose that question.

We don’t necessarily have an abundance of Red-Sauce-Joints, great or otherwise.
I think we have some mediocre places, a few bad places, and a few that are pretty decent.
But not necessarily an abundance of greatness.
But we do love them, nonetheless.
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Bacchus

Not enough credit is given to the artist who actually created that giant clay face.
Sculpted in 2008 by Brian McCandless, Artist, Physician, North Troy real estate developer..

Bacchus Wood-Fired Pizza, Troy, NY

I want to love you. I really do.
I just can’t find the spark.

I come back every few years, with a hopeful, open mind.
Hoping to fall in love, hoping to find greatness.
But the passion just isn’t there.

Maybe its just my atrocious long-term memory, maybe it’s my stubborn nature.
In any case, every few years, I find myself repeating this somewhat disappointing discovery.

So here I was, yet again, venturing down those sidewalk steps, hoping for something; something I never quite find.
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DeFazio’s


I love “old school” pizza joints; there’s something magical about them.
You can feel the history as soon as you walk through the door.
A really great “old school” joint will capture the history of the neighborhood, almost caught in another time and place.
Quite often they’ll even define the pizza for the area.
DeFazio’s is all of that – and more.
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Superbowl Squares

Alternate titles..
size matters -or- it’s ok to be square

When the kids were little,
and I wasn’t paying attention to pizza as much as I am now (read OBSESSING),
and admittedly, the money was tight in our household,
if we were feeding a crowd we would order a giant SQUARE, 24-cut pie.
Kid’s birthday parties, cub/boy/girl scouting events, or larger family gatherings,
they all got a large SQUARE-cut, (or two).
We (my wife) determined we could feed a ton-o-little kids with one of those big square-cuts.
It was all about maximizing our pizza dollar.

Fortunately, my family has been blessed with multiple decent neighborhood pizzerias,
one of which does a pretty good, large square-cut pie. (Chris’ Pizzeria)
They offer a 12-cut square, and a 24-cut square.
That 24-cut was our “go-to” crowd pleaser.
Those 24-cut, pizza-behemoths are 18″x 24″, with each slice measuring about 3″x 6″,
and almost 3/4″ thick.

I don’t remember the value back in the day,
but now-a-days that 24-cuts runs about 19 bucks.
In comparison, a typical large, 18″ round, 8-cut in our neighborhood runs about $13.
That square’s about 80 cents a slice; allowing about 3 slices each, it’s only $2.40 per person.
(Your typical large round pie is about $1.60 a slice.)
So, if you’re feeding 8 people you’ll need 3 large round pies @ $39,
or one large 24-cut square @ $19.

To maximize your pizza dollar and feed the largest crowd for the lowest cost,
the big square-cut is the way to go..

Frugality aside, my Italian mom instilled in me a commitment to always serve more food than needed, especially for guests.
If you run out of food it’s because there wasn’t enough; that shame outweighs any pride in what you served.
Maybe order TWO large square-cuts.
They make some of the best left-overs ever.

Although our choice for the big square-cut was originally rooted in a financial analysis, it’s actually very good pie. Don’t feel too badly for my guests.

So with Superbowl Sunday approaching, I feel it’s appropriate to review this cost effective, crowd pleaser.
Do you get a large square-cut when you’re feeding a crowd?

If you don’t, you should consider it..
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2017…we’ll take a cup of kindness yet..

2016I barely made it online in 2016, with my first post in late November.
But I’m here now..

I may not have a ton of online content to reflect upon, but I still feel obligated to
a “year’s-end” post.

Lets make this a “look ahead”, as well as “a year in review”.

So, what happened here on OCtG?
I took a wonderfully doughy, NJ Pizza Tour (NJPT’16).
I composed an OCtG Manifesto ,
and I think I’m starting to find my voice.

So, what pizza-ness did 2016 bring the 518?
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“there is magic in the night” (NJPT-’16) Pizza Town USA

This post is part of my New Jersey Pizza Tour-2016 (NJPT-’16)
The NJPT-’16 is documented in the style of a “choose your own adventure”.

Click here to jump to the beginning of the journey.
Click here to jump back to Trenton Pie @ Papas
Click here to jump back to Urban Fire
Click here to jump to Star Tavern

Let’s end the trip with a smile.
I spent the day travelling through the great Garden State eating alot of cheesy, doughy pizza.
I still had a few hours of NYS Thruway driving ahead of me. But I knew a trip to
Pizza Town USA was in order.
2016-pizzatown-hero
You can’t help yourself but smile when you go to Pizza Town USA..
Come on…it’s an 8 foot tall illuminated Uncle Sam and a G-I-A-N-T neon red
PIZZA TOWN USA sign.

Everything about Pizza Town USA makes me smile.

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“I took a wrong turn and I just kept going” (NJPT-’16) Urban Fire

Alternate Titles:
If you’re going to do it – do it right – 100% of the time.
or
Show me your A-Game or shut your doors.

This post is part of my New Jersey Pizza Tour-2016 (NJPT-’16)
The NJPT-’16 is documented in the style of a “choose your own adventure”.

Click here to jump to the beginning of the journey.
Click here to jump back to Trenton Pie @ Papas
Click here to jump to Star Tavern
Click here to jump to Pizzatown USA.

A few hours before I arrived in Madison, NJ, I was in Trenton, NJ seeking a Trenton Tomato Pie.
I researched my way to a list of some great Trenton pies.
But at the first few stops I was met with closed doors.
At the time it frustrated me. Why weren’t they open? I was there; they should be open.
Ultimately fate brought me to the Trenton pizza I needed, but at the time it bothered me that these other shops were closed.

When I arrived in Madison, NJ – Urban Fire’s doors were OPEN.
Great; right?

Well, not really..

After reflecting on my experience in Trenton, and in light of my time in Urban Fire,
I actually commend those presumably great Trenton shops on being closed.
I like to believe they were closed because they knew, at that time of day, on that day of the week, had they opened they wouldn’t have been their best.

I also believe Urban Fire should have been CLOSED when I arrived.
I want to believe that what I got, was not their best. and that’s a problem.

There are allot of folks out there who love this place.
People whose pizza-opinion I respect, all rave about this place.
I know the owner has “mad pizza skills”, and enviable pizza experiences.
I love the owner’s “pizza story”. (part-1, part-2, part-3)
I did my research, I had high expectations.
This place is (supposed to be) great.

But I’m sorry to say guys..
I am not a fan of Urban Fire.

Yes, everybody, and every place has bad days.

But, I’ll say it again….
If you’re going to do it, do it right, 100% of the time.
Show me your A-Game or shut your doors.
I’d rather you disappoint me with a closed sign than you disappoint me with a bad experience.

Here’s what happened.

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“A Hungry Heart” (NJPT-’16) Papa’s

As you may recall, I had a few objectives for my NJPT-’16.
First objective; find a good example of “Trenton Tomato Pie”.
I’ll wait a moment while you follow the links and familiarize yourself with “Trenton Tomato Pie”.

In summary:
“Trenton pie” (AKA “Tomato Pie”, or specifically, “Trenton Tomato Pie”) can be a wonderful thing.
Like most good pizza, Trenton Pie is about a wonderful marriage.
A wonderful union of crust, tomato, and cheese (sometimes toppings).
Like most pizzas (and marriages) there’s usually something that stands out, something that defines its greatness.
With Trenton Pie it’s the tomato (hence the “TOMATO PIE” moniker); tomato plays a very prominent role in the Trenton Pie.

Trenton Pie is also built a little differently than the ubiquitous “NY pie”.
Trenton Pie is built with the cheese on the bottom (under the sauce), similar to, but not exactly like, the COB pies you may be familiar with (as in, The RedFront, Troy – review post coming soon).

That cheese on the bottom accomplishes a few important things.
Number one; it protects the crust, creating a barrier from the wet tomato, allowing for a better bake.
Number two; It helps unify the pie.
Have you ever bitten into your “Friday-night-pie” and pull away all the cheese (and tomato) in one acrobatic bite?
Well, “Cheese on Bottom” helps to keep it all together.

But what really helps set the Trenton Pie apart is not only its tomatoey-ness, or the sequence of construction, but also its great crust.
You really can’t be a great pie without a winning crust.
Trenton Pie has a GREAT crust, not too thick, more on the thin, crispy side (some say “cracker” but I don’t think it’s quite there), and it’s very tasty.

It’s also worth noting that the Trenton/Tomato Pie is not about uniformity, every bite is not the same.
Your “Friday-night-pie” will be fairly uniform, each bite like the rest, an even distribution of cheese, “sauce”, and toppings.
Trenton Pie is a marvelous experience in diversity and variety.
Some bites will be heavy cheese, while some will be wonderful mouthfuls of pure tomato.

Each Trenton Pizzaiolo has a unique “tomato” signature that he applies to each pie.
Some will dollop, while many will put their version of “the swirl” into their tomato application.
You never know what each bite will bring.

papas-001

I wanted an iconic Trenton Pie.
I researched myself into three possible spots, (to be honest I actually thought I could eat in all three).
I just couldn’t decide between:
1. DeLorenzo’s
2. Mamma Rosa’s
3. Papa’s

But fate placed her wise/knowing hand on my adventure and made my decision.
1. DeLorenzo’s wasn’t open for lunch on Saturday (WTF?) – strike one
2. Mamma Rosa’s was supposed to be open but wasn’t (WTF Trenton?) – strike two
3. Papas was meant for me. – grand slam
This was all very fortunate because I had a full day ahead; one Trenton Pie would be enough.

maybe I was just in a stupid, pizza deprived hunger but I stood there, looking at that sign, pulling on the door for 5 minutes. trying to comprehend why no one was there for lunch on a sunny Saturday.
maybe I was just in a stupid, pizza deprived hunger but I stood there, looking at that sign, pulling on the door for 5 minutes. trying to comprehend why no one was there for lunch on a sunny Saturday.

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