Saturday 19 October 2013

PG tips

After Flagstaff I headed to New York which in my humble opinion has the strongest claim to the best pizza city on earth. The tea however is rubbish.
You only make the mistake of ordering a tea in a coffee shop once
I’m guessing they don’t have PG tips over there, but that didn’t matter I was here so seek tips from Mr Paulie Gee himself. I’ve talked about Paulie before, he needs no introductions in the pizza circles and was good enough to spare a couple of hours to sit down with us and share his advice. His generosity didn’t end there and before we knew it he’d picked out four of his favourites from his current menu. They were incredible. There are lots of great pizzerias in New York but where Paulie really stands out - his genius - is his topping combinations. The Cherry Jones with gorgonzola, prosciutto and cherries being just one example which ticked off each of the five tastes with aplomb. I’d like to show you pictures, but part and parcel of the unique interior is low level lighting and my phone camera didn’t do justice at all, so for now you’ll just have to take me word for it and visit in person as soon as you can.

Whilst in town we also managed to squeeze in visits to a couple of other pizza places I’ve been longing to try. Roberta's had been on my wish list for some time and being just around the corner from where we were staying we swung by on our first night. There we shared a Barely Legal, with the broccoli and pork sausage I thought this would be a take on a classic salsiccia and friarielli but the horseradish and caramelised onion took it to another level. The best things about it was the crust though, really distinctive and like nothing we’d tried before, it had a light interior but was crisper than usual on the outside.

Motorino completed the trinity of my must visit Neapolitan joints although if I’m honest we came away underwhelmed, it felt like very Americanised pizza, heavy on the toppings. There’s no denying their Brussels Sprout with smoked pancetta, garlic and said sprouts is a brilliant combination but the toppings were piled to deep pan heights and it lacked the subtlety and sophistication of what we’d seen elsewhere. Perhaps just an off night.

From there it was only fair that my other half participated more in the restaurant selection and we were spoilt by all the other culinary delights New York has to offer.

As another Englishman in New York recently put it:
Better Out Than In, Banksy in New York

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Rocket not Arugula

24 hours travelling, Government shutdown, elocution lessons and silly amounts of pizza.

Flagstaff is a long way from the UK, I appreciate that now, it’s also much higher and hence colder than I’d envisaged, so much for shorts and t-shirt desert weather. Yet it’s a great destination, if like me you arrive on public transport and remain close to the historic old town, it’s a quaint American town, so quaint it’s possible to avoid strip malls and the golden arches of McDonalds entirely. Ahh, bliss. It’s also dark, very dark, if you happen to arrive late at night, on a new moon, having travelled for 24hours straight I’d recommend a torch, it’s the world’s first International Dark Sky City - amazing for star gazing, less good for finding your motel.

Day one was a struggle, 3 batches of dough, gelato, prep, full service on little sleep. That night I slept like a log. As the week progressed I settled into the groove, fuelled by coffee from one of the town’s many roasteries and the banter from my new colleagues. They couldn’t have been more welcoming. Caleb threw open the doors to the whole operation and answered all my questions without hesitation. In return I did my best not to get in the way and helped out where I could. My accent provided the amusement, and it appears the American equivalent of sending the new guy out for a ‘long stand’ is to request one egg to be collected at a time from the store room, either that or was just unlucky with the orders. The highlight of each day was being let loose on the oven, a beaut of a Stefano Ferrara, and my skills progressed as I got used to the high hydration, 3 day ferment dough which they’re famous for, delicious and delicate in equal measures.

I helped with the bakes, something I’d been really excited about seeing beforehand and I wasn’t disappointed. They’re a pizzeria first and a bakery second but I don’t think there’s a bakery out there which wouldn’t be proud of the results. It’s no fluke, this is a real labour of love and Scott and Caleb were both in on their day off to run a test bake always looking to hone their skills. In fact that’s probably what struck me most, the whole team cares. Really cares. This was genuine, and they all mucked in to ensure the best experience for anyone who stops by.

The best testament to what Pizzicletta stands for was probably not the pizza, it was the team, the Pizzicletta family.