Monday, June 13, 2011

DIY #s 1 and 2

Wow, I guess I haven't been out for pizza in quite awhile! How sad!

I decided to take matters into my own hands a couple of times this past month. While shopping at Heinen's, a gourmet supermarket in the Cleveland area, I came across some Papa Sal's pizza dough that I decided to buy. One was whole wheat, and the other white.

A couple of weeks ago, I made this one, which has the whole wheat crust, fresh mozzarella, and basil:

And then two nights ago, I tried this one, which has white crust, regular mozzarella, and some steamed & sauteed broccoli.

These were great!

I made them both on a Food Network pizza stone. (I got it as a gift, but according to the link they sell it at Kohl's. I'm sure you could get a version of it just about anywhere they sell kitchen stuff.) Also, my stepdad gave me a great tip to use: sprinkle a bit of corn meal on the stone right before putting the dough on. It helps it not stick to the stone, and it also gives the dough a bit of texture. Apparently pizzerias use a special kind of flour for this purpose, but the corn meal works just as well.

Also, make sure your dough is at room temperature before you attempt to form it into a crust, otherwise it won't stretch and you'll end up with holes in the dough.

Last summer, I got some dough from Fresh Fork Market, a CSA in the area, and they gave directions as far as how to let it rise by placing it in a bowl in a warm, moist area and covering it, etc ... but I believe that the Papa Sal's dough is ready to go (just needs to be room temperature, as mentioned above). You don't need to knead it or let it rise or anything like that.

So have at it! Make your own pizzas. And then send me pics.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Pranzo Forno! -- Willoughby, OH

The Pranzo Forno! stand at C-Town Chowdown
Last weekend I had the opportunity to visit Cleveland's second C-Town Chow Down held in Lincoln Park in my very own neighborhood of Tremont. The first one was a huge hit, but the lines were so long that I didn't get to sample much (plus, it was freezing!). They decided to hold a second one on April 17, on another blustery (but very sunny) day.

This time, I noticed a "truck" (or, rather, a tent) that wasn't there before: Pranzo Forno!, a Willoughby catering company specializing in wood-fired pizza. (And yes, in fact, they bring the wood-fired oven to the event. Insanity!

I walked up and there was no line at around 11:15 am, and so I sampled a slice of what seemed to be a Mediterranean pizza. It had feta, huge basil leaves, garlic, and tomatoes. Everything looked so fresh. And it tasted great!

My slice
This crust was super-thin, light, crisp, and had the perfect amount of olive oil to make it flavorful and indulgent without being overly greasy.

From what I heard, Pranzo's stand was a hit at the Chowdown. Did you attend? If so, what did you think?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Cafe Porta Alba -- Madison, WI

I am so excited to welcome my first guest blogger to the site! Her name is Leslie, and she and her boyfriend Keith are practically the authority on Southwest Wisconsin's best-kept secrets. I worked with Leslie for a year in Madison, during which time she introduced me to Cafe Porta Alba. To this day, it remains my favorite pizza place on earth! Please follow Leslie and Keith's blog, Driftless Appetite (you might have already noticed I have their RSS feed on the side of my blog!), and get ready to hear about some great food!

Recently I was asked by my friend Rachel in Cleveland to do a write up of my favorite pizza place for her blog  CLEZZA.  We've already written twice about Cafe Porta Alba on Driftless Appetite in 2009 and 2010 so I think it's about time to do another one. 

Neapolitan pizza is the oldest style of pizza, and the trendiest.  Over the last few years many great (some authentic, some not so much) Neapolitan pizzerias have popped up all over the place.  Vincenzo Pugliese, the owner, did not open Cafe Porta Alba because it was trendy, though.  He did it because he is passionate about pizza-- opening his own pizzeria has been a goal he has been working towards for most of his life.  And he (and his excellent staff) still work hard everyday to maintain their excellent level of quality.  I can honestly say I've never had a bad meal here (and we've eaten here at least 75-100 times.  Seriously.)

I can't provide an objective review of this place, that's like asking me to review my little dog Oliver (he's perfect!) or my grandmother's cooking.  But I'll try to give you an idea of why I love it so much.  The key to good Neapolitan pizza (which you probably know if you're reading a pizza blog) is in the crust.  It should be chewy on the inside, charred and crusty on the outside, and thin and slightly soft in the middle.  Once you got the crust right, you must be careful not to ruin it with excess- not too much sauce, not too much cheese, subtle toppings.  Cafe Porta Alba does this traditional style of pizza authentically and superbly.  They also have a wonderful selection of salads, antipasto and pasta in case any of your friends don't eat pizza (but you might want to reconsider your friendship if that's the case...).  The atmosphere is comfortable.  Black and white Italian movies are played on the flat screen TV as well as a rotation of pictures taken from around Naples.  There are many regulars, faces we've seen and gotten to know over the years.  It is a true testament to how good this place is.  To us it feels like going home to visit family (well maybe minus the annoying uncle). 

Pizza Pizza Pizza

Just for the record, we did not eat all of these in one sitting :)  Some were featured as specials and are not on the set menu list so I'll try to remember the names and/or describe them as best as I can.

1.  Karla's pizza (special) - fresh mozarella, spinach, parmacott0
2.  (special) - asparagus, mushrooms, fontina
3.  Margherita con Salame - fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil, salame (Keith's favorite.)
4.  Napoletana - fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil, anchovies (My favorite.)
5.  Marco Polo (special) - fresh baby mozzarella, basil, tomato, oregano, garlic
6.  Allegra - mascarpone, truffle oil, and mushrooms
7.  (special) - tomato, fresh mozzarella, Parmigiano Reggiano, parmacotto, basil, garlic
8.  Maialina - fresh mozzarella, tomato, salame, salsiccia, parmacotto
9.  Regina - Buffalo mozzarella from Italy, tomato, extra virgin olive oil, basil

If you happen to have some room for dessert, my favorite item right now is gelato affogato, gelato drowned in hot espresso.  I can't say anymore except that if you find yourself in Madison, Wisconsin Cafe Porta Alba will not disappoint.

The Oven From Italy

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Angelo's Pizza -- Lakewood, OH

Deep-Dish Margherita Pizza at Angelo's
Angelo's in Lakewood is one of the great pizza joints in the Cleveland area. It serves up countless varieties of pizzas, with three different crust options: thin, "our original," or deep-dish.

Now, here's my thought process. I don't usually try "thin," because it's never really that thin and I'm constantly trying to compare it to NY pizza in my mind. " Our Original" sounds good, so I usually try that; I mean, if it's the pizzeria's signature crust, why not try it?

I do like deep-dish pizza. A lot. So once in awhile I'll have to try that too.

The first time I went to Angelo's, which was over the summer, I tried the Margherita pizza in deep-dish style, and that is what I go back for time and time again. Why? Well, because it's perfect!

This pizza boasts plenty of fresh mozzarella, basil, roma tomatoes, and a delightful sauce with plenty of garlic. But the best part about this pizza is its buttery crust. It's not extremely thick, but it is divine. I ordered a small 6-slice pizza and was good to go after only two slices. Which means I got to take home leftovers and perform ...

The Next-Day Test: Weird, but even better than on day one!! You know how sometimes when you reheat pasta the next day, it's just that much better? Well, same goes here. Great the next day. (There's even reheating instructions on the box -- 350 degrees for 10 minutes.)

So, if you're in Lakewood, stop into Angelo's on Madison Avenue. Actually, go there even if you're not in Lakewood, but are somewhere semi-close. It's worth the trip.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Edison's Pizza Kitchen -- Cleveland, OH

The storefront ... in the snow
(how very Cleveland)
Yes! Finally, I get to write about Edison's. I mentioned in my first post on this blog that I'd only include my own photos of the pizza I review. So this meant waiting until I returned to some of my oft-visited pizza joints in order to take a couple pictures and then review. (Otherwise, I guess I could have written the review and then included the photos later. Well, maybe if I'm going through a dry spell, I'll do that. Until then, I'm fine with waiting.)

It's ironic, considering I frequent Edison's more than probably any other pizzeria in Cleveland. It's only a few blocks away in my neighborhood (Tremont), and it's just really good. It's different than other pizza I've tried, in that it's just a bit more "over the top." I can't really explain it better than that. But I'll try.

Preparing my half-banana-pepper pizza
There's a little something extra to the crust. Perhaps that's because, upon emerging from the oven, the guys at Edison's brush oil around the pizza's circumference, and then sprinkle parmesan cheese on it. This extra preparation gives the pizza a little more greasiness, sure, but also a lot more flavor. I would describe the crust as "thick," although based on conversations I've had about several pizzerias in the Cleveland area, others might call this "thin crust." It's definitely not deep-dish, though, because it's not made in a cast-iron pan or anything.

Also, another funny and unique thing that Edison's does is they include small packets of honey into which pizza lovers may dip their crusts. I've never done it, personally, but I have heard of several yelpers who have.

The only thing I'll say about the pizza which is unsatisfactory for me is that, depending on which toppings you order (mostly veggies), sometimes the pizza isn't as well done and the toppings aren't really "integrated" into the slice. However: for those of you who like their pizza a little less done, and who really love biting into toppings as their own entity, this could be the pizza for you! And the pepperoni slice is awesome, I will say that.

Banana pepper slice
Pizzas come in medium (8 slices) and large (12 slices). And they really are big. Last night we ordered a large with half banana peppers. Because of the quality of the thinly-sliced peppers, this is one particular topping that comes out really nicely on the pizza. The vinegary, sharp flavor of the peppers could be a little overwhelming for some, but I still really enjoyed it. (I prefer a more "sour" flavor -- think pickled things, Greek salads, etc. -- to spicy things like jalapenos.)

The shop is tiny, as in no more than three people should ever be in there to place or wait for an order. However, there's a great bar attached to the pizzeria (called, aptly, Edison's Pub) where the service is friendly, the clientele is laid-back, and you can enjoy a beer while you wait for your order.

Check out the grease on that pizza box!
Next-day test: I would say that Edison's reheated pizza is almost as good as on day one. It's just a little bit drier, but not much. And, for those slices with veggies that weren't as well done -- here's your chance to cook 'em a bit more!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Luciano's at the Fashion Show Mall -- Las Vegas, NV

Luciano's Cheese Pizza
Just a warning -- I'm going to "cheat" on this one (sorta). I'm gonna grab a bit of my yelp review that I just wrote in order to post this. (I'm sure you don't care, but whatever!)

Luciano's is a pizzeria located in the Fashion Show Mall in Las Vegas, directly across from the Wynn hotel via a street bridge. We didn't rent a car during our recent trip, so needless to say, Lorelei and I went to this mall almost every day just to walk around and grab semi-cheap eats while we waited for Derek to get back from his conference expo. Ok, I also bought a pair of shoes once.

Anyway, back to Luciano's. They have a totally affordable lunch special where you can get a slice (any type you want!), a side salad, and a drink for only $8.95. This, in my mind, is a great deal.

Especially since you can choose whatever slice you want! Usually, a specialty slice can go anywhere from $1.50 to $2.00 more than a plain cheese one. I just got plain cheese, but that's 'cause I'm a traditional kinda gal when it comes to my pizza.

A little heavy on the cheese, but not in a bad way. Greasy. But also, not in a bad way. It just made me think of those people who sop up the grease with their napkins -- which I never do, by the way.

This pizza probably gets a 7.5 out of 10 for me. The crust was definitely the best part, although it was all pretty good. When describing the crust's taste, the only word I can use to describe it is "tasteless," although that's not really true and it doesn't make it sound good. It was good. Very good. Sometimes, the best crust just doesn't have much of its own taste. It's just sort of bland, but still has an excellent texture, and its lack of a "pop" allows the other ingredients to shine. So when I say "bland crust" I mean that in the best possible way. :)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Pizza Place at the Wynn -- Las Vegas, NV

Seating area at the Pizza Place
While staying at the Wynn Las Vegas (I know, it's way too fancy for me) I came across a place called, simply, "The Pizza Place." It's on the first floor of the hotel, in a wing called the "Esplanade" boasting several top designer shops, and has a patio overlooking a ginormous fountain. But all that cool stuff aside, it has really GOOD FRICKIN' PIZZA.

You know how there's that dorky little video that greets you when you turn on the TV in your room? Well, this one had Steve Wynn showing off about his little hotel. And when the time came for him to talk about the Pizza Place, he said something along the lines of this: "For some reason, everyone knows that -- inexplicably -- the best pizza in the country is in New York. Well, at the Pizza Place, we challenge that." (I did listen to it about four times, but can remember only some of it, so these aren't his exact words. But the gist is that his Vegas hotel restaurant is trying to emulate NY pizza.)

Cheese pizza slice at the Pizza Place (sorry for shadow!)
Well, did they do it? I'm going to say yes! I can hardly believe it myself. But the pizza looks exactly like a New York slice. The sauce and cheese are in perfect proportion not only to one another, but also to its crust, which is paper-thin, yet crispy and chewy in all the right places.

At first, I thought maybe the taste was a little different. Not enough oregano, maybe, or parmesan? But then I closed my eyes and really thought about all the New York slices I've had. (This took awhile.) And, yes, somewhere in New York there is a slice that tastes almost exactly like the one at the Pizza Place.

Gelato showcase at the Pizza Place
This place also has homemade gelato -- not too shabby. But that's enough about the non-pizza food items. Except to say that they also serve breakfast, and I'm writing this from the restaurant (where they happen to have free wireless internet, a plus for guests) where I just finished a delicious bowl of steel-cut oats with dried cranberries, almonds, and golden raisins. (So yes, I did break rule #3 this time by talking about other food. Sorry to my followers -- all two of you!)