Jake Grubman – Staff Writer –
New Haven is known for many things. We have Yale, Toad’s Place, Ikea and of course, Southern Connecticut State University. All those are pretty cool, but I’m not here to talk about them. You see, pizza is my passion. There is nothing better than biting into some fresh ‘za, and New Haven is especially known for their pizza. Obviously we have Frank Pepe’s famous pizzeria, the restaurant that put New Haven on the map. Other places worth mentioning are Sally’s, Modern Apizza and Bar.
Although I love eating pizza, sometimes I don’t feel like waiting in line or spending 15 to 20 bucks on a pie that I could make myself. So that’s why I decided to investigate the art of pizza making and learn how to conjure up a New Haven style pizza. The worst-case scenario is that you might have to fork-and-knife it, however if you follow my advice, you can make a delicious and good-looking pizza every time.
Unless you have a brick oven at your house, homemade pizzas require a pizza pan. So if you are serious about making pizza, I would recommend purchasing one. Heck, I’d also buy a pizza cutter while you’re at it; we’re trying to be legit here. Okay, the next step is to get the best ingredients you can. I strongly believe that the most important ingredient is the dough. Some local places have great dough; I would recommend Italian Delis like Sapori D’Italia in Hamden or Liuzzi’s in North Haven. If you have connections with your neighborhood pizzeria, you could also ask them if you can buy their dough. Anyways, the most important thing to do with your dough before making the pizza is to let it sit out and warm up. You don’t want it to fight back too much when you’re stretching it.
So after getting your dough warmed up, you should figure out your meat, cheese, veggie and sauce situation. Breaded chicken diced up and mixed with barbecue sauce is always delicious. Sausage, pepperoni and bacon are all good toppings too. If you decide to take the healthier route and use vegetables, then I would recommend cooking them briefly before topping your pizza. I find that peppers, onions and broccoli let out too much moisture if they aren’t cooked beforehand and the dough becomes very weak and mushy. I like to partially steam the broccoli and cook the peppers and onions in a little olive oil. No matter what, use some garlic. Tomatoes of course don’t need to be cooked. Now if you like herb, I’d also recommend adding fresh basil unless you want to use some oregano or dried Italian seasoning.
Personally, I think the best kind of cheese is fresh mozzarella. Keep it refrigerated until right before you need it so that it’s easier to cut when you’re ready. Also when you choose a tomato sauce, make sure it isn’t too watery or else you’ll have to fork-and-knife it.
Now that we have the ingredients, it’s time to assemble the pizza. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. I usually take a plate and put a little flour and breadcrumbs on it and apply a coating of olive oil to the pan to keep the pie from sticking. If you want, you can put rosemary or garlic on the pan underneath the dough to give it a more herby taste. Take the dough out of the bag and plop it onto the plate of flour and then turn it over so that the entire dough is covered. Lift up the dough a little and let gravity stretch it for you. Then slowly working from the center of the dough, stretch it out until it’s about six inches wide. I like to put it on top of my knuckles and pull lightly on the edges in all directions. Then grab the edges with your fingertips and let it hang loosely while slowly rotating it as if was a steering wheel. Ideally, you want an even thickness and a circlular shape. If you want a crust, turn the edges over on itself to built the crust. If you have any doubts about the pizza being too thin, you can cook it quickly for two or three minutes before applying the toppings to give it strength.
Traditionally, you put the sauce down first and then add your shredded or sliced mozzarella. Add whatever meat and vegetables you want. It is relatively important to apply olive oil to the crust so that it becomes golden. I wouldn’t put too many heavy ingredients in the center of the pie or else it might break. After adding everything you want, put it in the oven for fifteen minutes or so. Don’t disappoint yourself by taking it out too early, so wait until the dough looks golden and the cheese looks molten. When you can smell it from 20 feet away from your oven, then you know its ready. Let it sit for five minutes or so and then go ahead and cut it. It should be as delicious as a traditional New Haven pizza.