Michael Bauer's Pizza Fridays

"It hurts me, because they act as if I'm trying to get something over on them. I wish I had the nerve to charge $50, because that's what it's worth." —Anthony Mangieri

20071003pizza.jpgMichael Bauer, the food critic of the San Francisco Chronicle, has apparently gone pizza mad after eating at Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles.

The pies there inspired him to talk to some of the acknowledged masters of pizza: Anthony Mangieri (Una Pizza Napoletana, New York), Chris Bianco (Pizzeria Bianco, Phoenix), and Nancy Silverton (Mozza).

Not only that, but readers hungry for San Francisco pies will be pleased to note that Mr. Bauer is launching "Pizza Friday" on his blog; it promises to be a "multimedia feature" that will document his quest to find the Bay Area's best pizzas.

Some choice excerpts from the pizza feature, after the jump.

Anthony Mangieri, Una Pizza Napoletana

Still, it wounds him when people complain that he charges $21 for his 12-inch pie. "It hurts me, because they act as if I'm trying to get something over on them. I wish I had the nerve to charge $50, because that's what it's worth."

Mangieri's ideal pizza is tender and wet, with just a hint of crispness and some blackened blisters that give it a smoky undercurrent. In his opinion, pizza should be eaten with a knife and fork, or folded in quarters. Timing is important in both the baking and eating: It must be consumed within about 5 minutes of being produced.

Chris Bianco, Pizzeria Bianco

"We think we've mastered the thing, and we don't know a thing," he says. Bianco peppers his speech with philosophical quips that reveal an almost mystical relationship between pizza and life.

"Pizza is like snowflakes. There's no two that look the same. At some moment, there's a line of perfection and you're there for it," he says.

Nancy Silverton, Pizzeria Mozza

Nancy Silverton singles out Bianco as one of her inspirations for Mozza in Los Angeles. Silverton, who founded La Brea Bakery and then sold 80 percent to IAWS Group for a reported $68.5 million, doesn't have to work another day, but late last year, she opened the pizzeria and the adjacent osteria with New York chef Mario Batali.

"It was kind of an expensive excuse to make the kind of pizza I wanted to eat," she explains. She turned a baker's eye on the crust, making super-wet dough that takes 36 hours to produce and results in that elusive chewy, crisp, puffy crust with little nooks and crannies you find in really great bread.

Slice is definitely looking forward to what Bauer unearths. My guess is that he'll hit Cheeseboard Collective, A16, Pizzaiolo, and Chez Panisse for the thinner-crust/artisan/Neapolitan styles and Little Star and Zachary's for the deep-dish style that many of my San Francisco friends and contacts seem to take a shine to. Any other guesses as to where he'll strike?

Related: Slice's own Ed Levine on Pizzeria Mozza

A Pizza Odyssey, Pizza Friday [San Francisco Chronicle]