Name: Albert Grande
Location: Mililani, Hawaii
Website(s): pizzatherapy.com, legendsofpizza.com, pastatherapy.com, mypizzaface.com, pizzatherapy.blogspot.com, legendsofpizza.com/blog, @pizzatherapy on Twitter
Pizza Therapy is probably the first pizza-obsessed website I saw on the web. It's like it was always there. But when did you start it?
Pizza Therapy started in 1999 on a free hosting service. It ran that way for about a year. I purchased the domain in 2000. After I registered the domain, I moved the site to our own Internet server. It's been evolving ever since.
Why did you start it?
The site came about as a way to honor my dad. As we were growing up my dad would make pizza for me and my friends. This continued right through high school, college and beyond. He became known as quite a good pizza maker. (He was no pro, this was homemade pizza). He loved making pizza for me and my friends. Soon his pizza making became well known and it turned into a regular event. My friends and I would hang out while my dad made pizza. The conversations and laughter that happened in that kitchen with my dad were amazing. My friends and I talk about those pizza times to this very day.
Years later, I realized what he had been doing was using pizza as a way to bond us together. Being Italian, I think he understood the synergy that happens with people and food. The Pizza Therapy name just came to me one day when I was thinking about my dad's pizza-making. I realized he was using pizza as a type of therapy. Hmmm, I thought: My dad had created Pizza Therapy for us.
The site is a way for me to continue his legacy. He taught me the joy of making and eating pizza. Put those ingredients together and mix them up. That's how magic happens. That's what Pizza Therapy is all about.
Is Pizza Therapy your full-time thing? (Seems like it, with the amount of work you do on it.)
Great question, Adam. While Pizza Therapy (DBA: Grande Publishing) is a business, at this point, I am not doing it full time. Along with Pizza Therapy, there are a number of other web properties that I own and have developed. Because of the successes of Pizza Therapy, I have been doing Internet consulting with off-line businesses wanting to learn how to use the Internet to expand their web presence.
The Pizza Therapy site has continued to expand and evolve. My goal is to make it a full-time gig. We have attracted a number of advertisers and corporate sponsors. While I consider all offers for advertising and corporate sponsorship, I am very selective about our advertisers. There are just some advertisers that do not fit with our mission. I have turned down a number of advertisers for that reason.
I would love to travel around the country reporting about pizza. That is a goal which I hope becomes reality. Maybe one of your Slice readers will offer me a job. Does the Food Network subscribe to Slice? How about the Travel Channel? I am ready, willing and able. Make me an offer!
What's are your favorite all-time articles or items on Pizza Therapy?
I'd have to say showing up in Peter Reinhart's book American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza was amazing. Then I was mentioned in Ed Levine's book Pizza: A Slice of Heaven. That was an incredible honor. As a matter of fact, Slice was mentioned in the same book.
Finally, having Pizza Therapy included in Penny Pollack and Jeff Ruby's book Everybody Loves Pizza was also incredible.
Being mentioned in American Heritage magazine for their pizza issue was another wonderful thing.
Pizza Therapy is way bigger than I am. I am always amazed that it continues to get press and recognition. For example, we were just named as a pizza resource for the New York Times. Not too long ago I did an interview for BBC Radio. All I can say is wow! Honestly. This stuff happens all the time. I continue to be shocked.
The thing I am most puzzled about, though, is the Pizza Therapy You Tube video about making pizza dough. I did that over 2 years ago. I have since changed my recipe a bit. But I'm afraid to change it. If it works, don't fix it. So I just leave it there.
Over a year and a half ago, I was approached by Google to allow them to advertise the video. I told them to just go for it. I cannot understand how this simple video has gone so viral. It's just me making pizza dough. It's gotten nearly 350,000 views. That to me is staggering! I guess there are a lot of people interested in learning to make pizza dough. I am amazed every time I look at the stats.
What type of pizza do you prefer?
Is this a loaded question, Kuban?
Yes. Loaded with deliciousness.
Actually, I love all pizza.
Diplomatic answer, Grande.
But I prefer a thin-crust Neapolitan pizza.
The Pizza Cognition Theory states that "the first slice of pizza a child sees and tastes ... becomes, for him, pizza." Do you remember your first slice? Where was it from, is the place still around, and if so, does it hold up? On that note, has your taste in pizza evolved over time?
I know the theory well. However, for me, my tastes have definitely evolved over time. I have become much more discriminating. While it wasn't my first slice, if I think back, in my mind's eye, I can still taste my dad's pizza. That taste memory has stayed with me. And believe me it was great.
As I grew up the pizza that we had locally was just: pizza. It was good pizza but not great pizza. It wasn't until I started to make pizza myself that I was able to fully appreciate great pizza.
And with Pizza Therapy, I have been lucky to have tasted some incredible pizza.
What's your favorite topping or topping combination?
Honestly, this changes all the time. Right now I have to say that clam is my favorite topping. There is nothing like a Pepe's clam pizza using fresh clams. I have yet to a have pizza that even comes close. I do love seafood on pizza.
But I also like arugala, gorgonzola, and pistachios as a taste combination. It's a pizza recreated by my friend Jon F. He had first tasted it while visiting Sicily. He came back and deconstructed the pizza. I use a modified version of his recipe. It's quite a melding of different flavors. Simply delicious. Jon calls it the Atilla Pizza.
You make pizza at home, obviously. What recipes do you use?
I use a modified recipe that was given to me by my mom. Here it is:
Ingredients (makes 2 large pizzas or 4 thin pizzas)
1 to 2 packages yeast (1/4 or 1/2 ounce or 2 to 4 teaspoons of yeast) 2 teaspoons sugar (optional) 4 cups of flour or more 1 teaspoon salt 1/4 cup olive oil (optional) 1 and 1/2 cups of warm water
I used to proof the yeast with sugar before I started to make the dough. Now I DO NOT use sugar and use a cold ferment process. I mix the ingredients the day before and let it proof overnight in the fridge.
If Slice'rs would like my pizza recipe sent via email, they can subscribe to my ezine, Pizza Therapy Pizza News at this link: http://pizzatherapy.com/sq.htm
Where do you go for pizza in your area when you're not making it at home?
I live in on Oahu in Hawaii. For the most part Hawaii is not a hotbed of great pizza. For a long time my favorite pizza in Hawaii was my own pizza. Lately though, there are two new pizzerias that make great pizza in Honolulu that I love:
- 1. V Lounge: They use a wood-fired oven and make a great artisan pizza
- 2. J. J. Dolans: They make a great New York–style pie
In Hawaii, they are my favorites.
What's most important to you: crust, sauce, or cheese?
When I interviewed Ed LaDou for Legends of Pizza, he felt that they were all equally important. For me, I think it's the crust. You can have the best quality ingredients, but if you don't make a great crust, you can never make a great pizza.
What one thing should NEVER go on a pizza?
I think whatever you don't like. Great pizza is in the eye of the beholder. If there is an ingredient you don't like, than that is what should never go on pizza.
In my kitchen in Hawaii, we have experimented with lots of different ingredients, such as Pork Adobo Pizza, roasted pork pizza, thai pizza and other ethnic flavors. For me, most of these items worked well. So, don't put anything on pizza you don't like.
Weirdest pizza you've ever eaten?
I haven't had it yet. I'll have to get back to you on this one.
What's the farthest you've traveled for pizza?
Since I live in Hawaii and I travel to the East Coast for pizza, I'd say more than 5,000 miles. I would have no problem driving 3 or 4 hours for great pizza, if that's what it took. Actually, I would travel even farther for truly great pizza!
Anything you'd like to get off your chest?
I want to say thanks to Slice for all you have done to help promote pizza. I was recently named The Pizza Promoter. Hey, I'll take the title. I am honored to be able to promote pizza
I do want to say this: I want to thank all of the pizza blogs, forums, and websites for all you have done to promote pizza. They have all done an incredible job!
I would mention you all by name but I'm afraid of leaving someone out. I don't want to offend anyone. But you know who you are. Thank you so much for helping show the way. You are the true lights at the end of the tunnel. You show what real pizza is and what the real celebration of pizza can be and will become. To you all I say a huge mahalo! (Thank you!)
Also, pizza, as you know, is more than the Three Big Chains. I try not to mention them at Pizza Therapy. They get enough publicity. It's the mom-and-pops, the "keepers of the flame" (as stated by Ed Levine) that need to be celebrated and cherished. Those are the true makers of spiritual pizza.
And you know, Adam, the real success of any website, blog, or forum are the readers and visitors. They are the ones who need to be thanked. They are the spiritual glue that holds it all together. So to you visitors and readers, I say thank you. Thanks for all of the support. I feel truly blessed to have been able to spread the joys of pizza with Pizza Therapy.
Yes. I, too, am grateful for all the people who visit and communicate their love of pizza on the web — whether it's here on Slice or Pizza Therapy or wherever. I don't know how much I've learned from everyone and how heartened I am to see a true community grow up around pizza. Speaking of learning from folks ... who would you like to see interviewed next?
Mr. Kuban, you need to interview the Godfather of Pizza Websites! Coye Jones, the Pizza Meister. He is a wonderful person. Great pizza maker and all around good guy. I love the guy. He was one of the early supporters of Pizza Therapy. He was always helpful, always gracious. And he makes incredible pizza! Here's his website: http://home.comcast.net/~cmptj/pizza/index.htm