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Each December, gift guide mania grips the Serious Eats family of sites. Today, it's my turn to impart some semblance of pizza-related gifting knowledge to you.
Apologies in advance if you've seen my previous gift guide. This one treads much of the same ground. The truth is that pizza doesn't really change that much from year to year. At its heart, it's a simple food, and there's not much that gadget-makers can invent to improve on what's already out there.
After the jump, I will attempt give you some ideas for the budding pizzaiolo and the jaded hardcore slicehead.
For the Beginner
If your giftee wants to make some serious pizza at home, he or she is going to need the following.
14-by-16-Inch Rectangular Pizza Stone and Peel
First, you're never going to replicate at home in a standard oven the pizzas you find at a wood- or coal-oven pizzeria. Still, it's fun to try, and, with practice, the result can be superior to anything you'll get from a chain pizzeria. But first, your pizza-maker is going to need a pizza stone and pizza peel.
This stone-and-peel set from Amazon is reasonably priced and, at the time of publication, is about $10 cheaper than buying both alone.
If you do purchase them separately, though, please, please, please get your giftee a square or rectangular stone. (The circular stones require precise placement, and spilling the pizza onto the hot oven floor is a real danger, especially given how you have to wiggle the pizza from the peel to the stone.)
I should also note that many people recommend using unglazed quarry tile in lieu of a pizza stone. Here's a good thread about that. The quarry tile is much, much cheaper than a dedicated pizza stone. The only thing with that, is that I've always been confused about which type of tile to get, etc. So if you don't want any doubt, the pizza stone may be the way to go. Pizza stone and peel, $49.95, from Amazon
A well-equipped home pizza kitchen should have at least two pizza peels--one to build a pie on and a free peel to retrieve a pie-in-progress from the oven. (Though three is a good number to have on hand if you think your giftee will be throwing pizza parties.) This 24-inch peel from Amazon would work as well as any and won't set you back too much, but you might be able to find peels priced less at a kitchen-supply store. 24-inch hardwood pizza peel, $14.99, from Amazon
16-Inch Pizza Trays
I often cut and serve pizzas directly from the peel (essentially eliminating the need for these), but pizza pans are a nice touch for serving pies at a pizza party. Two's a good number for starters, but three will provide more flexibility in making a number of pies. Grab 16-inch pans, as they'll be able to handle the largest pies possible with the stone above. Get them at a kitchen-supply store, where they'll likely be less expensive than those found at houseware or home-kitchen stores. 16-inch aluminum pizza tray, $6.15, from foodservicedirect.com
You really don't have to put too much thought into a pizza cutter. It's a stocking stuffer or something to supplement one or more of the other items on this list. As such, a basic no-nonsense cutter like this Pedrini model will work just fine. Avoid mezzalunas, pizza scissors, palm-held cutters, and otherwise overdesigned crap. No need to reinvent the wheel here. The real artistry should be in the pie, not the stupid thing that cuts it. Pedrini pizza cutter, $9.99
For that Extra, Classy Touch: Alessi Pizza Plates
Italian kitchenware company Alessi sells a series of whimsical 12-inch pizza plates that come two to a set. This type of plate is what Neapolitan-style pizzerias often serve their pies on. Two of these sets depict Pulcinella, a jesterlike figure who has become a symbol of Naples and whose visage sometimes shows up in pizzerias. My favorite is this set, but there's this one, too, and a third that features a pizza-spewing volcano and a multiarmed woman slinging pies. I've received a set of these as a birthday gift and love them. I've also given these as a gift, and they were very well received. Pummaroriella Piatti, $38 for set of 2 plates
Really Great Surprises (aka Stuff That I Would Love to Get)
Hot soppressata is an awesome pizza topping. If your friends or family members like pepperoni, they'll love this cured meat as a topping. Tell them to slice it thin and layer it on top of the the cheese and it'll cook up nice and crisp and ultra flavorful. They might even forsake pepperoni forever after trying it.
Two places that make great soppressata the old-fashioned way (nonpasteurized and air-cured) are Salumeria Biellese in New York City and Armandino Batali's Salumi in Seattle (Mario's dad).
At Biellese, a link of hot soppressata ($12.55 a pound) will run anywhere from $31 to $38 (plus S&H; it can travel via ground shipping). Order online here or simply call 212-736-7376
Salumi is currently shipping its holiday specials only, but you're in luck. The Winter Holidays Web Special, $55 plus shipping, includes one link each of hot soppressata and mole salame. Your giftee could slice the soppressata onto pies and serve the mole salame as an antipasto. Ordering information here
A Hunk of Grana Padano Grating Cheese
Help your pizza-maker step it up a notch by supplying a hunk of delicious grana Padano aged grating cheese. Legendary pizzaman Dom DeMarco uses at Di Fara in Brooklyn, and a handful of newcomer pizzaioli have followed suit (notably Brandon Pettit at Seattle's Delancey and Mark Iacono of Brooklyn's Lucali). One-pound, 22-month-aged Grana Padano Stravecchio Oro del Tempo, $10.99, from Amazon, and, heck, throw in a hand-held cheese grater, $5.99, also from Amazon
A Pizza Road Trip
One thing I kept thinking about as I traveled for Pizza Madness 2009 was how much fun it would be if every pizza lover got to make a special trip just to eat pizza.
Identify a road trip–worthy pizzeria in your area (hint, hint: the Slice archives might be handy for this). Then buy your person a gas gift card to cover fuel (Shell sells them) and an AmEx gift card (or give cash) to cover pizza expenses ($25 is probably a good place to start). A nice touch would be to buy a map and highlight the route.
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