Dear Slice: Par-Baked Crust Method?

Reaching in to the Slice mailbag, we've got ...

20100823-pompeii-oven.jpg

An oven at Pompeii. [Photograph: Paul and Jill on Flickr]

Dear Slice, Letters from Slice'rsEd/Adam:
About 20 years ago, I had pizza with a friend at a place right outside the entrance to Pompeii. For 20 years, my friend and I have reminisced about that pizza; and it has been the pizza standard that no other pizza since has been able to live up to—Motorino, Franny's, Keste, Zero Otto Nove, and others.

Of course, when you hold something like that in such high esteem in your mind for so long, it becomes an idealized and unattainable fantasy.

Last month, I returned to Pompeii and found what I think is the pizza place. I was on a tour getting ready to meet my group about 9 a.m. when I spent a few minutes watching the pizzaioli roll out dough. When I came back about 11:30 a.m., there were piles of pre-baked crusts that they were topping with sauce and cheese and putting back in the oven.

Sadly, I couldn't stay much longer as my tour bus was leaving, but it occurred to me that the pre-baking of the crust was a brilliant method. One of my "issues" with pizzas is the soggy, weighted-down midsection of the crust.

Have you ever come across this method here in New York City or in Italy?

—Janet R.

------------------------------------------------------------

A pizza from Waldy's Wood-Fired Pizza. [Photograph: Adam Kuban]

Dear Janet,

Yes, Waldy's Wood-Fired Pizza does it in New York City. My problem with pre- or par-baked crusts is that they never come back to life all the way. I'm afraid I still prefer fresh-out-of-the-oven pizza baked from scratch. Ed Levine

------------------------------------------------------------

[Hi, Janet ... Adam here. I would also add that par-baking is the norm at most of the pizza trucks in the city that sell square/Sicilian pizza. And there are bricks-and-mortar pizzerias that do it, too — notably Di Fara in Midwood, Brooklyn, on the square pie there (the round one is not par-baked). That type of crust is more forgiving of the method.

The bigger question, though, has to do with the pizza style. Neapolitan pizzas are meant to be eaten shortly after coming out of the oven. And Neapolitans typically enjoy the soggy center you mention. Anytime the "soggy center" issue comes up on Slice, we get diehard Neapolitan adherents advocating for the soupiness, whereas people who grew up on crisp-crust American pizza prefer that texture. It's an issue that these two camps just don't see eye to eye on and probably never will. An example of the Pizza Cognition Theory at work if I've ever seen one.

Waldy's, which Ed mentions, makes a crust that is neither Neapolitan nor Sicilian. It's more Roman in nature — it's very flat, thin, and crunchy. If that's what the pizza that you remember was like, you might like Waldy's. —Adam]

------------------------------------------------------------

Waldy's Wood-Fired Pizza and Penne

800 Sixth Avenue, New York NY 10001 (27th/28th; map)
212-213-5042; waldyspizza.com

Comments

Add a comment

Comments can take up to a minute to appear - please be patient!

Previewing your comment: