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Pizza Obsessives: Casey Crynes, San Francisco Pizza-Party Caterer
Name: Casey Crynes
Location: I live in San Francisco, was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and was raised bi-coastal
Occupation: web guy/pizzamaker/pizza intern
Website: caseyspizzas.com; flickr.com/caseyspizzas
So you do pizza catering out of clients' home ovens?
Yes, I am now offering an in-your-home-oven pizza-party solution. I bring my dough, stone, all the materials, then cook for your event, offer pizzamaking Q&A, even build you a pizza-friendly wine program. I am also trying to get a mobile pizza solution up and running, much like the Pizzahacker. SF needs more street pizza battles. A lot of my pizza antics are to pave the way for a possible brick-and-mortar spot, to be called Casey's Pizza. More on that at a later date.
At home, have you tricked out your oven at all or have you just kept things simple? Can you share any tips with us all?
I don't think you need to trick your oven out that much. I've had good luck with my Amana. I feel it helps to be working with a gas oven vs. electric or convection. Just pre-heat so your stone hits 500°F-plus and you're good to go. Mine tops out at 600°F after an hour of pre-heat. But I think you can cook in any oven—see Foolish Poolish. I've always wanted to get a small stone for the toaster oven at my office and see what happens.
What type of pizza do you prefer?
Thin crust, old New York style. (Lucali, Difara, Lombardis). I am not yet totally sold on classic wood-fired Neopolitan pizza, the format is still new to me. No offense Paulie, your pie was amazing. But my real love is the crispy, chewy, snappy goodness that is classic, "old school" New York–style. "00" flour–powered pies get too soft and spongey for my palate. I was, however, impressed with the crisp crust structure found on A16 and Pizzeria Delfina pies here in SF. And the Pizzahacker cranks a solid neo-Neopolitan pie, too, so maybe I should lighten up.
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?
My oldest memory of eating pizza was growing up on the East Coat at a place called Vinny's in Riverside, Connecticut. My family would take us there for dinners after our 5 p.m. Sunday mass. So basically I'd receive communion twice. They served classic thin-crust pies that I remember being quite large and foldable. We'd typically get our family favorite, two large pepperonis. I also remember a place even earlier when we lived in the L.A. area back in the '70s. It was called Sorrento's in San Pedro. It, too, was a classic thin-crust variety but oddly produced in SoCal. Both of these places are no longer around, but definitely defined my thin-crust pizza preferences.
What's your favorite topping or topping combination?
I have a few:
Combo 1: Pre-sautéed broccoli rabe with yellow onion, Parm-reggiano, aged Wisconsin mozz from Grandé, a touch of fior di latte from Belfiore in Berkeley, and then finished with lemon juice
Combo 2: Molinari pepperoni, fresh basil, high grade EVO, and an uncooked Italian tomato based sauce with a little salt n pepper
Combo 3: Pre-sautéed Yukon gold potatoes, finely minced rosemary, garlic, EVO, red onion, parm reggiano, aged mozz, and a touch of fior di latte
Where do you go for pizza in your area?
My go-to joint in the East Bay is Rotten City Pizza or Gioia for a classic New York slice. They really just get it by using top-notch ingredients and employing a West Coast culinary/artisanal approach. Emilia's is making a great pie, too. In SF/Bay Area we have a glut of solid Neapolitan options these days: Pizzeria Delfina, A16, Pizzeria Picco, Pizzaiolo, The Pizzahacker, Rosso. What SF needs is more true East Coast–style pizzerias and better slice joints.
You obviously make pizza at home. What recipes do you use?
I've been crafting my pizza recipe for about two years now. I first started with the Peter Reinhart "NY Style" recipe from his book American Pie, which had me adding sugar and olive oil to the mix. I've since learned that those two ingredients really do not belong in a good dough. Reinhart's approach is questionable, but I guess he loves adding olive oil to his recipes. After many tips from Paulie Gee, Foolish Poolish, and the Pizzahacker, among others, I've come up with a very simple dough recipe that is just flour, water, IDY [instant dry yeast], and kosher salt. I use a high-grade/high-protein locally milled bread flour with a touch of whole wheat for texture and rustic flavor. The results have come a long way since my Peter Reinhart pizza days. All up I think it's an East coast–meets–West, New York–Roman fusion. I work with a 24-hour bulk ferment in the fridge, then scale and ball it up the next day. I do, however, use a touch of olive oil to coat the dough balls; it acts as a perfect sealing agent and prevents any sticking in the individual plastic containers.
What's most important to you: crust, sauce, or cheese?
It's a trinity. But in order of importance, crust, cheese, and sauce. Quite a few of my pies are biancas, so sauce is often at the bottom of my list. I feel the cheese one uses has to be top quality. Like Di Fara and Lucali, I suggest using a blend of aged mozzarella and fior di latte.
Anything you'd like to get off your chest?
Deep dish pizza is not pizza; it's lasagna. I think Ed Levine said this, and I agree. I refuse to eat it and fail to understand why people in the Bay Area freak out about it (i.e., Little Star, Zachary's, Patxi's).
LOL. Actually, Ed called it a casserole. He still gets s**t from Chicagoans about it.... Moving on ... what one thing should NEVER go on a pizza?
Chicken, barbecue meats, and blue cheese. The late Ed LaDou, whose claim to fame was the invention of the "barbecue chicken pizza," was quite upset that California Pizza Kitchen stole his recipes. I'm baffled. No offense to the Pizzahacker, but pizza topped with fig and blue cheese is too precious. But apparently it's a "crowd pleaser."
Oh, man. I would almost close comments here to prevent a flame war from breaking it, but you brought it on yourself, man. I do not know if I'd want to mess with Pizzahacker! ;) ... Anyway ... in that vein, what's the weirdest pizza you've ever eaten?
I don't eat weird pizza nor seek it out. I did recently have the "Popeye" pizza from Jim Lahey's Company, which proved to be quite different. It was a white spinach pie that went beyond my normal threshold of "rustic." Maybe it was the extra-large stems spinach leaves with full stems. The crust was excellent.
What's the farthest you've traveled for pizza?
Well I have twice traveled across the country with stops in NYC for a slice of Di Fara, but no dice. The first time I got locked out by Dom's son, and recently Dom was on a health break. The third time will be a charm. I did get to try Lucali, Paulie Gee's, and Motorino on that trip. Artichoke has a damn solid Margherita slice, but that infamous artichoke slice looks like hell. I will be making a trip to Phoenix soon as well.
Who would you like to see interviewed next?
Adam Lindsley of the This Is Pizza Blog.
Good choice. Awesome dude. I'll get on that!