If there's anything this summer has taught me, it's that Greek pizza is a force to be reckoned with. Earlier this week I told you about the awesome Greek-style pies at Matthew's in Baltimore. Now I'm back with another, and it's far closer to Greek pizza home turf (read: greater Boston).
I've said this before: The vast majority of Greek pizza is not worth eating. Made by allowing dough to rise in a olive-oil greased, straight-sided pie pan, covered in a cooked tomato sauce and a ton of cheese, it all-too-often comes out stodgy, leaden, and rubbery. The basic antithesis of freshness. This describes basically all of the Greek pizza I ate in Boston during college.
But it doesn't have to be that way, and George's Pizza House, a 42-year institution in Harwich easily proves it.
How do you know you're in a Greek pizza joint? If the name is "X's Pizza House" or "X's House of Pizza," that's a dead giveaway, particularly when the X is a Greek-American name like George, Joe, or Alex. Apparently Greeks like to make pizza when properly sheltered. A stack of deep-dish pie pans and gyros on the menu are the other major indicators.
When Slice Queen Meredith and I stepped into George's Pizza House during our Cape Cod road trip, we were greeted by two kids sitting at a veneer tabletop scarfing down a monstrous calzone, stuffed with what looked to be some decidedly un-leaden cheese. Good sign. That the cashier told us our small pie ($5.50 to $9.65 depending on toppings, $9.90 to $14.95 for a large) would take at least 15 minutes to make was another good sign—they were topping and baking their pies completely fresh.
We sat outside on the bench with the dog in the faint briny ocean breeze while we waited.
Serious Eats correspondent Will Gordon is one of the few folks I know who have actually worked in a Greek pizzeria. In his, they used crisco instead of olive oil in the pan, and, he tells me, cheddar cheese cut into the mozzarella. This got him (and subsequently me) wondering whether or not all Greek Pizza uses cheddar.
I can't answer that question. But I can tell you that George's indeed does use cheddar in their pies (it was about all they would confirm for me on our brief and secretive phone conversation: "So what's in your tomato sauce?" "Whaddaya mean? It's just sauce. It goes on the pizza," was the basic gist of it.)
It's not the ultra sharp or greasy cheddar you'd get on, say, a good burger, but rather mild, creamy, melty stuff. If you hadn't told me it was there, I would have probably guessed that the pies had some combination of low moisture mozzarella and a hard aged parm-style cheese. Either way, it's stretchy, slightly tangy, and perfectly melted.
The "just sauce" they use is not super bright like you'd expect on a Neapolitan pie—it's rich, cooked, and deeply flavored, almost meaty, with a good amount of dried herbs. The best part of the pies is the bottom crust, which come out golden brown and crackling crisp with plenty of oil.
All of the Greek pizza I've had this summer makes me think that perhaps it's about time to Pizza Lab the hell out of it.