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Pizza Obsessives: Matthew "BKMatt" Hyland
If you've been hanging around this corner of the internet pizzascape, chances are you've run into Matt Hyland, a.k.a. BKMatt, before. He's made regular appearances on My Pie Monday and few years back, he joined forces with Roberto Patriarca to open Brooklyn Central.
The pair have since parted ways, but Matt has a new project up his sleeve. He and his wife Emily have just announced plans to open a pizzeria in Clinton Hill! Take a look at what Matt has to say about his pizza obsessiveness and his upcoming project.
Alright, the obvious first question—what type pizza do you like best?
I really enjoy cooking in a wood burning oven and making pizzas that are inspired by the Neapolitan style, but that don't strictly adhere to any sort of categorical, archaic tradition. I think pizza is an art, and that all pizza chefs should put forth their own expressions of pizza—making pizza is about exploration, inspiration, and fun, and shouldn't necessarily follow any set of rigid rules. Rather, pizza making is a craft of the hands and heart.
So, to answer your question, I eat all types of pizza; I really do prefer pizza that is made by someone who cares and puts his whole heart into it.
That's what it's really all about, isn't it? Doing it because you love it—and speaking of pizza you love...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, and where was it from? Is the pizzeria still around? How have your tastes changed over the years?
Growing up in Brooklyn, I remember Carmine's in Bay Ridge as being a classic looking pizza place with wooden benches and terra cotta floors where my brother would take me for pizza after school. A slice was a dollar, and we would also get an Italian ice. Though Carmine's is not around anymore, Pete's Pizza, which is still open, is another Bay Ridge haunt my dad would go to grab a pie to bring home for dinner.
I haven't been to Pete's in over twenty years. In terms of taste, I think that what pizza is has really been evolving as its own creature since my childhood—my tastes for pizza are varied, but a classic New York slice will always hold a special place in my heart.
So take that classic New York slice...what are your favorite toppings for it?
Easy question. At a restaurant: pepperoni and olive. Homemade: any spicy topping with honey.
Sounds right up my alley. When you're on the hunt for a slice, where do you like to go?
I eat pizza often. Right now, I am finishing the season with Pizza Moto and love their pies. I also enjoy a lot of other places around the city. Lately, because I'm opening my pizza restaurant in Clinton Hill, I enjoy a bike ride over to Speedy Romeo for that awesome provel pie, and a much slower bike ride back to work thereafter.
I also live close to the 2/3 train, so I can pop over to Adrianne's for a solid square for dinner. When I can snatch a car for the day, I head out to Joe and Pat's for a Staten Island treat. My wife and I have spent a few anniversaries at their sister restaurant, Rubirosa—for the mozzarella sticks as much as for the pizza.
You clearly know how to work the city. When you're not eating out, do you make your own pizza at home? If so, what's your favorite method or recipe?
I make a lot of pizza at home, and have access to a small Forno Bravo Primavera to make my pies. My dough is based off of a lot of testing on variations of the Co. no-knead recipe. I always use American flour, either from Bob's Red Mill, King Arthur, or Central Milling, and I include about 10% rye flour in the mix, which adds a nice nuance to the flavor and texture to the crust. What is really important to me is that I hand mix everything.
Even for diehard slice lovers, the wrong topping can occasionally ruin a pie—what one thing would you NEVER eat on a pizza?
I'm not opposed to inventive or experimental pizza toppings, and I don't want to say there is one thing too taboo to top a pie with. However, the key to amazing toppings is all about the execution. Toppings are meant to be bite-sized; I can't stand when a topping is so big and cumbersome that it slides off of the pizza when I take my first bite. There's a big difference between small pepperoni cups that crisp at the edges and add to the pizza-eating experience ,versus big slabs of thick and slimy salami.
I absolutely agree; who wants to have to fight to eat their pizza? While we're on the subject of toppings, what would you say is the most 'out there' pie you've ever had?
I think I ate a chicken tikka masala slice in Amsterdam...but I can't confirm that.
Amsterdam! Looks like we have a traveler on our hands...so what's the farthest you've gone just for pizza?
Rhode Island. The grilled pizza at Al Forno holds a lot of nostalgia for me and is amazing. My wife and I shared that pizza on our first date twelve years ago. We have not stopped eating pizza since.
Nostalgia plays such a huge role in the foods we love, and why we love them. What's currently taking center stage in your love for pizza?
As I mentioned earlier, I'm opening my own pizza restaurant in Clinton Hill in early 2014 and am itching to get my Kickstarter funded so that I can install my oven and get to work. People who want to know more can follow my Twitter or Instagram for more information.
How exciting—good luck! Pizza is clearly a big part of your life, so what do your friends and family have to say about your obsession?
They love it. We had a lot of pizza parties this summer, and they all got to try stretching the dough and topping their own pies. My wife is my pizza-eating partner in crime as well as business partner for our soon-to-open pizza restaurant. We are pizza crazy. Actually, as I think back now, our first three meals together were pizza.
The family that pizzas together...Before we go, any last bits of pizza wisdom you want to share?
Pizza does not have to equate to just Italy; it has evolved into much more than that simple correlation. I hope people will start using more local ingredients, like American flour, as pizza continues to evolve as part of our culture.
Finally, who would you like to see interviewed?
Has Mike R. ever done one of these? He always seems to be on the front lines of pizza eating.