You've seen the pie insanity that this man creates, now it's time to get to know amusebouche1 a little better. Let's get him in the hot seat and see what makes this pie madman tick.—MS
What type of pizza do you prefer?
It depends on the day and location. I like both John's and Joe's in West Greenwich Village for NY-style pizza with a beer, or a dollar slice on the run. Love the fat. But I like Kesté for date-night pizza with a glass of wine. Oh, on Scott's Greenwich Village Pizza Tour we went to Famous Ben's for a Palermo. Pillowy light, thick crust, with sauce and topped with a mixture of hard cheeses and bread crumbs. I also like Jim Lahey's ultra-thin crust pizza at Sullivan Street Bakery.
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?
I can remember as a teenager we hung out at a pizza joint in Red Bank, NJ. It's now gone. Not sure, but I think they may have only sold whole pies. We always ordered plain cheese, and may have struggled to pay for the soda. When we had pizza delivered at home it was a plain cheese greasy style from Luigi's, now gone. When we went out to eat we went to Longo's. That was the same style and is also gone. That's all we knew.
In terms of evolving tastes, now I am happy with a Pizza Del Papa: butternut squash cream, imported smoked mozzarella, artichoke, and red and yellow peppers from Kesté, or one of my off beat creations. Ok slice'rs, what is this theme pizza from Kesté about? (Out-of-town answers only, please.)
What's your favorite topping or topping combination?
If my wife and I order pizza to be delivered: classic NY-style with mushrooms and canned, sliced olives; onions on half. Onions are not my wife's friend. Usually I have dough in the freezer and just pull it out in the morning. When I come home I say, "OK, what toppings do we have in the refrigerator?" and "it's garbage pizza time".
Lucky lady. So when you aren't cooking up a kooky pizza at home, where do you go for pies locally?
In my former career, I would go almost daily to see Anglia and John at New Corner Pizzeria in Red Bank, NJ for a slice. I still do if I am in the neighborhood. It was the first place I had a taco pizza. For date night or lunch with my wife, Front Street Trattoria, also in Red Bank. They have great "designer pizza" and focaccia sandwiches. Michael and Valery were ahead of the pizza "revolution". I might have been their first customer. I need to remind them I was in a photo shoot when they first opened. I think they inspired my themed creations.
When inspiration strikes, do you have go-to recipes and cooking methods?
I like my grill, but it is not hot enough; nor is my oven. I also have an Emile Henry baking stone and a cast-iron pan. I think I like the cast iron best. I have been using the skillet method, plus experimenting with Caputo red bag, blue bag "00" flour, and regular all-purpose flour. Not sure I can tell the difference. My dough is slow cold rise. As for recipes, I usually make it up as I go along, except for the crust. Years ago I found pizza dough adapted from Andrew Feinberg in the New York Times. I have tried Cooks Illustrated Thin Crust Pizza Dough, but not No-Knead Pizza Dough from Jim Lahey.
What one thing should NEVER go on a pizza?
Peas. However, for a spring pizza, I included Favas, which are kind of like peas.
I thought you might be a man without limits. What's the most bizarre pizza you've ever eaten, or in your case, made?
Probably my Easter pie with the ganache, peeps and peanut butter chips. I laugh most about that one, I think it was one of my more tongue in cheek creations.
Be honest, did you eat that?!
What got your started on making such inspired pies at home?
I have always been a serious foodie, now I am a fun foodie. No rules apply. I started this Serious Eats obsession with Slice and MY Pie Monday when I was out on disability, two three months stints. Well, what does a bored foodie, cooking instructor, and culinary historian do when he cannot drive? Make pizza for My Pie Monday. Pizza therapy.
What's the farthest you've traveled for pizza?
Well, we went to Paris and the first night we had pizza at Uno's and a rosé from Provence. Neither were good.
You know you can get PIzzeria Uno's and bad rosé in Jersey, right? I kid. Anything you'd like to get off your chest?
Yes. IT IS YOUR FOOD! Ignore the food police: cook it, buy it your way, but search out Dan Barber on sustainable fish and foie gras on YouTube, mesmerizing.
What do your family and/or friends think of your pizza madness?
They want to be invited and will bring beer. But a friend asked when I told him about this "interview" "Are you now an OCD Pizza Guy?" I answered "Well, yes."
Who would *you* like to see interviewed next?
I make pizza obsessively, so how about someone who eats pizza obsessively.
Good thing I'm in a college town. I'll start hitting the pavement. Thanks Don! It was great getting to know you a little better. Thanks for being a good sport and getting in the hot seat!
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