Welcome to the Wordloaf Pie January Friday Pizza Box, a weekly roundup of links and items relating to pizza.
Outside of the box
The Atlantic just published a story all about why pizza boxes have been ruining our pizzas all this time:
Pizza delivery, it turns out, is based on a fundamental lie. The most iconic delivery food of all time is bad at surviving delivery, and the pizza box is to blame. “I don’t like putting any pizza in a box,” Andrew Bellucci, a legendary New York City pizza maker of Andrew Bellucci’s Pizzeria, told me. “That’s just it, really. The pizza degrades as soon as it goes inside,” turning into a swampy mess.
A pizza box has one job—keeping a pie warm and crispy during its trip from the shop to your house—and it can’t really do it. The fancier the pizza, the worse the results: A slab of overbaked Domino’s will probably be at least semi-close to whatever its version of perfect is by the time it reaches your door, but a pizza with fresh mozzarella cooked at upwards of 900 degrees? Forget it. Sliding a $40 pie into a pizza box is the packaging equivalent of parking a Lamborghini in a wooden shed before a hurricane.
I’m sure that pizza delivery tech could stand improving, but I kinda think that the problem here is that (“artisanal”) pizza is one of the most ephemeral foods there is. It doesn’t matter whether it’s been shoved in a box and driven across town or simply left to sit for more than 5 minutes post-baking, it is going to rapidly lose much of its magic. If it matters so much, joints like Belluci’s just shouldn’t sell their pizzas for takeout (lots of fancy pizza places don’t!)
(h/t to Nancy for alerting me to this story.)
Turn, turn, turn
Full disclosure: I still haven’t watched the Franco Pepe episode of Chef’s Table: Pizza yet (I like food TV just fine, but at the end of a long day in the kitchen, I rarely have the appetite to watch it.) The LA Times recently profiled the Italian pizzaiolo’s quest to redeem pizza capricciosa, a variation on the “quattro stagioni” pie topped with ham, mushroom, artichoke, olives, and tomato that has apparently seen better days:
One recent challenge: to restore the reputation of the now-out-of-favor pizza capricciosa. In the 1970s and ’80s pizza capricciosa was one of Italy’s most popular dishes. Today, it’s considered an old-fashioned pizza, an empty-the-refrigerator pie weighed down with too many toppings — artichokes, mushrooms, olives, prosciutto cotto, tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and sometimes capers and anchovies — basically, a less organized version of a quattro stagioni.
Pepe also noticed that the pizza frequently was soggy in the middle. That’s because most of the ingredients contain large percentages of water — olives, he says, are 70% water; tomatoes, 95%; mozzarella, 58%.
“My idea was to transform these ingredients,” Pepe says, “and also to separate them because they have different cooking times.”
This is where the dehydrator comes in. He uses the machine to turn tomato sauce into flavor-packed tomato sheets (a more delicate version of fruit leather) and dries the olives and capers into rough powders. The mushrooms are dusted with flour and deep-fried. The basil is pureed with olive oil and ice cubes (to preserve the color). The only ingredients baked in the oven with the dough are the mozzarella, the artichokes and the prosciutto cotto. After the pizza is cooked, Pepe places torn bits of the tomato sheets on top, then sprinkles on the dehydrated olives and capers plus oregano, fried mushrooms, drops of oil from strained anchovies and dots of the basil puree.
“Dignity is given back to the pizza,” he says.
I guess? I’m sure those flatbreads are delicious, but are they still pizza? 🤔
For those who are still wondering who that is in Wordloaf’s new Pie January header image, this video should provide some clues.
That’s it for this week’s pizza box. May you all have a peaceful/pizzaful weekend.
Never one to miss a chance to promote our favorite pizzeria, Wheated, which was mentioned when the Times took up this topic: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/08/dining/wheated-pizza-washington-squares.html?smid=url-share
But I agree no box really works.