(Volume VII No. 4)
"Pizza on Earth, Good Will to All!"
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This issue is going out to over 5,000 Pizza
1. What's New: Conversations With The Legends of Pizza®
2. Officer Dave Garro: Pizzaiolo
3. "Bottle of Wine, Fruit of the Vine..."
I Like Spinach
1. What's New: Conversations With The Legends of Pizza®
(Please note: all links on this page will open in a new
I love to talk. I don't think this is a secret. I will talk about anything. I have an opinion about everything, and
I will tell you my opinion, if you ask.
Of course my favorite subject is pizza. Don't get me started.
I can go on and on.
On a whim, I decided to call
Chef Peter Reinhart
(author of American Pie) a true
Legend of Pizza. As I discuss in my
blog, we had a wonderful conversation. I
told you about this in the last issue of Pizza News.
Operating on the same whim, I called
two other Legends of Pizza ®. Imagine my
shock, and utter surprise, when they talked back.
Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana..
I asked for Gary
Gary Bimonte, is a good friend.
He is the grandson of
Gary is a co-owner of
Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana.
located in New Haven, Connecticut.
took time out of his busy
schedule to talk about the success of
Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana,
new store and pizza in general. We had a wonderful conversation.
I was batting 100%. I felt
positive. There was another Pizza Legend, I had to talk with.
I decided to try to get in touch with Chris Bianco, owner of
located in Phoenix, Arizona.
I had heard, and read about him. I received a number of emails about him. I
had pizza questions for him.
A woman answered. Chris Bianco was busy, she explained. She asked for a
telephone number. He would call me back, she said. Ten minutes later, the phone
rang. Chris Bianco was ready to talk.
His pizza is rated as the Best Pizza in the World by
Peter Reinhart, (American
Pie), Ed Levine, (A
Slice of Heaven) and Penny Pollack and Jeff Ruby (Everybody
Loves Pizza). Chris Bianco knows
pizzatherapy.com is mentioned in all three
books. Coincidence? I think not...)
is not only a Legend of Pizza, but a really nice
person as well. He is not
"the best at what he does, he is the only one
who does what he does".
Chris Bianco and his brother, make all of their
pizza dough by hand. No kidding. They do not use a mixer, kitchen aide or
food processor. They mix their pizza dough the old fashioned way, by hand.
Chris and I had a fantastic conversation. Here, is
this famous pizzaiolo, one of the true
Legends of Pizza®,
talking to me on the phone, while he is on the pizza line, creating pizzas. Incredible.
I appreciate all of your support. I am thankful for your comments.
Also, could you please do me a
favor? Can you please,
tell your friends
2. Officer Dave Garro: Pizzaiolo
Garro loves pizza. He has been making great
pizza for years. He wanted to take his pizza to the next level. He decided to
build brick pizza oven in his backyard.
He had one small problem. Dave Garro
had no idea how to lay brick. He had no idea how to design a brick pizza oven.
He learned as his project progressed. He created his pizza oven. He was written
up all over the country.
Here is the story. Several Pizza
News Readers wrote to me about Dave Garro.
I decided to contact him. I explained:
Dear Dave,,,I would like to do
an... interview with you. The interview
will appear in an upcoming issue of “Pizza News”.
Dave graciously, accepted.
Hi Dave. Thanks for agreeing to do this
interview. Can you please tell me how you first got interested in making
pizza? Who taught you? What sparked your interest?
My earliest recollection of making
pizza is tied with my grandmother. She was born in Italy, and came to the US
sometime in the early 1900's. Just about every Sunday, we would go to here
house and eat pizza that she had made.
Her pizzas, although delicious,
were different from the usual pizza of today. The
dough would be pressed into a rectangular pan to about 1/2 inch thick. She
would dimple the top with her fingers and then pour olive oil over it.
Home-canned tomatoes would be spooned over the dough, and finally she would add
the spices–salt, oregano, and black pepper. She would put so much pepper and
oregano on the pizza that its top was literally black.
The pizza then would be baked.
No cheese was added. When it was done, this pizza was great. About and
inch-and-a-half thick, very spicy, and the dimpled in the dough created wells
where the sauce and the oil would collect, making little flavor pockets.
I guess that
memory accounts for my interest in pizza. As for learning to make a good
pizza, it’s been a long process of trial and error.
me about those first pizzas. How did they turn out? Have your pizzas evolved
over time? Do they taste different?
As a teenager I liked to cook,
and I would occasionally make pizza. Compared to what I’m making now,
those early pizzas were fairly bland. The dough (and I believe the dough
accounts for 90% of the pizza) was tough and usually dried-out from being
cooked at too low a temperature in a regular oven.
the results, I began experimenting and trying different dough recipes and
methods of baking pizza. I found that I could get a pretty good pizza
using a baking stone (either in the oven or on a grill) and by using a
slow fermentation on the dough. By slow fermentation, I mean making the
dough with a small amount of yeast (maybe one teaspoon to every three cups
of flour) and allowing the dough to rise in the refrigerator overnight.
Using slow fermentation and a stone will take anyone’s pizza making to the
How did you come up with the idea to build a pizza / bread oven in your
back yard? Where did your inspiration come from? Why Dave, why?
As I said, I
was making pretty good pizzas using a baking stone and a slow fermentation
dough, but it still wasn’t as good as I though it could be. I was always
wondering why the crust on (some) restaurant pizzas was better than my
crust. Additionally, I had been baking bread for about twenty years, and
the bread, too, failed to meet my expectation of what really good bread
So, I started researching, and I found
that a truly good pizza crust—light, airy, browned, and chewy—could be had
only by cooking the pizza at an extremely high temperature—about 750
degrees Fahrenheit. While on the internet, I ran across several sites on
brick ovens, and the more I learned about them and what they could do, the
more I became convinced that I would build an oven of my own.
you a mason or have experience working with cement and stone?
I undertook with project without having any experience in
masonry or stonework, but I have always been fairly handy around the
house. A few books from the library on brick laying, some conversation
with the sales people at the local building supply yard, and the
willingness to give it a try were all that was needed to get it done.
Stonework is an ancient building form. I figured that if the
Romans (my ancient ancestors) could do it, then so could I.
How did you come up with the design? Did you have any help?
contact any consultants? How did you do your research? Have you heard
They offer free oven plans.
While there is a bunch of information about building a brick oven on the
Web, the best advice that I can give anyone interested in building an oven
is to get a copy of The Bread Builders by Alan Scott and Daniel Wing.
This book is the cornerstone to successful oven construction. It includes
oven theory, construction techniques, firing techniques, and a material
list. Additionally, it explains the history of brick oven baking as well
as gives a comprehensive study on dough, fermentation, and wheat. What the
book does not include is an actual plan or blue print for an oven,
although one can be purchased from Scott’s web site. As I said, I’m
fairly handy, and I was able to draw up a plan from the basic information
in the book. Anyone considering building a brick oven should get a copy
of this book and study it.
What did your wife say when you told her you were building a
oven? What does she say now?
When I told my wife that I was going to build a pizza oven,
she was against the idea. Of course, she is usually against my ideas,
especially when they concern climbing onto the roof or rewiring an outlet
without turning off the power.
As for the oven, her exact words were that
she “didn’t want that monstrosity in the back yard.” It didn’t help that
she doesn’t really like pizza (I didn’t know that when I married her.
Since I’ve built it, though, she has become a changed woman. She likes
and eats pizzas, but only from the oven. She also thinks that the oven
looks nice and blends in with the backyard. Still makes me turn off the
power when wiring, though.
Explain the process for using your pizza oven. How much time does it take
to heat up? Do you make multiple pizzas and breads once you get it heated
On average, my oven takes 2 to 3 hours to heat to make pizza. In that
length of time, I can drive the surface temperature of the interior
masonry to 750 F. I’ve made pizza when the outdoor temperature was below
freezing, and then it took an hour or so longer to get up to temperature.
If I’m planning on baking bread, it takes about 6 hours to get the oven up
to temperature. That’s because, I need to store more heat in the oven to
bake bread than I need for pizza. Pizza cooks quickly—about 2 to 3
minutes at 750 degrees and there is a fire going in the back of the oven
while it cooks (this helps cook the top of the pizza while the oven hearth
cooks the bottom).
Bread, needs 30 minutes to an hour at 450 degrees and
there is no secondary fire going. Although bread cooks at a lower
temperature than the pizza, it takes much longer to cook—about 30 minutes
to an hour depending on the bread. The surface temperature of the
interior masonry needs to be about 450 degrees, but there has to be
sufficient heat stored deep inside the brick to continue cooking for an
hour. I have buried a thermocouple 4 ½ inches deep into the interior
masonry of the oven. When this thermocouple registers 400 degrees, I know
that I have stored enough heat, deep enough in the masonry to bake bread.
When firing the oven, I generally bake 6 to 8 large pizzas, one
after the other, and then re-fire the oven for awhile in order to bake
bread. The interior dimension of my oven is 30 inches wide by 44 inches
deep. That’s large enough to get 10 or more loaves of bread at once. The
most that I have baked at once, though, is five 2 pound loaves.
Do you have any pizza tips or pizza tricks you would like to
I don’t know about tricks,
but I will repeat this: slow, cool, overnight fermentation and the use of
a stone will make anyone’s pizza much, much better. If you already use
these techniques and are still looking for that perfect pizza, consider
building a wood fired pizza oven. Pizza from a brick oven is like no
other—it even made a convert of my wife.
Do you have a favorite pizza recipe you would like to share with
Actually, I don’t have a favorite recipe. I’ve had pizzas as
traditional as pepperoni and cheese to squid-topped to goat cheese and
spinach, and I liked them all.
Put whatever you like on your pizza, try
new things, but remember that the crust is 90% of the pizza. All the
toppings in the world won’t improve a bad crust, and too many toppings
will obscure a good crust. I usually don’t put more than 2 or 3 toppings
on a pizza, but do as you please. As Leno says, “even bad pizza is still
How do you have time to be a full time policeman, husband,
father and pizzaiolo?
We all have time to do what is important to us.
The best thing
about my pizza oven is how friends and family enjoy it. I have a 4 year
old daughter and 5 year old son who love to make their own pizza. They
flatten the dough, put on the toppings they want, and then I bake it for
them. It’s quality family time together.
Similarly, the big kids—the
adults—enjoy tossing their own dough and baking their own pizzas in the
oven. That’s the best part of having the pizza oven—it’s a gathering
place for friends and family. After all, everyone loves a great pizza.
And that, my friend, Dave, is what
Therapy is all about! Making pizza with friends and family, is
a magical, experience. You nailed it! You are are a true Pizza Therapist. As a
result of your Positive Pizza Passion, I am awarding you a Doctorate in Pizza
Therapy. Any final thoughts, Doctor Dave?
Albert, thanks for the interest in my oven. If you or your readers
ever decide to build an oven, I a more than happy to answer any questions
that you might have. Feel free to
e-mail me at:
and to share this
info with your readers. Thanks, DG
Thank you very much, Dave. Great interview.
"Bottle of Wine, Fruit of the Vine..."
I recently subscribed to your site and love Pizza
News. I make my sauce from scratch and It's pretty close to your recipe.
My question is,
what is the best red table wine to use in your sauce? I have asked
many people and got just as many answers and tried some wines they suggested
and were terrible.
said to use a red wine that was not aged in an oak barrels because it gives off
a bitter or harsh taste, can you help me out with your suggestions.
Thank you for the free news letter and recipes.
Thanks for the kind words Lou. Great question. I use what I have around
My philosophy is if it is good enough to drink, it's good enough for my sauce
I will ask the Pizza News readers what they think...I am sure we will get some
4. I Like Spinach
When I was younger, I did not like
spinach. Yes, I knew this was Popeye's
favorite food, but I did not like it.
Now, I can't get enough of it.
I use fresh spinach on
pizza and salads. The spinach just seems to
be a good fit for pizza. I just put a pile on my dough and pile mozzarella and
parmesan cheese on top of it. Then I drizzle a little bit of EVOO (that's
Rachael Ray speak for Extra Virgin Olive Oil) on top. It's great.
I used to steam fresh spinach
to cook it. But, there are countless other ways to prepare this great vegetable.
When I was working with Chef Peter in my
Cooking Class, a few years back, he showed me a new way (for me) to prepare
fresh spinach. Chef Peter's
To prepare the spinach,
wash thoroughly. I just put the spinach in a
large bowl filled with water. Allow any dirt to drop to the bottom of the bowl..
Drain the water. Repeat the process until your fresh
spinach is clean. Drain the spinach
in a colander or on a paper towel until dry. Make sure
the spinach is
completely dry before attempting the next step.
Get a large frying pan, heat to medium low heat. Put in a
couple of tablespoons of EEOV (See above). Mince two cloves of garlic.
Place in the pan. Just when the garlic starts to cook, put in one to two cups of
fresh spinach. Cover. After a few minutes
mix the spinach and olive oil. Keep covered
and after a few minutes mix again. When the spinach
is completely wilted, it is done.
Try this method of cooking spinach.
You may have a new appreciation for
from pizzatherapy.com Blog and Other Tales
"Pizza on Earth, Good Will to
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Albert Grande, The Pizza Promoter
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