Welcome back to part 2 of Ed Levine's Special Sauce conversation about pizza in the wake of the revelation by pizza historian Peter Regas about the true origins of New York City pizza.
If you recall from last week, Regas has demonstrated that Lombardi's, which was long thought to have been the first pizzeria in New York, was in fact not the first. This week, Regas shares a little bit of what he's discovered about the origins of Chicago's iconic deep dish pizza. As is par for the course with any discussion about deep dish among pizza-heads, this bit of history is accompanied by a lot of talk about whether deep dish is or isn't a casserole. (It's a casserole, folks!)
Ed then gets Regas and Sasha to talk about their favorite pizza joints in Chicago and New York and beyond, which they do with only a little bit of reluctance. A few of the names you might recognize, as either a local or a pizza enthusiast: Coalfire, Spacca Napoli, Mama's Too, Speedy Romeo's...did I hear someone say the Illuminati?
In the second half of the episode, Ed has on J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, who needs no introduction, and they talk about Regas's revelations and the nature of history. Kenji also gives us a preview of some new menu items on the menu at Wursthall, his restaurant in San Mateo, Calif, where he's planning on doing flammkuchen, which is a kind of-not really German pizza, and he shares a little bit of why he enjoys making pizza and pizza-type things so much. "Because you're interacting with a live thing," Kenji says, "that certainly takes a lot more skill than working with something like sous vide...There's nothing precise at all in the pizza oven. So, when you get it right, it's pretty nice."
That's just a small taste of all the pizza talk packed in this episode, and we hope you give it a listen.
The full transcript for this episode can be found over here at Serious Eats: https://www.seriouseats.com/2019/03/special-sauce-peter-regas-pizza-origin-story-2-2.html
We rarely deal with breaking news on Special Sauce, but when said news concerns pizza's US origins, exceptions must be made. As soon as I learned that Peter Regas, a Chicago-based statistician by day and pizza obsessive by night, had discovered that there were pizzerias operating in Brooklyn and Manhattan years before Gennaro Lombardi opened what has long been thought to be the country's first pizzeria in 1905, I knew we had to have him on the podcast for an extended interview. I even brought in reinforcements: New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells, and Serious Eats senior editor and veteran pizzaiolo, Sasha Marx.
Here's a taste of what Regas shared with us: “What we know there is a man named Filippo Milone who had probably come, it's not clear, but he'd probably come around 1892 to America from Italy...The first indication that we have hard evidence of him owning a business is at 47 Union Street, again in Red Hook…That would be then in the early part of 1898....Then what we have at Spring Street, 53 Spring Street [the site of Lombardi's original location], we have a permit that's applied for in the summer of 1898. That's for a bake oven. The man that appears in the next directory cycle, which would be the early part of 1899, is...Phil Malone, Filippo Milone, it's the same man.”
Pete Wells told Regas that when he heard the news, he tweeted that "it was like if we found out some other dude wrote The Federalist Papers and The Declaration of Independence and then, like, gave them to Madison and Jefferson and we never knew it. It was some guy named Tony all along.” Wells urged Regas to continue his research, telling him, “Follow the mozzarella, Peter.”
Pizza nerds (and even plain old pizza enthusiasts) will rejoice in the conversation that ensued. To get started on your own mozzarella journey, check out this week’s episode, and stay tuned for part two next week, when Regas expounds on his discovery and Kenji weighs in on all things pizza.
The full transcript for this episode can be found over here at Serious Eats: https://www.seriouseats.com/preview?record=441852
On this week's Special Sauce, Doug Crowell and Ryan Angulo talk a lot about a lot of things, including their cookbook, the aptly titled Kindness and Salt: The Care and Feeding of Your Friends and Neighbors.
I asked them to dissect the unusual title, starting with "kindness." Doug explained, "It's a big part of what we do...We try to be kind in everything we do, in our relationships as a staff and also with our customers. So that would have to be a part of our book. That's our philosophy."
But what about the salt? Doug said, "The salt is sort of shorthand for just cooking...cooking with flavor and cooking with common sense and cooking with salt, literally...and salt has a double meaning, because sometimes we all get a little salty."
When I asked about the subtitle, Ryan noted, "That was our working title for the book pretty much since the beginning." And Doug pointed out, "That nicely encapsulates what we do."
I wondered whether that philosophy of caring for friends and neighbors extended to their kitchens, where in restaurant culture in general there has long been a traditional of verbal abuse. Does Ryan scream? "No," Ryan said. "Not at all. Well, it depends, but, I mean, you have to really be doing something like that's just really idiotic and just not respectful of the food or the restaurant to really make me mad. But on a day-to-day basis, no, I don't walk around yelling, and I know a lot of chefs do. That's kind of one of the biggest things I learned from working in kitchens is what I didn't want to do when I became a chef, and that was pretty much one of them."
Ryan and Doug also talked about the importance of the person greeting customers at their restaurants. "The person at the door has this dual responsibility. One is just friendliness, but the other one is this sort of mad air traffic control situation where you're trying to shuffle everything around and make it work and promise people they're gonna sit down in 15 minutes and they really will or an hour and a half and they really will. I think of that person as being second only to the chef as far as making the whole thing go."
According to them, one of their door people is from the South, and she has a magic word, a contraction in fact, that has disarmed many a peeved customer, but you're just going to have to listen to find out what it is.
The full transcript for this episode can be found over here at Serious Eats: https://www.seriouseats.com/2019/02/special-sauce-doug-crowell-ryan-angulo-2-2.html