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Italy Official Owns Neapolitan Pizza - What Does That Mean for the Future of Pizza?

Pizza NewsDan TallaricoComment
Vera Pizza Sign

Well, it’s official. Italy and Naples are the clear owners of Neapolitan pizza. Unesco, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, has given pizza “intangible heritage” status. Meaning it is officially part of Italy’s cultural tapestry. They official own neapolitan pizza.

This makes sense as they’ve been trying to regulate and control pizza for years. Everyone knew that neapolitan style pizza belonged to the fine folks in Naples, where it was originally created, but now it’s official. There’s some comfort in official decrees much as there’s comfort in Neapolitan pizza itself.

Because of strict regulations neapolitan pizza’s consistency is rivaled only by Starbucks. You can walk into any restaurant that features the pizzaiolo mascot (a man in a white outfit and black mask) and know exactly what you’re getting. It’s a sign of quality, fresh cheese, and San Marzano tomatoes. As it’s grown in popularity there have been several liberties taken to the pizza that stalwarts find quite offensive.

Neapolitan Pizza adheres to a strict set of rules. The fine folks at Forno Bravo actually translated the latest update to the regulations around neapolitan pizza. There are eight article that describe how to make the pizza, what flour to use, the temperature of each ingredient, how to serve the pizza and even the signage promoting the use of neapolitan pizza. You can read it in its entirety here.

The regulations are extensive, but if you had created one of the most popular foods and saw it evolve into a medium to house things like buffalo chicken and ranch dressing wouldn’t you go the extra mile to put some rules around the lawless mess? But those rules can stifle creativity. My favorite pizza comes when pizza makers take the neapolitan style and tweak it ever so slightly to create what pizza enthusiasts call “neo-neapolitan” pizza.

The Green Pointer from Pizza Taglio is a wonderful evolution of the future of pizza.

The Green Pointer from Pizza Taglio is a wonderful evolution of the future of pizza.

Neo-Neapolitan Pizza Enters the Ring

Neo-neapolitan pizza gives the pizzaiolo more control and agency about how to cook the pizza. Whether they want to mess with the shape, cheese and tomatoes, or the temperature of the oven. Neo-neapolitan is an evolution of the classic, and if pizza wants to maintain its ubiquity you’ll see the younger generation adopt fewer guidelines. After all, a refusal to change and adapt has doomed plenty of industries.

A perfect example of neo-neapolitan pizza is what Tony makes at Pizza Taglio. Tony cooks at a lower temperature and plays around with the rise time of dough and core ingredients. It may look like the Wikipedia entry for pizza, but someone from Naples would see the difference almost immediately. The Green Pointer is what happens when someone who knows the rules and regulations around pizza and understands the right way to (respectfully) break them.  The creation isn’t disastrous or alarming, it’s familiar but at the same time new and intriguing. 

Neo-Neapolitan pizza builds a bridge between the past and future. It’s a fun spin on the classic, but contains enough of the fundamental aspects of pizza to deliver that comfortness that we’ve come to expect from neapolitan pizza.

Another view of the delicious Green Pointer, which I would love to be eating this very second.

Another view of the delicious Green Pointer, which I would love to be eating this very second.

Dispatch from Pizza Expo 2017: The Prequel

Pizza ExpoDan TallaricoComment
PizzaExpoBadge

Pizza Expo is an astounding event that happens every year in Las Vegas. Last year I sent my associate editor, Tom Tallarico, to the show to cover the pizza news. Tom loves pizza so much he always capitalizes the word. You can read his Pizza Expo Coverage from last year here. With a year under his belt, as well as at least 100 more pizza slices, Tom is ready to tackle the 2017 Pizza Expo.These are his unedited reports.

PIZZA EXPO 2017

Well back at the EXPO again. Been looking forward to getting back since LAST March. And as time passes, Pizza becomes more popular (if that is possible) and takes on more & interesting iterations, i.e. Wood fired, 90 seconds in & out of the oven (as authentic as it gets), creative sauces & toppings & more shops than ever. Over the past year, my Pizza adventures have included:

Periodical Pizza fests around the city with prominent participants including Driftwood oven, Caliente, Graziano’s, Pizza Taglio among others.

Speaking of Driftwood Oven, have enjoyed their fare at various brewerys around town. Also, happy to see press release touting Neil being recognized with a Rust Belt Rising Chef award. Congratulations to him.

 

Eric Von Hanson with his award winning Pan Pizza from Caliente

Eric Von Hanson with his award winning Pan Pizza from Caliente

Speaking of award winners, last year’s Pizza Expo Champion for Pan Pizza, Eric Von Hanson had the Pan Pizza put on the menu some months ago. But the big surprise is they have put the actual Pan winner, the Quack Attack, on the menu as well. Have to get one at least once a month.

Paulie Gee's Logan Square

Always enjoy the Brunch at Spirit Lounge featuring their wonderful pizza product including watching a Steeler playoff game there.

Two class places in Chicago; Bleuna & Paulie Gee’s out of NYC. Went to see Tony Scardino hard at work. He is an associate of Tony G. who I met last year at the Expo.

Up and coming pizza maker, Anthony Scardino with Pizza Walk With Me associate editor, Tom Tallarico

Up and coming pizza maker, Anthony Scardino with Pizza Walk With Me associate editor, Tom Tallarico

Always enjoy mainstays Fazio’s in Lawrenceville & Casa del Sol in Aspinwall.

Many others that I have missed as well. But haven’t been to Spak Bros. yet which I need to get to. It’s on my list.

Vytauras of Citizen Pie waving hello!,

Vytauras of Citizen Pie waving hello!,

Of course, Pittsburgh Pizza fest. I missed it as I was in Ohio. However, on my way home per a colleagues recommendation, I stopped at a place in Cleveland called Citizens Pie. Outstanding Pie!!! Some of the freshest ingredients/topping ever. The Soppressata was cut thick & exceptional. Turns out, Pizza maker/owner Vytauras will be at the Expo this week for the 1st time. One of his guys will be competing in the Box folding contest trying to break the World record.

A slice of pizza from Citizen Pie in Cleveland, Ohio

A slice of pizza from Citizen Pie in Cleveland, Ohio

All that said, now looking forward to a Fun Fun week. Actually the weekend in Vegas was quite fun already. 

Slice on Broadway, a Local Pizza Darling - #PGHPizzaWeek

Pizza EssayDan TallaricoComment

Find me a single person that dislikes Slice on Broadway. I dare you. Watch the video above and try and find a severe flaw.

It's impossible. Helmed by Rico Lunardi, Slice on Broadway is a pizza shop that is slowly taking over Pittsburgh pizza. His aggressive and intelligent expansion has earned him a spot in PNC Park, replacing the bland Diamond Pizza shop. A win for all parties involved.

Rico's mission is to build out consistently delicious pizza and, basically, ensure that everyone in Pittsburgh has access to amazing pizza. He shows no signs of slowing down which is a boon for everyone in the area. 

I'm a big fan of what Rico has accomplished, heck the guy even got the mayor to declare April 14th as the official Slice on Broadway day in the city! If you haven't eaten a slice of Slice on Broadway, do yourself a favor and go to one of his locations this week.

What I Order

  • Rico stocks his shops with rare meats for a pizza shop: I always get a pie with soppressata. 
  • Pepperoni rolls aren a good side option!

Slice on Broadway Ordering Info

Slice on Broadway in the News

Driftwood Oven Experiments With Square Slices - #PGHPIZZAWEEK

Pizza EssayDan TallaricoComment
Driftwood Oven experiments with square slices

Driftwood Oven experiments with square slices

I don't know what kind of witchcraft happens under Driftwood Oven's pizza tent. Over the cold season, Neil and Justin set up their mobile home and zip themselves inside their pizza den. If you're at Grist House, Dancing Gnome or any other location they call home, to order the pizza you unzip their tent and enter the pizza cave.

The Driftwood Oven pizza cave is a warm safe place. Some folks linger inside with their beer and watch Neil expertly work the oven. Justin is a one-man-show ready to entertain anyone that enters. The pizza cave draws people in, like travelers gathering next to a warm hearth to rest their weary legs and tell tales of pizza.

On my most recent visit into the Driftwood Oven pizza cave, Neil had a tray of square slices. Driftwood Oven has been teasing square slices for a long time. In fact, I had sampled some square slices from Driftwood Oven months ago. The ones Neil are selling today is an evolution of that product. I asked him if this means he finally mastered the formula. 

"It's never perfect. You know that. It's a constant work in progress," was Neil's response. I suppose an artist is never truly satisfied. 

But square slices have a nostalgia to them. My uncle was so excited to see the slices on the menu that he ordered six. "Growing up in Beaver, it's all we ate. For your birthday they set down a platter of square slices," said my uncle, Don Erb, about his history with square slices.

Here Don uses the "blow on hot pizza" technique to cool it down a few degrees.

Here Don uses the "blow on hot pizza" technique to cool it down a few degrees.

There is a rustic feeling to the square slices. It recalls memories of grandma pie: dough mashed into a square tray and plopped into the oven. It requires much less finesse than getting a round pie. 

Driftwood Oven's square slices were delicious. The slices were solid, sturdy, and provided a hearty crunch. In past iterations the inside has been much softer, so maybe they're trying to strike that crunch-to-soft-balance. 

still, it was beautiful and it was simple. I'm excited to eat tray after tray of their square pie in the coming months.

What I Order

  • A margherita and something zany on the menu.
  • Gotta grab a square slice as an appetizer.
  • Get a pizza per person.

How to Hunt Down Driftwood Oven

Other Driftwood Oven News

 

2015 TOP PIZZA MOMENTS IN THE STEEL CITY BABY - Moments 6-4

Pizza ListsDan Tallarico1 Comment
BestPittsburghPizzaMoments

We’re back for another wonderful look at the finest pizza moments to grease up the city of Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh can be unassuming. It’s a city drowning in the soil of history. Slowly but surely we’re seeing germination of innovation. From the soil wonderful inventive plants are popping up to make the landscape varied and wonderful. What a great ecosystem.

Anyways, it turns out that this is an awesome environment for pizza. Did you know I type that sentence 60 times a week? Wild. Well, let’s get to it. Moments 6, 5 and 4 are just ahead!

6 - The Steel City Pizza Fest Happened

Pizza Pinup Contest

DJ Zombo put together Pittsburgh’s first Pizza Festival because...well why not. It was a wonderful event held in Lawrenceville’s Arsenal Park where Bloomfield, Garfield and Lawrenceville’s finest pizzerias came together to sell pizzas.

But, it wasn’t just a couple of booths with pizzas. Oh no. There was the Pizza Pinup contest where anyone could enter and be voted Ms. PizzaBurgh. Spak Brothers held a pizza eating contest every hour. Anyone could enter and race against the clock to eat a large pizza the fastest.

It was as disgusting as it was beautiful.

Spak Brothers Pizza Eating Competition

Graziano’s ended up taking home the people’s choice award, edging out Angelo’s by a single vote! How exciting. I hope to see Pizza Festival make a return next year.

5: Pizza Dojo 3: Driftwood Oven vs Pizza Boat

Driftwood Oven's Pizza Dojo lineup

Driftwood Oven's Pizza Dojo lineup

There’s nothing better than a good pizza rivalry. Pizza Boat knows how to ham it up for the crowd and play the pizza heel. I’ve had many folks ask me if Pizza Boat actually hates other pizza makers and the answer is obviously yes.

Just look at Jeff’s vicious attacks on Driftwood Oven in this video from the competition:

I’m just glad everyone made it out alive.

I hope Pizza Dojo never goes away. It’s an amazing way to introduce pizza innovations and bring a community together around great pizza.  As I wrote in my summary of the event:

Pizza Dojo isn't about a single night in Pittsburgh, it's about trying something new in the Pittsburgh pizza scene. Pushing one another to innovate and make better pizza.

Instead of existing side-by-side for years on a street in Squirrel Hill and pretending that the world on the other side of the counter hasn't changed, the pizza makers that enter the Pizza Dojo emerge with a new perspective. A new definition of pizza. Confidence to try something new and push the pizza envelope to the edge of the table.

4: Tony Gemignani visits Pittsburgh

TonyPizzaBible

You may not know Tony Gemignani, but he’s responsible for spreading the pizza gospel across the country. He’s written The Pizza Bible, an amazing book that covers every nook and cranny of pizza fundamentals. He’s put on clinics and has been crowned the World Pizza Champion.

And, this year he paid a visit to Pittsburgh to sign copies of his book and show off his pizza theory.

ThePizzaBible

He’s a guy that loves making pizza. His motto is “Respect the Craft.” And that’s a mentality that I see more and more pizza makers in Pittsburgh adopting. They put ingredients on pizza with a purpose. Nothing is haphazard and everything has a reason.


Meeting Tony was awesome, but the turnout for the event was even more impressive. Caliente was filled to the brim with pizza enthusiasts waiting to talk with Tony and exchange pizza tips.


So that's Pizza Moments 6-4! You can read moments 9-7 here. 

Driftwood Pizza Oven Brings Pizza to Pittsburgh Pizza Deserts

Pizza EssayDan Tallarico1 Comment

Driftwood Oven is a mobile pizza unit that drifts from one Pittsburgh neighborhood to the other on a regular basis. Here’s a look at one of their recent schedules:

They’ll set up shop outside coffee shops, breweries, neighborhoods and just about any location that needs an oasis in a pizza desert. I met the Driftwood Oven duo, Neil and Justin, while they were in Greenfield. "We see the most characters in Greenfield," Justin tells me, as a man walks by blurting out an out-of-the-blue confession that he has lived in Greenfield for 40 years and thinks his son should open up a pie shop called We Got Pies.

"I always have the best names, but no money." the Greenfield Citizen says with a hearty laugh, masking any hints of regret. Can you believe he just gave that idea away to us for free? And now I'm here broadcasting his thought to the world? Man. 

The curious citizen / entrepreneur wanders off and Justin continues to tell me how he got in this business when Neil approached him about a bread partnership.

Justin was working at the front of the house with Neil down at Legume / Butterjoint. Neil does the baking and heads up the dough making for Driftwood Oven. Neil approached Justin with a business idea of making bread. Justin basically said he'd be crazy to not follow Neil into bread battle. And now here they are.

They started with bread, but bread is just a gateway grain to improved, complex, foods like pizza. Neil is a big fan of sourdough bread, he says “I was really interested in sour dough bread which translates well to pizza. I started baking, pizza is a nice combo of baking, cooking and manipulating food at the same time.”

Neil began to create pizza simply because it’s fun. He says, “You’re trying to do the same thing with the pizza [make something perfect]. With bread you don’t get to touch it, you put it in the oven and it’s done. You hope everything is perfect. But it’s not hands on and fun like wood fired pizza.”

And eating their pizza is fun. The telltale sign of a Driftwood Oven pizza is its lillypad nature; the pizza is light, floppy. There’s a crunch to the crust, but the charred coating is merely a thin piece of armor. A trick to scare away would-be predators? Inside the pizza guts are soft, chewy, almost like a naan.

I had their margherita and Archer. I found the margherita a bit too salty. Maybe because the sea salt ontop of the pizza was a bit too much? Despite that, I devoured the pizza. The crust was calling my name and a bit of salt wasn't going to stop me from enjoying the rest.

On the opposite end, the Archer had the perfect amount of sauce and sausage. The sausage had a pleasant heat to it. A warmness that was much appreciated on a cold Greenfield night. Combine quality meats with a stunning crust and you have a pizza that you'll write poetry to.

The pizzas they serve host an entire pizza ecosystem. They're more mature, the ingredients are precisely installed on the dough and cooked with a keen eye. These pizzas just seem wise and cultured.

Is it the presentation? The look and feel of the pizza? Everything feels at home. The cheese settles in just the right valley of crust. The sauce spread itself just thin enough.  Each time they pop a dough into their oven a big-bang like event occurs and a billion years of pizza evolution happens in just 10 minutes. The finished product is a pizza built with the knowledge and experience of every pizza that came before.

But that’s due to Neil’s obsession. He's just as worried as what you put in your body as he is.  He says, “I care a lot about what goes into this. Everything on the plate is good for you. I’m not going to serve you anything that I wouldn’t eat.”

Neil's studious and careful nature doesn't end at ingredients. As you read this there is no doubt Neil is tinkering with his bread recipe and has multiple kinds of bread rising in the wings. Neil says, “I have four or five different recipes that work with our timing schedules. There are some rising now. So, our pizza is going to be different depending on when you eat it, but it’s pretty close every time. It’s a good system.”

While I was loitering outside Driftwood Oven, I saw families come and go, a policeman call in a pizza and then drive across town to pick it up. I saw Neil and Justin introduce themselves to newcomers. Their excitement around the oven built as the night went on.

While the mobile oven doesn’t seem like it’s going to stop any time soon, Neil can envision a world where him and Justin grow some roots and open a store. Neil says, “This is a nice opportunity to build a skill set then transfer it to a brick and mortar place. I hope I can have a little spot some time soon.”

Watch Driftwood Oven batter Pizza Boat in the Pizza Dojo:



Coffee & Pizza at Espresso A Mano

Dan TallaricoComment

Saturday mornings at Espresso A Mano are hectic. You have everyone in the Lawrenceville area piling in for one of the best cups of coffee in the city. The  line accordions its way out the door, tables are hard to come by. A team of bikers orders 10 cappuccino’s and the espresso machine hisses in excitement.

And what is better than a cup of coffee? Obviously, if you’re reading this you think pizza is great. And it is. But it has its place. Usually in the afternoon or evening. But maybe we should start exploring pizza’s contribution to the world of coffee? 

Coffee spills into my stomach, causing it to grumble with delight. I pour all the coffee down my gullet and while I’m energized to the point that I can see into the future and tab through 30 browser windows, my guts are feeling forgotten. 

A body cannot subsist on coffee alone. The folks at Espresso a Mano realize this after witnessing their customers began to quake. Scones and croissants aren’t potent enough to ward off “Coffee Stomach.” Something had to be done. To steady the human body and soak up caffeine, they summon pizza to their coffee shop. 

The soft dough and oils bring harmony to the digestion tract while the cheese and fresh toppings provide a flavor that complements your cappucino.

The pizza is brought in from La Tavola Italiana in Mt Lebanon. It’s not a place I’ve heard of before, but there’s a reason they import pizza from miles away. If you didn’t know any better you would think it was being shipped in from Rome every morning.

By the time you’re eating the pizza (which arrives by noon on Saturdays at Espresso A Mano) it’s mildly warm, in a comforting way. The quality of the ingredients keep the pizza from fizzling out. Like a great cup of coffee that’s easy to drink piping hot and smooth when it hits room temperature.

The crust is chewy and soft. There’s some tearing that needs to happen and you’re definitely getting your flours worth. If you’re feeling adventurous you’ll grab some of that doughy crust to dip into your coffee. No one will look at you with shame. It’s something we’ve all wanted to every so often, you’re just the brave person who took action.

Sauce is tangy and thick like a pasta sauce. There are swirls of toppings and a layer of cheese as white as the fence Huck Finn painted. 

I’m a proponent of eating pizza from the source—but these large slices delivered to Espresso A Mano hold their own. They’re a tease of the real pizza, the pizza that hasn’t been removed from its natural habitat. The pizza that bursts from the oven and into your mouth is a pizza that you cherish.

Yet, this is amazing. And I cannot wait for their pizza shop to open up in East Liberty. Their shop, Taglio, will specialize in Roman Style pizza. If it’s anything like the pizza I had in Rome, they’ll charge you by the gram. 

These slices were built for endurance and make great traveling companions. Get one to-go with your espresso or save it for later. The genius of this pizza is the minimal toppings. There’s nothing offensive or over-the-top on this pizza. It’s clearly the fundamentals and nothing more. The lack of exoticism acts as its own preservative. There’s no gloopy cheese to erode the pizza and there’s the right amount of oil without becoming slippery.

The this dough soaks up any ingredients that try to escape. The longer you wait, the better this pizza tastes. It’s a functional masterpiece of pizza engineering. 

I’ll be interviewing the owner this Saturday. Stay tuned for more insight about Taglio. Got questions? Get in touch. 

Pittsburgh's Proper Brick Oven and Tap Room - Pizza Review

Dan TallaricoComment

image

As downtown Pittsburgh begins to revitalize, one of the driving forces behind its resurgence is pizza. In the past few years there have been a suspicious amount of restaurants serving "authentic" pizza in the area. Places like Winghart’s, Il Pizzaiolo, and Stone. It’s nice that in a half-mile radius you can grab a dozen different types of pizza. If you collect them all I can guarantee no two will be the same, but you’ll probably be barfing into one of the rivers. Maybe that’s why we have so many rivers? In case of our sudden gluttony. 

The newest addition to Pittsburgh’s Pizza Club is Proper. Proper Brick Over and Tap Room, to be long-winded.

Proper promises a proper dining experience that any human should be proud of—a draft list that encompasses an entire alphabet of beer; a finely-tuned menu focused on pizza, pasta and sandwiches; and the option for incidental bacon. The latter surprised me. For sure I thought we were over the “bacon makes everything” better culinary phase?

Let’s talk pizza. When I visited I had the Margherita. It’s the most basic of pizzas and if you can’t make a margherita right you’re in trouble. And take a look! It looks like a pizza, but what are those charred bits on top?

imageBacon. I made an executive decision to put bacon on this pizza. A type of pizza that, for so long, has survived in the wild without the use of bacon. It’d be like putting a spoiler onto your Dodge Neon. Completely unnecessary.

The bacon isn’t just any bacon it’s house-cured black pepper bacon. And when you put it on the pizza-stage it only takes away from the experience. It’s a blemish on an otherwise ideal pizza. I resorted to picking off some of the bacon halfway through the pie, but the damage was done. Pools of grease dotted the pizza like boils on a victim of a plague. The melted mozzarella lakes were just a tad darker. The bacon had left its mark and it was a sad state of affairs. 

image

Despite the bacon carnage, a mistake I hope you don’t make, the pizza was high-quality. The crust had a crispy edge, but pillowy-soft inside. It’s easy to shovel slice after slice into your mouth because it’s just so soft. It’s like eating rectangular bliss. 

While the outside of the pizza was perfect, the middle was a bit undercooked. Resulting in a thin, floppy pizza. Great for folding, but I was hoping for a bit more of a crunch when my teeth penetrated the basil, sauce, and cheese. Pizza just taste better when it at least sounds like it’s putting up a fight.

image

The Margherita I devoured was prepared right on the premises in this wood-fired oven. The oven rests right in the middle of the restaurant. Pizza smell radiates from within, filling your nostrils with succulent scents. There are other things on the menu, but I’m not sure how you can not order a pizza in a place like this. 

When the pizza had vanished I was in a pretty great mood. The Margherita was great, it has some character, but stays safely within the definition of what a Margherita pizza is. If you’re in downtown Pittsburgh looking for pizza from Italy, it’s a nice place to stop into. Chances are they’ll have a perfect beer to pair with it. 

Pizza Review: Fiori's Pizzaria in Brookline

Dan TallaricoComment

Fiori’s Pizzaria was founded in 1979 out in Brookline, Pennsylvania. It’s a few miles outside the city of Pittsburgh, but some would say it’s the top 99 of the top 100 reasons to drive through the a tunnel. Here’s a portion of the list right here:

  1. Fiori’s Pizzaria
  2. Fiori’s Pizzaria
  3. Leaving to greet the Pirates at the airport as they return from a World Series victory
  4. Fiori’s Pizzaria
  5. Fiori’s Pizzaria
  6. Fiori’s Pizzaria

It’s been hyped up to me since I started this blog. “Have you had Fiori’s? You’re not a pizza journalist if you haven’t.” Okay, maybe, but that’s not what my associates degree in Pizza Journalism says. The other day I recruited my pizza pal Adam to escort me into the greasy, bustling, cheesy den of Fiori’s Pizzaria.

There’s Adam with our prized pizza. Doesn’t it look like an angel? It emits a golden glow. The cheese is perfectly melted and the crust is perfectly browned as if spray painted by a top-tier food artist. Even at a slant the pizza grips to the pan with a sense of purpose. As if to say, “Only the chosen pizza eater can pull a slice from this ancient metal.” We must’ve been the chosen ones because when we were done there wasn’t a slice of pizza left behind to tell the tale of the Fiori’s Pizza Massacre.

So the pizza begins like you’d expect. You lift a slice into the air and gravity pulls down on the slice hungry for a piping hot meal. Not today gravity. Despite some cheese dripping off to the the side, the rest of the package is solid. There’s some give to the crust, but not enough that leads to a complete pizza breakdown. You could build a house on this crust except you’d have to worry about a sinking foundation in about three years. Which, all things considered, isn’t that bad. You know, for pizza. 

The cheese steals the show here. It’s goopy, delicious, and a bit sweet. The sauce is humble. It seems to exists only to keep the crust separated from cheese. Are they mortal enemies? Will the pizza implode if it weren’t for the sauce? Possibly (Sauceibly?). 

I spent a lot of time chewing through the cheese. If you’re familiar with Mineo’s then you have an idea of what Fiori’s taste like. I’d say that Fiori’s is more of a focused pizza; there isn’t a pool of grease and the cheese is easier to handle than a handful of ice cubes covered in olive oil. It’s a delightful experience.

But then you get to the crust and you begin to wonder what is it you’ve just put into your mouth. Your tastebuds feel betrayed. Was the rest of the slice just an illusion? How could 9/10ths of a pizza be near perfection but the handle taste like literally nothing. The crust has no flavor. At all. It’s just chewy matter. A simple handle so you don’t get cheese and grease on your hands. It’s better off being tossed to the side or recycled. It spoils a delicious pizza. Perhaps Fiori should work to build a pizza home out of the crust instead of having customers eat it?

The motto at Fiori’s is “We fix you up” and it’s certainly true. It’s some of the best pizza I’ve had (aside from the crust) and it’s the perfect pizza environment. There’s a pinball machine and a friendly staff. There’s a large window in the pizza-making area so you can watch the dough mature from flour and water into a pizza being. It’s a grand pizza experience and if you’re in the area you’d be a fool to not check it out. 

Pizza Review: Pizza Pescara on the North Side

Dan TallaricoComment

It’s not often I travel to the North Side. If I do it’s for the Mattress Factory or heading to the Pour House for Rock N’ Roll Karaoke. One time I even planted a tree on the North Side! But that was so long ago. In my adventures, I never would have once stumbled upon Pizza Pescara. It’s on the highest heights of of the North Side surrounded by graveyards, defunct businesses, and a car wash that would probably make your car dirtier. It’s not the thriving cultural epicenter of pizza. 

A few months ago I handed out a coupon for a free pizza to the coworker that could come up for the best name for a new product. Justin won and yesterday he decided to redeem his coupon. It wasn’t quite a “break glass incase of emergency” situation, but we were both craving pizza pretty hard. Ready for a pizza adventure we piled into a car and drove to the summit of Brighton road to visit Pizza Pescara.

Preparing for the trip wasn’t easy. There’s no web presence whatsoever save for a few Urban Spoon reviews.  Sometimes the best pizza is also the hardest to find. Mostly because they aren’t trying to impress anyone, they’re just plugging along doing what they do best. 

Pizza Pescara has been open for three years and what do they have to show for it? Almost nothing save for a simple mixer behind the counter. I wish we could’ve showed up while they were mixing dough, maybe that’s something I have to call ahead for? Their “dining area” is bare, save for Pittsburgh sports memorabilia. So, pretty typical Pittsburgh pizza experience.

The first thing I noticed about Pizza Pescara was that their prices are out of this world cheap. We went into this expecting to order a medium pizza. The perfect size for two adults who don’t want to overeat and suffer the latter half of the work day. Unexpectedly, the cashier directed us towards a cruddy black-and-white coupon laminated to the counter. He was kind enough to inform us that by using the power of this coupon we could get a large one topping pizza for less than a medium plain pizza ($8!). That’s my kind of pizza logic. A large it is. 

There’s the pizza, in all its Pescara’s glory. Note how the cheese isn’t evenly cooked and, in fact, is even missing from a few areas. It’s not a bad thing, but something I’ve never seen before. I’m digging the crispy-cheese line halfway down the pizza, almost like a checkpoint of your pizza progress. “Congrats, you’ve made it halfway,” it’s saying. Beautiful and functional!

I found the cheese to be too thick at some times and almost non-existent at others. Most of the cheese laid atop the pizza like a shell, waiting to be removed to get to the guts of the slice. Which is fine, because the sauce here is outstanding. I spoke to the owner about it and he told me they purposefully make the sauce thicker than most other places. It’s spicy, hearty, and is the real star of the pizza show. 

I found the crust to be fluffy and a bit chewy. It wasn’t terrible, but I don’t think it added anything to the situation. 

Pizza Pescara is just plodding along and just making ends meet, according to Mike, an employee (and maybe owner?). It’s a shame, because for it existing in North Side equivalent of Everest’s Dead Zone, it’s fairly good pizza. That sauce is unreal and worth the trip. Not the best pizza, but an interesting take on the classic. 

I give it four out of five pizzas.