My favorite pizza place in Chicago did not serve Chicago-style deep dish pizza. Chicago-style deep dish pizza is, in my mind, one of those things you sort of dread eating because you know how you’ll feel afterward. The experience is immensely pleasurable for the ten minutes or so that you actually spend consuming the deep-fried-crust-filled-with-cheese-and-sauce-and-sausage, but nearly immediately following that ten minutes you feel as if your stomach will explode, that you yourself have been soaked in oil, and that you’ll never eat another meal again. Maybe I’m being hyperbolic, but believe me, if you’ve never had it: Chicago-style deep dish pizza is a caloric and psychological investment. And it’s not something you eat, good God, when it’s hot out. Which it has been here in Salt Lake City.
The place was called Sapori di Napoli, and was at the corner of Belmont and Southport—a few blocks west of the corner in the above photograph (which, incidentally, was the site of a supremely disappointing date! I had forgotten about that until I posted this picture! Yahoo for walks down memory lane!) It served thin-crust, sparsely topped Napolese-style pizza. The crust was perfect: crunchy on the outside, airy on the inside, and delicately yeasty. The pizzas featured simple toppings that weren’t overly precious or pretentious, but were nevertheless delightfully unexpected. I’m getting a little too poetic, I know, but what is eating without poetry?! Alas, were I to return, I’d be disappointed: Sapori di Napoli was only open for about a year. Chicagoans, it seems, prefer the gastronomic cycle of dread-delight-regret that is deep dish.
My favorite pizza on Sapori di Napoli’s menu was Patate et Romarin, or Potato and Rosemary. (Carbs on top of carbs yesyesyes!) The simplicity of the toppings meant that the crust was really center stage, and was only supported by a tiny bit of olive oil, fresh rosemary sprigs, very thinly sliced potatoes, sea salt, and parmesan. Heaven, in other words, in its most delicate form. This is my attempt at recreating Sapori di Napoli’s short-lived glory.
Because of our suddenly warm temperatures, last week I decided to move my typical pizza operation from the oven to the grill. The keys to making pizza on the grill are to use foil brushed with a little bit of olive oil, and to flip the crust before topping it. This will ensure a) that the dough doesn’t stick to the grate and b) that it cooks evenly on both sides. Because the heat is coming mostly from below and doesn’t circulate around the pizza as it does in an oven, the flipping is really necessary. Otherwise, you’ll get a crunchy-on-the-bottom, gooey-on-the-top crust.
My boyfriend and I had this along with a basic cheese-and-sauce pizza (red sauce, fresh mozzarella, S&P—I think it has to have basil, too, in order to be Margherita), and a salad that consisted of arugula, olive oil, parmesan, and salt. The salad left him visibly underwhelmed, as he claims that arugula hurts your mouth. I disagree and could eat arugula by the handful, all day long. We agreed on the pizza though: it’s good. The photo below is of the storm that had rolled in just before we sat down to eat. (The storm had actually rolled in from the east over Little Cottonwood Canyon as we were climbing, and chased us down into the valley. Which I mention as a side note, because: Do you know what the scariest part of rock climbing is? It’s not the being-hundreds-of-feet-off-the-ground-secured-only-by-some-seemingly-dinky-pieces-of-metal-and-flimsy-rope. It’s the prospect of being hundreds of feet off the ground with a bunch of those now-substantial-seeming pieces of metal hanging from your harness, exposed to the elements, with a thunder-and-lightning storm rolling in! Lillian the Lightning Rod!)
I have adapted Heidi Swanson’s rendition of Peter Reinhart’s pizza dough here. It’s very simple, but takes a small amount of planning: the flavor comes from letting the dough rise in the refrigerator overnight (a longer, and therefore necessarily cooler, rise equals more flavor). The kneading and shaping is a technique refined only through practice, which only means that you now have an excuse to make pizza a lot. Just be sure not to overwork the dough, or else the final product will be tough and chewy. If you find that your dough is becoming difficult to knead, cover it with a kitchen towel and leave it alone for 15 minutes or so. It should be springy by the time you come back to it.
- Pizza Dough:
- 4½ cups white bread flour
- 1 teaspoon instant yeast, or active dry yeast
- 1¾ teaspoons salt
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1¾ cups cold water if you’re using instant yeast, or warm water if you’re using active dry yeast
- 1 russet potato
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil + additional for drizzling
- several sprigs of fresh rosemary
- sea salt
- about ¼ to ½ cup of shredded parmesan cheese
- For the dough:
- On the day before you plan to make the pizza, combine the flour, yeast, salt, water, and olive oil in a large metal bowl. Use your hands to mix until relatively well-combined. The dough will seem impossibly sticky. Scrape the dough to a countertop dusted with a good deal of flour, and begin to knead it. If the dough is too dry, add a small bit of water; if it’s too wet, continue to flour the countertop. Knead the dough using a folding motion for 5-7 minutes, until it alternates between slightly sticky and smooth (it will seem to switch back and forth every time you knead it—at this point, you’re ready).
- Grease a baking sheet with olive oil. Divide the kneaded dough into six balls, roll them around on the sheet to coat lightly with oil, and space them evenly. Wrap the sheet in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- About 2-3 hours before making the pizza, remove the sheet from the refrigerator, and place the number of dough balls you plan on using on a floured countertop. Cover them with plastic wrap (you might also spray them with spray oil to prevent them from sticking to the plastic), and then with a kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rest for the 2-3 hours, and then fire up your grill.
- You may freeze the unused dough for later use. I find that you can do pretty well just removing the dough from the freezer the morning before making the pizza, letting it thaw while I’m at work, and then making it that evening. Frozen and thawed dough will not, however, taste exactly the same as dough that hasn’t been frozen, so just be warned.
- To assemble the pizza:
- When you’re ready to make the pizza, fire up the grill. Back in the kitchen, lightly stretch the dough out into 12-inch rounds using your fists. This is a delicate, and potentially frustrating, process, and you can’t really get around the fact that it takes practice. Be patient, don’t worry about making the pizza perfectly round, and take your time. Place the stretched-out dough on a lightly oiled piece of aluminum foil.
- Place the dough-on-foil on your grill, cover, and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the bottom of the dough is browned.
- Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a frying pan. Thinly slice the potato, and saute until soft. Allow to cool on a paper towel. Roughly chop the rosemary.
- Head back over to the grill and, using a pair of tongs, flip the dough (it should be stiff enough that this shouldn’t be difficult).
- Arrange the potatoes in a thin layer, along with the rosemary, on the dough. Drizzle with a teaspoon or so of olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and the parmesan.
- Cover, and cook until the parmesan is melted.
- Remove the pizza from the grill and allow to cool, about 5 minutes. Slice and eat!