If you talk to a New Yorker that has been transplanted to anywhere in the world, they would say they miss pizza above all other things; if you don’t believe me, just ask them. Living in the Boston area I have frequented many great pizza places, but they simply don’t compare to those in The Empire State. There’s an irrefutable nostalgia to every bite of the perfect slice of pizza in NY. From the unique flavor profile and texture of the artfully crafted pizza dough, to the subtly salty mozzarella cheese, it’s the first meal on my list every time I visit. There are many different regional styles of pizza across the U.S., but NY usually tops the list for the most well known.
Why is New York pizza so famous?
Before getting into the details of New York pizza specifically, we need to understand where pizza actually originated. Pizza, as the dish we know today, came to fruition in 16th century Naples. During this period it was not considered a restaurant worthy dish, it was strictly sold as a street food to the lowest economic class. As the decades went by, pizza started infiltrating every economic class all the way to the “upper crust”. A very famous story from 1889 is the perfect example of pizza’s rise from poverty. There was a pizza maker named Raffaele Esposito and he wanted to do something special to honor Margherita of Savoy, Queen consort to Italy. So, he decided to create a pizza that was donned with the colors of the Italian flag; this came to be known as the “margherita pizza”.
As we fast forward through time, we find ourselves in New York City, 1897. It was during this year that an Italian immigrant by the name of Gennaro Lombardi moved to NYC, and opened a grocery store to make his attempt at the American dream. Mr. Lombardi later made arguably the most important hire of his life; a gentlemen by the name of Antonio Totonno Pero. It was Antonio who thought it would be a great idea to start selling pizza at the store. Their pizza was soon lauded by everyone who took a bite and quickly became a sensation. To increase the overall appeal, they adapted the recipe for the American palette. It was at this point the New York style pizza was born. Mr. Lombardi later opened a restaurant, appropriately named “Lombardi’s,” which still stands to this day.
Pizza dough, in its most basic form is actually very easy to make. Like Lombardi’s, it is the small nuances that each pizzeria adds to their dough that sets them apart. Below is a very simple recipe to get you started creating pizza in your own home.
Recipe courtesy of The Food Network
3 1/2 to 4 cups bread flour
1 tsp sugar
1 envelope instant dry yeast
2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 cups water
2 Tbsp olive oil, plus 2 tsp
Combine the bread flour, sugar, yeast and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and combine. While the mixer is running, add the water and 2 tablespoons of the oil and beat until the dough forms into a ball. If the dough is sticky, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together in a solid ball. If the dough is too dry, add additional water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead into a smooth, firm ball.
Grease a large bowl with the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil, add the dough, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in a warm area to let it double in size, about 1 hour. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Cover each with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let them rest for 10 minutes.