Sunday, May 16, 2010

Chicago to Starbucks

Aside from the 2-a-week pizzas that I make for own consumption and enjoyment or experimentation, we try to visit the highly recommended pizzerias whenever we can. Today, we did discover a new favorite pizzeria place here in Sacramento. I first discovered it on the internet when browsing for a brick fired pizza place locally. The word 'fired' pulled in a pizzeria through Google that I wasn't looking for because the word is in the name and linked it to pizza. It's called Chicago Fire Pizza. The owner, Eric Schnetz prides himself in his corporate espionage right on the cover of the menu which he calls dumpster diving to learn the actual brand names and secrets that the Chicago biggies are using but not telling. That's my kind of guy! Although we didn't meet him, we did get to try two of his pizzas. First of all, we all assume that if it's Chicago it must be a deep dish pizza. I did until I read his menu on the internet. I'm not crazy about deep dish style. Maybe I need to spend more time with one to get to know it. I instead chose a thin crust pizza that was cracker thin and crispy. Sheri also chose a thin crust from the traditional side of the menu resembling a Margherita although it carried chopped tomato pieces on it which a true Margherita wouldn't. The combo was layered with thin slices of pepperoni, topped with Chicago style sausage, fresh chopped bell peppers and onions and then covered with mozzarella all while resting on a thin and simple layer of tomato sauce similar to what goes on an authentic Margherita pizza. The final touch was some crushed seasoning that I discerned to be dried oregano, black pepper, probably sea salt and dried parmesan and maybe fennel. We asked the waitress but she said it was only oregano as far as she knew, but I don't think she really did know. The pie is cut into squares like they do in Chicago and God forbid I say, Little Caesar used to do it that way too. Each bite was a crowd pleaser. The herb seasoning on top registered first before entering my mouth, then the sweet Chicago style sausage and finally the crisp texture of the thinnest crust I have ever eaten. As my eyes rolled back in my head, the melted mozzarella cheese meld those flavors together along with the freshness of the green bell peppers. I normally take them off a pizza but these did not dominate.
Under all of that is very thinly sliced pepperoni and a sublimely simple tomato sauce. I immediately know that I will have to recreate that pizza. We left Chicago Fire Pizza very satisfied. . . and full. Naturally we do what comes next. When a school teacher and an artist want to know, they go to the bookstore and start looking up pizza books. Peter Reinhart is a legend in two disciplines. His first is bread, which has brought him international recognition and fame. He also went in search of the perfect pizza and his book is titled American Pie. We saw a couple others from different authors that are classics too, and came home and ordered them all on Amazon. Much cheaper that way and besides we still have Tony's book to work on.
On a side note, the word is out at my local Starbucks that I make pizza on the side as a hobby. This is turning into an interesting way to experiment, and to satisfy the pizza hunger we all have by treating the baristas at Starbucks to one or more of my pizzas.
Now it seems I am getting requests. The last pizza I took over there was a Hawaiian with thin sliced ham, pineapple chunks, white Maui onions and some chopped green onions for color. When they come back at you wanting the recipe for the dough or the sauce you know you maybe have created a monster. Where now, will this lead them? Are they headed where every man, woman and child should go sometime in their lives? Will they experience their own spiritual pizza journey? I know one thing now, I had to go back to the restaurant supply store and buy some pizza boxes as it appears I'm becoming a pizza baking and delivery service. I have decided to sign the box by putting my name on it just like an artist would on a finished piece of art. Who knows, that signature may show up on Ebay some day on a pizza box from my past!

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