Monday, September 30, 2013
Q-and-A: Pizza entrepreneur Jay Jerrier describes the different “New York” styles at Zoli’s
He says it's a much more creative ballgame than Neapolitan.
OAK CLIFF There’s no wood-fired oven in sight. No certificate hanging on the wall serving as testament to the authenticity of the slices in the window. There’s not even a pizzaolo shouting orders in Italian. And yet Jay Jerrier seems remarkably at home here, at this new pizza shop of his. It is, after all, still pizza – just an entirely different sort, and one impossible to strictly define. But at Zoli’s NY Pizza, Jerrier’s new, decidedly not-Cane-Rosso pizza joint, it’s still all about consistent and quality crusts, authentic sauces and an creative approach that stays within the lines of authenticity – however nebulous the definition of "authentic" might be.
We sat down with Jerrier to talk about what makes a pizza "New York style," why Grandma made them differently and how one intrepid customer managed to enthusiastically order a $50 pie.
Entree Dallas: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, Jay. So when we talk about a "New York" pizza, what should we be thinking of?
Jay Jerrier: There are really three different styles of New York Style pizza. We have the traditional kind that everyone is very familiar with – the big, 20-inch, round slice that you see everywhere on the streets in New York, every airport you’ve ever gone into, just a big, triangular, floppy slice of pizza. It’s got a little bit of a raised crust on the back, it has lots of cheese and kind of a simple tomato sauce. That’s the basic, core product that we have here. They’re always cooked in deck ovens around 650 degrees for around seven minutes. They’re a lot crispier than typical Neopolitan style. We also have the other main New York style that a lot of people are familiar with – the Sicilian.
The Sicilian is a real pain in the ass the way we make it – we mix the dough, we let the dough proof, then we ball up the dough, we let the dough ball proof, then we stretch it into the pan, we let it proof in the pan, then we actually bake the dough in the pan with just a little bit of tomato sauce on it. Then we take it out of the pan and let it rest before we bake it again with all the cheese and the toppings on it. That’s kind of the the big, triple, quadruple-thick slice. It’s a lot of bread, and we actually use a different sauce for that. It’s a cooked-down sauce that’s really savory. It’s got a little bit of ground-up anchovy – you’d never know it, though.
But the one we’re most excited about is the grandma style, and that’s the kind that Italian grandmothers used to cook at home, because they were always cooking with a big pan. That’s where you stretch out the dough into a big 16-by-24 pan, let the dough proof in the pan, and then just cook it with cheese on it. Then, again with a different sauce – a chunky pomodoro sauce – we take Italian tomatoes, crush them up by hand, put them on there, and it’s a much sweeter sauce. It’s a really cool pizza because it’s light and airy on the inside, crispy on the bottom, and it really holds up to a lot of different toppings.
So you’re making all sorts of different doughs for these pizzas?
It’s the same dough for all different pizzas, it’s all just proofed in a different manner; the New York Style is pretty typical: Ball it up, roll it and stretch it out into a big circle and put whatever you want on it. The Sicilian, like I said, is a pretty big production, and the Grandma is a little bit less work, but we only have so many trays and so much space to proof them.
So at Cane Rosso, the process is pretty straightforward – and the parameters of Neopolitan pizza are pretty strict. Is that the case with New York style?
No. In fact, a lot of people are dismissive of New York style pizza, and part of that is because anybody can make a pizza and just say, “Hey, it’s New York style,” but we put a lot of thought into every component. Even the flour we use, it’s an organic flour from Vermont that’s specially milled, and we mix it with a certain ratio of the Italian flour we use a Cane Rosso. It’s a very specific mixture of a bread-type flour and a soft Italian flour to get the texture we want. Even tomatoes – we do a mixture of Italian tomatoes and California tomatoes to get a certain level of acidity into the sauce.
So ultimately, it depends on who’s running it – who’s putting thought into it and who’s not. I think that New York pizza is tricky because some people have the attitude that "It’s just pizza,” so they wouldn’t care if it’s preprocessed dough that’s like what you got at a skating rink in sixth grade – they’ll still think it’s awesome. Other people put a little more work into it. We thought about the components; rather than the dough being a topping delivery device, we wanted it to have its own flavor. We wanted it to be worth eating the edge of the crust. In fact, we’ve noticed in the month since we’ve been open that people will come in and specifically order the corner slice because of the extra crust on it.
Is the ordering style specifically designed after New York pizzerias?
All of our favorite places in Brooklyn were more like this. You’d come in, the slices in the case were what’s available because you want to get in and out without a fuss. You’re at the price point of some tacos, two bucks or three bucks. When you start getting into "I want seven toppings on a slice," maybe just order your own pizza and get whatever you want. We really wanted to get to a small menu that’s more typical of Artichoke Basil or Best Pizza or Williamsburg Pizza. We’ll hopefully get to delivery, but it’s just a logistical nightmare that I’m not ready to tackle yet.
We want to be able to give the experience, and we would normally do a sit-down restaurant with waiter service, but we wanted to be more of a quick-casual neighborhood pizzeria in a small footprint. And this is a place where you can come in and eat for $3.50. You can have a slice of cheese pizza and a soda and be out of here. Or we do a lunch plate with any slice – even a Grandma – a garden salad, a garlic knot and a drink for $10. It’s a really good lunch.
But, even if you want to build the most insane pizza ever, you’re welcome to do that. We had one guy in the first or second week come in here, order a pizza with every topping we had – it was like a $50 pizza! He loved it, though, and said it was awesome. I don’t know that I’d do that, but he was really into it.
What about sandwiches and things like that?
We had a big lineup of sandwiches planned, but really, you run into the same problem we have run into at Cane Rosso – everybody pretty much just wants pizza. So no matter what you make – we make great fresh-rolled pasta at Cane Rosso – but everybody just wants pizza. People will come in, say, "Oh, that sandwich looks awesome! But I’ll have a pizza." So we’re primarily a pizza place, but we do have a few ridiculous sandwiches here, too. We have a special seeded hoagie roll that we’ll do some sandwiches on – a friend of mine that lives in Philly that is going to some of the popular philly bakeries that supply the hoagie stores with their rolls, and he’s FedEx-ing me a couple dozen rolls so we can maybe try to reverse engineer them. Still, most people want pizza, and we’re happy to make them all they can eat.
So all that to say, is it authentic?
We certainly put a target on our back when we stated that it’s authentic Brooklyn style pizza, because then you have people that come in and point at one thing or another and say "This isn’t New York style" or something like that. I don’t know what to tell them. It is to me.
And nothing anyone says on Yelp can change that?
Ha. I don’t think so.
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