Monday, September 21, 2009

Looky What I Got!

The other day I received a gift in the mail that can only be described as MAGICAL. A few weeks ago Missy Green of the US Pizza Team, and Director of sales for Throw Dough and a coordinator for US Pizza Team events e-mailed me to commend my pizza blogging.

"I absolutely love your pizza blog." she wrote. She also invited me to join the US Pizza Team. I was so flattered and so excited but unfortunately, I had no idea how to throw pizza dough, and I certainly wasn't capable of doing the kind of tricks that the US Pizza Team can do.

I told Missy how excited I was to be invited but that I didn't know the first thing about throwing pizza. Realizing my passion for pizza she sent me a subscription for PMQ (Pizza Marketing Quarterly)Magazine, a Throw Dough and a DVD tutorial! Throw Dough is fake pizza dough made of latex used to practice pizza throwing and tricks. This September the US Pizza Team held tryouts for new team members in Orlando. Unfortunately I was not able to go to Orlando to see this awesome spectacle OR to try out. I still have a lot of practice a head of me. Maybe Next year! The rules are stiff, but the prizes are WAY Awesome!

From their website:
"Every year the U.S. Pizza Team holds a series of trials in Orlando and New York for the Largest Dough Stretch, Fastest Pizza Maker and Freestyle Dough Throwing. The first-place winner of each category wins $500 and a spot on the U.S. Pizza Team. The scores for all three events are combined; the person with the highest score in all categories will win a trip to Europe to compete in the World Pizza Championships with the team.

A maximum of 30 contestants will be allowed to compete, each with a registration fee of $100, which includes entry into all acrobatic events (Fastest Pizza-Maker, Largest Dough-Stretching and Freestyle Acrobatic). The registration fee also includes show admission (if contestant pre-registers). Contestants must be at least 18 years old to compete."

I was thrilled to receive Missy's generous and pizzalicious gift in the mail. It even came in a pizza box! My friend Alex and I popped in the DVD right away. Alex was a natural able to throw the rough super high after just a few tries. I on the other hand was really great at throwing the dough... on to the floor. The Throw Dough is just hilarious. We couldn't believe how similar it is in weight and consistency to real pizza dough. Alex powdered it with cornstarch and it felt so real. It is much more durable than real pizza dough, which really helps in practicing and it doesn't really expand or stretch out as you spin it. It also makes a really silly noise when it flaps together.

The DVD could be way more awesome with a little production and fancier camera work. However, The DVD is definitely good enough to teach you how to throw dough. and more than anything Throw Dough is tons of fun! It is perfect to practice with and such a riot. We showed our friends when we had a pizza party and they all cracked up.

They should sell them in a few pizza parlors that also have retail counters. But I think they should expand to sell them in more pizza parlors with the joint's logo on the carrying case. They should also sell them in toy stores. I can totally see this flying off the shelves at places like World of Mirth in Richmond. It's such a fun idea and the packaging is so clever!

I fully endorse it and recommend it to anyone looking for a good gag gift or some serious practice time. Missy Green is Pizzalicious and Throw Dough is Pizzalicious!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Fellow Richmond Pizza Blogers!

Yesterday while shopping at Carytown Bikes, my sister Maya and I ran into a fellow pizza blogger from Richmond. Hello Andy (and also Grant) from the blog Pamparius. These Pizzalicious fellows agree that 8 1/2 is hands down THE BEST PIZZA in Richmond. I wonder if they have ever tried the anchovies there? I'm so looking forward to reading more of this blog and hopefully eating some pizza with this guys. I'm down for a pizza party any time dudes!

Check out their wonderful and well written blog here! Of course the name of their blog comes from the guitar/keyboard player, Pål Pot Pamparius, of the awesome Norwegian punk band Turbonegro. Pål Pot Pamparius also runs a pizza joint in Norway called Pamparius. Here is a video for their song, "The Age Of Pamparius," in which they pay tribute to this fine establishment. This song is off of Turbonegro's 1998 album Apocalypse Dudes. Enjoy!

NYC - Lombardi's

Neighborhood: Nolita/Little Italy
32 Spring St.
(at Mott St.)
New York, NY 10012
(212) 941-7994
Nearest Transit: Spring St-Lafayette St (6); Bowery (J, M); Prince St. (R, W)

While I was in NYC visiting my sister Rose in July with my friend Alex we also went to Lombardi's. This is a belated installment from my Pizza field trip. Let me tell you, it was a very exciting and memorable pizza experience. Lombardi's is THE FIRST ever pizzeria in the United States and, in my opinion, played a huge part in the popularization of pizza both in the US and in Italy.

Gennero Lombardi immigrated to the US in 1897. He settled in to the Manhattan neighborhood now known as Little Italy where he opened a small grocery store. It was out of this store that he and his employee Antonio Totonno Pero, baked pizza based loosely on the pizza of Naples, Italy but adapted of course to use ingredients that were available in America.
In the book Pizza: A Global History Carol Helstosky writes that pizza started as simple flat breads topped with whatever was on hand among impoverished populations in Naples. Pizza was brought to the United States by Italian immigrants in the late 19th century. Being a fairly simple dish to make with low-cost ingredients, and so reminiscent of their home, Pizza be came very popular among Italian immigrants living and working in the U.S. Gennaro Lombardi received the first licence to sell pizza out of his grocery store in 1905. Other immigrants were also selling pizza at the time but Lombardi's is most often credited as the first pizzeria. In the 1930's Lombardi's converted his grocery store in to a restaurant. Antonio Totonno Pero, left to begin the infamous Totonno's pizza parlor in Coney Island, Brooklyn, and pizza started to blow up among working class populations all over the north east. Lombardi's closed for a while but opened years later just one block away from the original location and they took the oven with them!

The oven at Lombardi's now is the original coal fired oven from the early 1900's. It is a sight to behold! The seven foot tall oven's facade is stacked with beautiful black and white enameled bricks and built with terracotta bricks on the inside. It is about 12 ft x 12 ft and can hold up to 15 pizzas. Watching them work this oven was like watching a highly choreographed dance. The men were moving around the small kitchen with such a rhythm stepping around the long handle of the pizza peel. They slipped the finished pizzas up onto the peel and then slid pizzas on to pans while the oven chef slipped another pizza into the oven the other chefs slid from the pan to a box or up to a window for a waiter to take out to a table. It was pizza kitchen ballet! And I'm so glad I got to see it!

We ordered a beautiful pie with red onions, shiny black Kalamata olives, and yummy wild mushrooms. It was marvelous! The crust was beautiful and nicely charred the cheese was beautiful fresh mozzarella bubbled up and crisped up just around the edges. There was a pretty good cheese to sauce ratio and the tomatoes were really nice.

The Ambiance of the restaurant was kind of weird. The wait staff was friendly but looked like they were really busting ass to flip tables; there was a big line outside after all. We ate in what was surely once a store room-- A basement decorated like a crappy Italian chain place. with pictures of glasses of wine and pasta and maps of Italy and crappy murals. One highlight of the dining room was one of the old Lombardi's dough mixers. A big, shiny, red monster with a dough hook for a hand and "Lombardi's" painted in gold like war paint across its face and a big stainless steel bowl for armor.

As we devoured our pie a native New Yorker named Rebeca sat down next to us and ordered a classic pizza margherita. Her pie was beautiful, so beautiful in fact that like an obnoxious tourist I asked her if I could take a picture of it for my pizza blog. She laughed and agreed then offered us a slice. Lombardi's only sells whole pies. We refused at first but when she offered again we took her up on her offer. It was delectable! Having such a basic pizza really highlighted the taste and quality of the ingredients. We offered her some dough for sharing her pie with us but she refused. She told us that Lombardi's was her favorite pizza in the city and that what made it so unusual is that even native New Yorkers are willing to brave the crowds of tourists and wait in line to get a pie there even though there are pizza parlors everywhere.

I don't think it is the best pizza I have ever eaten (or even the best pizza I've eaten in NYC). But I really enjoyed it and really enjoyed sharing this awesome historical pizzalicious experience with Alex and Rose. We all really wished our friend Dave was there too. Here is a picture of Alex serving up a stretchy cheesy slice.