Friday, February 25, 2011

Protest powered by pizza.

Photos: Ian's Pizza on State St.
For over a week union supporters in Wisconsin have been protesting outside the capital in an attempt to protect public employees from a bill that would eliminate their collective bargaining rights. Although union representatives have agreed to the financial concessions Gov. Scott Walker (R) wants in exchange for keeping their collective bargaining rights Walker has remained unwilling to compromise on the bill and told the local Fox News affiliate that "We're willing to take this as long as it takes because in the end we're doing the right thing." 

Tens of thousands of people have made their way to the capital and union supporters from Wisconsin and the rest of the country have flooded the streets of Madison in protest.  Those people are hungry for dignity, justice and pizza.
Less than one block away from the state capital is Ian's Pizza By the Slice on State St. Ian's, a small four-location franchise with locations in Wisconsin and Illinois, has long been a favorite pizza place for cheese heads in Wisconsin. They have recently made national headlines by taking orders from all over the world and delivering pizza to protesters.  

Since the protests started they have been so inundated with orders from around the world that they have had to accept on line orders and their three phone lines are ringing constantly. They have pulled employees from locations in Madison, Milwaukee and Chicago to help fill orders and friends and family of employees are volunteering as well.

Ian’s has even specially tailored a menu and delivery system for people ordering pies for protesters. For $20 you can send a large pizza (chef’s choice) and drinks to be delivered to the food pantry located on the second floor inside the capital building. Protesters can stop by the pantry and pick up a slice and a drink for free (courtesy of supporters from around the world) along with donuts, coffee and other items being donated from other local businesses/donors.

Jack Thurnblad, 23, Assistant Manager said that so far Ian’s have dished up well over 30,000 slices (over 3,700 large pizzas) Ian's has received pizza orders for protesters from supporters in all 50 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico , six continents and nearly 60 countries and counting including, Morocco, Finland, South Korea, Afghanistan, Haiti and Italy. A lot of buzz has come to Ian's via various social media networks. This week Ian's Pizza on State St. started with 3,000 Facebook friends and now they have over 12,000. 

Thurnblad is excited about the business and the show of solidarity from other places around the world. "I never thought something like this would happen in Wisconsin," he said. Thurnblad also said that they are doing their best to keep up with all the orders but they have never been this busy before. 

As for the state of collaborative bargaining at Ian's, it is still un-unionized. According to their website all full-time employees get 100% paid healthcare and employees at the two biggest stores have 401K benefits with match. Ian's has also made a commitment to power their State St. location with 100% renewable energy and vowed to be 100% plastic-free in 2011. All locations are owned by former Ian’s employees.

If you would like to order pizza for the protesters in Wisconsin call 608-257-9248, and then press 1. Order on line through and and 115 State Street, Madison, WI as the delivery address. Add in the notes that you would like to help feed the protesters.

You can also show solidarity for workers in Wisconsin by  attending a local protest . To find a protest near you enter your zip code at To RSVP to the protest in Virginia click here. I'll be there representing the Industrial Workers of the World Richmond General Membership Branch.

Rally to Save the American Dream
Virginia State Assembly (lawn across from US Court of Appeals), 1000 Bank Street (Map)
Richmond, VA 23219
Saturday, February 26th, 1:00 PM
RSVP here.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Pizza Tonight is Pizzalicious!

I recently stopped over at the South-er of the James Farmers Market to check out the goods of local pizzaiola Victoria Aracri Deroche’s new biz Pizza Tonight.

Pizza Tonight is purveyor of artisan pizza kits, dough, sauces, antipasti and magic sprinkles. Deroche is the brain behind the exclusive and mysterious local Pizza Club. Finally she has brought her expertise to the masses by crafting dough and sauce and boxing them up with creative toppings and directions making DIY pizza easier than ever.

I dropped by the Pizza Tonight booth and picked up a beautifully boxed and labeled sausage pizza kit . The kit was $15 and contained:
     -Two Neapolitan artisan doughs
     -8oz of  homemade marinara sauce
     -Magic sprinkles (spices)
     -Della Nonna sausage from Sausage Craft

    Sausage Craft is also a locavore favorite from the kitchen of Chef Chris Mattera and cheese expert Brad Hemp. They make their products from free-range, humanely-raised meat without added hormones, antibiotics, steroids, preservatives or synthetic casings. Deroche met Mattera and Hemp at Belmont Butchery and fell in love with their Della Nonna sausage at the grand opening event. for Sausage Craft. She singled it out for her sausage pizza kit.

    The Della Nonna sausage is coarse-ground pork with white wine, pecorino cheese and Italian flat-leaf parsley—a recipe from Mattera’s grandmother. Hence the name. It is a rich, flavorful, buttery sausage and an excellent addition to the kit. It was really something special.

    This sausage is an interesting part of the kit because it contains a little  cheese. You may be shocked to learn that none of the kits from Pizza Tonight contain cheese. Deroche says that cheese is such a personal and individual part of pizza and deliberately leaving cheese out of the kit encourages customers to open up and get creative with their own addition of toppings.

    GOOD IDEA Victoria! Especially since her booth at the farmer’s market is surrounded by lot of yummy company. I recommend checking out the spinach and arugula from Root Force Collective Farm and just about any cheese from Sullivan's Pond Farm's Bonnyclabber Cheese Co.

    The Pizza:
    If you are a seasoned DIY pizza maker you probably have your own tried and true method of making a successful pizza and you should probably do that. If you are not, Pizza Tonight has got you covered with tips and tricks listed right there in the kit. Read those! They will help you with forming and stretching the dough using a version of Paulie Gee’s Egyptian Method. This is also my personal preference for stretching dough. Deroche gets it right. Don’t be afraid of the dough, don’t knead it, don’t roll it, and you won't mess it up. She also includes a video of herself working with the dough on the PT website if you need a little extra help.

    The dough in the PT kit is sticky and a little loose which, in my opinion, is how good dough should feel. Depending on how soon you make your pies after purchase the dough may have risen and fermented longer. So don’t wait too long, freeze your kit or use it within one week of purchase.

    I stretched the dough according to the PT instructions and topped it with sauce, sausage and magic sprinkles (and no cheese. Read below).  Pizza Tonight instructs customers who are sans pizza peel and stone to bake on parchment paper on the top rack for 5-10 minutes in a oven preheated to 500F, so I did that. It smelled so good. The sausage especially smelled great. Pizza baking in the oven is one of those smells that you just can’t breath in deeply enough to fully appreciate. It even brought my brother out of his video game cave to come check it out.

    The Review:
    The Pizza Tonight kit is practically fool proof and tons of fun. The ingredients are top quality. The beautiful orange marinara sauce is bright, fresh and just the right kind of spicy and salty with just a little bite. I don't reckon I care for sweet pizza sauce so this was perfect. The Della Nonna sausage was something really special and delectable. It is definitely the star of this particular kit. The dough was easy to work with. When baked the crust was crisp on the outside and tender and just a little chewy inside. The price is awesome. $15 is so incredible for two homemade pizzas and lots of fun. Getting one of these kits would make a great date.

    The Beef:
    I would have appreciated a little cheese in the kit partly because that would make the kit even easier but also because I am curious to know what kinds of fantastic additions Deroche would put in there. Some of the Sullivan Pond Farm’s Bonnyclabber Cheese Co. Chesapeake Blue cheese on the Fig and Pig sounds divine! (Though, I think most regular Pizzalicious readers are well aware of deep affinity for a good prosciutto, blue cheese and fig pizza).  

    I was reluctant to add cheese to the pie because I wasn’t sure how much cheese was in the Della Nonna sausage already and I’m not a big fan of overly cheesed pizza.  My mistake, I should have added more cheese to the pie. The sausage was escaping from the baked pie left and right. We nailed it on the second pie with lots of shredded mozzarella, per my brother’s request.

    My mom and my brother wondered if par-cooking and draining the sausage was recommended in the instructions and if it would result in a less greasy pizza. I suppose if you are watching your figure then perhaps it would make a difference. That is just a matter of personal taste. If you put some kale on this pie (a’ la Roberta's Good Girl) and let the sausage melt over it then it would be phenomenal.

    Over all I wouldn’t hesitate to give Pizza Tonight the Pizzalicious seal of approval with extra points for good design/green packaging and fun times.

    Get Some:
    Deroche is in Colorado at a brick oven bakers convention even as I write this and is coming back armed with a brand new 4300 lb portable brick oven from Forno Bravo/The Fire Within and hopes to debut her pies at First Friday's Art Walk. I can't wait.

    Pizza Tonight:
    3105 Grove Ave
    Richmond, VA, 23221