Peter's Blog, March 12, 2012

March Madness begins this week in college basketball -- my favorite sporting event of the year, full of last second drama and indelible moments of sports greatness. But it is also a big week for pizza too. Tomorrow, the annual Pizza Expo begins in Las Vegas -- the biggest, baddest pizza show in the world and we're sending the intrepid Brad English to cover it for Pizza Quest. I expect he'll have some terrific stories, adventures, drama, and photos to share with us when he returns. For those of you who are also going to be there, look for him -- he's the big, bald dude with the camera, probably with a slice in the other hand. Introduce yourself to him and let him know your a Pizza Quest fan -- it will make his day!

Hey, I just got an e-mail from the Delfina's Restaurant group and guess what? Our friend and super-obsessive pizzaiolo Anthony Strong, featured in our Pizzeria Delfina series of webisodes, has just been announced by the San Francisco Chronicle as their 2012 Rising Star Chef for his work at the newest addition to the Delfina restaurant constellation, Locanda. We saw his talents at the pizzeria, but now he's on an even bigger, broader stage so if you're in SF, check him out at Locanda and tell him you heard about it here.

Also, and I assume the timing isn't a pure coincidence, Parade Magazine made pizza the cover story for yesterday's edition, which I'm sure many of you saw if you get the Sunday paper.  The article is by the wonderful Jane and Michael Stern, of Road Food fame, so they have true street cred. I'd love to hear your reactions to their honor roll list, which included a few places I've been to (Pizzeria Bianco, Al Forno, Serious Pie) and a lot of places I've never been to (Coletta's in Memphis, Buddy's in Detroit, Dean-O's in Lafayette, LA, DiCarlo's in Wheeling, W.V., Menches Bros in Green, OH, Hot Truck in Ithaca, and Frank's in Silvis, IL). Suddenly, I feel like a Pizza Quest virgin again -- I need to get out more!  For those who know these places, or the others in the Stern's list, or who want to nominate a place not on the list, please write to us here in the Comments section.  It's time to find out where greatness is happening and deserves to be recognized. If you do make a nomination, state your case -- we need to know why it's on the list, not just because you like it but by what criteria you make your claim.  Maybe we can assemble the most worthy nominations into a Pizza Quest Hall of Fame of our own.

So, again, just to be clear, tell us who but also tell us why -- it doesn't have to be long but it does need to be convincing. This is our version of March Madness -- so let the madness begin!!



#1 Forrest 2012-03-13 20:53
San Diego is lucky to have Pizzeria Luigi. I had the pizza experience of my life on Friday! No wood buring oven but crust to die for and guess what? I asked the guy how they ferment it and he said "in the fridge overnight."! They were featured on Diners Drive ins and Dives: I haven't seen Guy Fieri look that overwhelmed by deliciousness in quite a while.
#2 Chuck 2012-03-14 15:14
Mother Mary's Pizzeria in Clovis, CA is outstanding. It is a standout in an otherwise barren pizza wasteland. The crust is perfectly thin and charred just right in a Woodstone oven. I prefer to ask for mine well done for even more goodness. They are light on the toppings and cheese like a pizza should be although they do offer overloaded pizzas to suit the CA customers who have no idea what a real pizza should be. A plain pie with basil (Margherita I suppose) or a white 4-cheese are my favorites. The carbonara is outstanding too along with the eggplant. The sauce is fresh made, not over seasoned and tastes like a good tomato. The calzones are out of this world too. I grew up on Me-n-Ed's pizza which is the local favorite but this place has them beat by a long shot. It is the best pizza I have outside NY/NJ/PA.
#3 Chuck 2012-03-14 15:36
A few more of my favorites:

Manco & Manco in Ocean City NJ. It is boardwalk pizza, not high end but people line up for a reason. The sauce is excellent and the crust is near perfect. The pies are not over-topped and they just have a few pizzas, no weird stuff. Can't imagine anything better on a summer night after a day on the beach.

DeLorenzo's Tomato Pies in Robbinsville NJ. Thin, charred, crispy with fresh tomato flavor. Another place that people are loyal to for a reason.

Charlie's Pizzeria in Norristown PA. Definitely not high-brow. In fact it is practically a dump. The red-top pizza is amazing though with crust and sauce that is out of this world. I kind of like the gritty, down to earth, authentic atmosphere it has. Difficult to decide whether to go there or Pudges Steaks when in the neighborhood.
#4 Chuck 2012-03-14 16:45
OK, one more. I almost forgot about Pizzeria Pulcinella in Seattle. It's a certified Neapolitan pizzeria in what I think might have been an old bar. We went on a cold damp evening and it felt nice to walk into the warmth from the wood fired oven. You can get the Margherita and marinara but they have others on the menu. I really liked the Enzo which is mozzarella, provolone, a little bit of sausage and broccoli rabe (no sauce) it is one of the best pizzas I have had. We sat at the bar, enjoyed wine, an eggplant appetizerthuan a couple of great pizzas. The dessert was outstanding and the coffee was far better than the Seattle tourist traps. The owner of the place was friendly and made sure we enjoyed our meal. Not only is the pizza good, it is just one of those places that just feels good to be in.
#5 Mark Feldman 2012-03-15 18:24
Eggplant! My ears perked up, but alas, seems not on the pizza. The Ithaca Hot Truck was fantastic - nothing like a pizza sub at 1am before heading home to sleep.
#6 Chuck 2012-03-18 11:32
I think I might have found another one. This time at Pane Pronto in Clovis, CA. This is a smaller version of Piazza del Pane which has a couple locations in the Fresno/Clovis area. The menu is smaller and seems to be designed to get people in and out quicker. I suppose it is technically a chain but a local one, not some huge homogenized thing. I'd had their sandwiches before and not been impressed. I was out and about and starving the other day and since it was on my way home I asked Siri to find the number then I called and ordered a Margherita well done. I was extremely impressed. The crust was lightly crispy but chewy. The combination of tomato, basil and olive oil flavor was perfect. They used fresh Roma tomatoes on top which I am usually not a fan of but these were sliced thin and were a nice compliment. It was a very impressive pizza for the type of place it is. I will try it a few more times to see if it is always that good.
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Pizza Quest is a site dedicated to the exploration of artisanship in all forms, wherever we find it, but especially through the literal and metaphorical image of pizza. As we share our own quest for the perfect pizza we invite all of you to join us and share your journeys too. We have discovered that you never know what engaging roads and side paths will reveal themselves on this quest, but we do know that there are many kindred spirits out there, passionate artisans, doing all sorts of amazing things. These are the stories we want to discover, and we invite you to jump on the proverbial bus and join us on this, our never ending pizza quest.

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