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Todd English: "Never Trust a Round Pizza"


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Over in the pizza sauce topic, Lisa1349 quotes Todd English as having said, "Never trust a round pizza." Looks like this was a PR tag for his Figs Table cookbook for a decade ago. I think it's bunk.

One of my early experiences working in food service involved baking pizzas in a Hobart two-deck oven at my college pizza parlor, which, back in the day, demanded that pimple-faced cooks such as me learn to shape and toss the dough so as to fit the round pans. Since then, I've developed a healthy appreciation for pizza chefs who can turn out thin, wonderfully round pies. (In Providence, the place to watch the artists is Fellini Pizzeria on Wickenden Street.)

I find English's comment to be naive, insulting, and just plain wrong. I'm not saying that every pizza needs to be Archimedian ("Do not disturb my circles"), but why can't we trust a round pizza?

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Because nowadays people have become elitest when it comes to food products. They equate round with mass produced frozen pizza shells, when the reality is any decent pizza cook can produce a round pie just fine...

Anyhow, don't get me started on the topic of foodie elitism.

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There is a place here in Berlin named "Due Forni" that serves the best pizza I have ever had. The handmade (you can see them stretching the dough) pies are suprisingly thin and remarkably crisp, topped with true, fresh, Italian toppings. Oh by the way, they are always round!

I say never trust a chef who's restaurant is shut down by the health department, and who puts figs on a pizza!

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“Never trust a round pizza”, that phrase stuck in my head when I first read it in that thread. It’s a catchy one-liner that encapsulates the ideology of rustic home-cooking, and at the same time takes a swipe at mass-catered uniform looking products. Isn’t it? Well, I think that was its intention. It’s just a shame that it’s blatantly wrong!! If I was a bona fide Italian pizza chef who had spent years perfecting my technique, honing my skills in producing a perfectly round pizza then I would be scandalised by that phrase.

There is a kind of perverse foodie snobbishness in that statement too if you look deeper but I’m willing to accept that it’s just another ill-considered ‘sound bite’.

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From a thermodynamic point of view, round wins. You'll get even heat distribution, whereas anything else is going to get messing in the corners. Anybody doing kitchen work with differential equations will agree that your boundary effects are nowhere near as big a problem with a round perimeter.

Just do the math.

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I think what he was saying was: don't trust a pizza that is baked in a pan. This is something I can agree with. I don't think it's possible to get a truly first-rate pizza that is baked in a pan. Truly first rate pizza, even the style that is baked in a steel deck oven, needs to be baked on the floor of the oven. This will never result in a uniformly round pizza. I think what you will find is that round pizza that is not baked in a pan is actually "round-ish" and not really round.

Edited by slkinsey (log)

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A properly stretched and spun pizza prepared on a peel with sufficient corn meal can easily be slipped into an oven so as to retain its circular shape. That's not to say it should always be done, but it's certainly possible.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I've never seen it done so that the pizza retains a shape anywhere near the circularity that's achieved with a pizza pan. Then again, anything made with such a hard dough that it can be thrown in the air and spun into a fourteen-inch circle that won't deform upon being shaken off the peel onto the oven floor isn't likely to result in what I'd call outstanding pizza.

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I think Providence Rhode Island is the standard for pizza and have never in my life found better....(I grew up there ..so I know this)

who the Hell cares what the shape is? ..I have taken great pleasure in the same perfectly spun pizza's Chris mentioned in the opener...and also many many "strips" from rectangle pizzas in corner bakeries ...as a kid (argh I am old) they were a quarter a strip some places..just crust and sauce in long strips between waxed paper ..they still make them and they are still sitting on counters in bakeries! ..round...square ..rectangle ..I can not imagine defining pizza by shape!!! unless you want more edge and less center maybe?

anyone who has pretence about what pizza should be should walk around Providence and see

but that is just me and my opinion on this subject :raz:

Edited by hummingbirdkiss (log)
why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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I'd say he was making a point about more hearth- or floor-of-the-oven-baked "artisinanal-style" pizza hopefully from a retained heat oven as opposed to largely pan-baked "Domino's-style"* pizza in a stainless steel deck oven.

* No, I am not comparing the best of this kind of pizza in Providence or elsewhere to the quality or industralization of Domino's pizza. This is about a style of pizza, and I am only using the name "Domino's" to put a name to that style.

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  • 2 years later...

IMHO, it depends a lot about where you grew up and how open a mind you have. To compare a New York pizza with a Chicago one is an exercise in insanity. They are completely different things. I might well ascribe to the notion that a Chicago pizza is more casserole than pizza, but in the end it is a form of pizza and worthy of the name. Then there are Sicilian pizza's and the Sicilian styles done in Detroit. Then the midwest thin crust square-cut round pizzas. Or the California style 'upper crust' rebellion pizzas. Or the cracker-style crusts. Or Neapolitan pizzas.

And I've only addressed the U.S. In Italy and France you have all sorts of other examples.

Over the years I've become a reformed pizza bigot, and feel that I am better for it.

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Fellini's, which is superb and for which I always find an excuse to stop for a slice or two, and my other revered pizza from Star Tavern in NJ, where I grew up, are both perfectly round. I like Todd English's food (am very fond of his polenta with golden raisins, for example, and was an early aficionado of his Charlestown restaurant as well as Figs on Charles Street), so will not take him too literally. As for myself, here is both an oval and a rectangular pizza.

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I ate at the Beacon Hill Figs (English's foofy pizza joint) a couple of times shortly after it opened years ago. It wasn't awful, but I wouldn't hold him up as any sort of pizza-making eminence.

And yeah, Providence deserves way more respect as a pizza capital.

John Rosevear

"Brown food tastes better." - Chris Schlesinger

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I have perfect faith in round or sorta-round pizza, but I was taught to make pizza by my husband's Italian grandmother, and her fabulous pizza was sternly rectangular. She wasn't trying to emulate a wood-fired oven -- her secret was a black roasting pan. And, come to think of it, she cut the pizza with scissors.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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Todd English gets on my nerves. He's one of the few local chefs that I really don't have much respect for. Maybe I'm just a crotchety Yankee, but he seems to showboat more than is considered seemly in these parts. I see the statement as just another flip comment, not even taken seriously by the speaker, designed to catch yet more media attention. Because it's all about Me. Uh, Him.

But like I said, I'm just a crotchety old Yankee.

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