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Alan Richman's Top 25 Pizzas GQ Article


Fat Guy
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Yes. One of the peculiarities of Taconelli's (Richman finds it bizarre as well) is that they only make so much dough per day. You call ahead and reserve how many crusts you want and then order your toppings when you arrive. It's a strange system, but I guess they know the limits of their production and keep quality control by not ever being any busier than they can handle.

The pizzas are excellent. Next time you're in Philly we can totally go have some Tac's. I'm pretty sure you'd love it. It's good stuff. Old oven lined with bricks made from lava from Mt. Vesuvius, or some such nonsense. Looooong pizza peel to reach into the very back of said oven that's actually on supports to keep it from bending and breaking. Taconelli's has been featured on the Food Network Best of... program on pizzas, and deservedly so. The oven heats up to ridiculous temperatures and gets a really nice blistery char on the bottom of the pie. There were some excellent pictures in the old Pizza Club thread, but that seems to have disappeared. I think the pics were from 2003, but I don't know what happened to those old threads when we updated the site.

Katie M. Loeb
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Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

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Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
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Yes.  One of the peculiarities of Taconelli's (Richman finds it bizarre as well) is that they only make so much dough per day.  You call ahead and reserve how many crusts you want and then order your toppings when you arrive.  It's a strange system, but I guess they know the limits of their production and keep quality control by not ever being any busier than they can handle.

Same deal with Burt's in Chicago (not on the list, but featured on "No Reservations" and also on the cover of Saveur).

-Josh

Now blogging at http://jesteinf.wordpress.com/

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I thoroughly respect the amount of pizza ordered and eaten for this endeavor.  That's dedication.

One summer I got a job at a pizzeria of no note. I assumed that, by the end of the summer, I'd be sick and tired of (this mediocre) pizza . But, as as been said of London and almost certainly (though I can find no cite) of sex, when one is tired of pizza, one is tired of life.

I want Richman's job.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Richman was on the Today Show with Al Roker. Funny guy who did an excellent job of succinctly describing what made the top pizzas his choices in the two minutes they gave him.

After 15 years finally returned to Taconelli's last month. Eight of us at half dozen pies and brought two white pies home. No special ingredients that I'm aware of but they make the best pizza in Philly.

I wonder if they do takeout.

Edited to add: Answered my own question. Per their website:

Closed Monday and Tuesday

Take-Out available to closing time.

No credit cards will be accepted • Cash Only

Edited by Mano (log)

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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I think it does get a notice: "During my tour of Philadelphia, I journeyed to as distant a land as Trenton, New Jersey. (Again, no luck.)" He just didn't find it exceptional.

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I infer from his reviews and preferences that, like me, he places a primary importance on the crust. Delorenzo's seems to be a steel deck oven place, and there's just only so special that crust can get. This, for me (and perhaps also for Richman) is a reason to leave Di Fara off such a list as well -- the crust simply isn't special.

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Actually, the crust at Delorenzo's is pretty great- it's feather-light and crispy and as different as night and day from DiFara's soupy mess. But thinner and crispier than Richman likes, I guess, which is fine.

It's definitely an idiosyncratic list. Why is Osteria's zucca pizza the one chosen? I get the sense that it's because of the unusual (for the US- less so for Italy) toppings. I don't doubt that it's a great pizza- I've had several Osteria pizzas, and they've all been very good- but I suspect that he was looking to round out his list with something off-the-wall.

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Detroit just can't be number 3, unless the rest of the country is in worse shape than I could have ever imagined. I hope nobody decides to make a pizza pilgrimage here on the basis of this article. "No city has more consistently satisfying pies than Detroit," and "hard to go wrong wherever you eat" just doesn't describe where I live. My wife and I have yet to find a place we like that delivers, and she always makes a point of getting pizza when she goes back to her hometown (South Jersey / Philadelphia) because she feels so deprived here.

Our representatives on the list include some relatively out-of-the-way places -- unless you lived there or went specifically to follow Richman's recommendation, I can't think of many reasons people go to Harrison Township. Buddy's has 9 locations in the area and unless the recommendation is specific to the Detroit location (which I haven't been to), I can't believe it belongs here, much less under the terms with which it's described. (I'm with the various locals here in agreeing Loui's in Hazel Park is probably the best and only convincing example of Detroit-style pizza around now.) Of the other two representatives on the list, I thought Tomatoes Apizza was good and haven't been to Niki's.

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I infer from his reviews and preferences that, like me, he places a primary importance on the crust.  Delorenzo's seems to be a steel deck oven place, and there's just only so special that crust can get.  This, for me (and perhaps also for Richman) is a reason to leave Di Fara off such a list as well -- the crust simply isn't special.

Yet his number 1 pick uses a gas oven.

Robert R

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It's not clear to me that they're using a steel deck oven at Great Lakes. Some places use gas-fired ovens that are more like the wood-burning ones (Fornino here in NY, for example). I have heard that the oven at Great Lakes only takes two pizzas at a time. Also, having looked at many pictures of Great Lakes pizzas, I wouldn't say that the crust appears outstanding, but it's certainly a lot better than what they're doing at Di Fara, and I think it's likely that the inventiveness of the ingredients (and, let's be honest, Di Fara is more or less just doing modestly upscaled versions of standard pizza parlor toppings) pushed it to the top.

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If I had to take a wild guess I'd say they're using gas-fired steel pizza ovens with ceramic oven-floor inserts. But you never know. Next person to go there let us know.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I think they probably also have a modern specialty oven that will fire at higher temperatures than the typical Blodgett or whatever (those typically max out at 650F, and almost no one runs them at maximum output anyway).

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I found this photo and it appears to be a single deck. Certainly is small and would explain the two pizza limit.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/wolfworld/3264699033/

Edited to add. I can barely make out 'Hearth Bake' on the door plate.

Also some pretty good close ups in this video.

http://abclocal.go.com/wls/video?id=6821484

Edited by robert40 (log)

Robert R

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This just in from the publicist: the Richman pizza shock and awe campaign continues with a GQ blog entry on three New York pizzerias: Emporio, Ignazio’s and Tonda. It also ends with the teaser: "Next week: The old guard—Patsy’s, Grimaldi’s, and Di Fara."

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Robin Goldstein argues on his blog that Richman is wrong about the Italian preference for buffalo milk mozzarella.

...it’s a breathtaking mistake for a seasoned food writer like Alan Richman, in his widely read new GQ evaluation of the top 25 pizzerias in America, first to completely misstate the definition of Italian DOC pizza; then to imply, without evidence, that the whole Italian population supports that misstated definition; and, finally, to use that misstated definition as the basis for a condemnation of the entire pizza culture in Italy.
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It seems like a well-researched list, and I'd never call his qualifications into question, unlike some of those men's magazine's "50 hottest women" list where the guy writing it's never met any of the women on the list and wouldn't have a shot at them if he did.

I did notice that there's not a pizzeria anywhere within 800 miles of Wichita. No great surprise there. The best pizza I've had in Wichita comes out of my oven, made with my own two hands, and Mr. Richman would likely sniff and pooh-pooh at it, but it IS better than Pizza Hut, Dominos, and Little Caesars.

And now, I'm hungry for pizza.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“A favorite dish in Kansas is creamed corn on a stick.”

-Jeff Harms, actor, comedian.

>Enjoying every bite, because I don't know any better...

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Richman on Grimaldi's, Patsy's and Di Fara. Specifically on Di Fara:

Everybody but me seems to love Di Fara’s pizza. I merely like Di Fara’s pizza. It’s tasty. But I have to utter the unspeakable and, I suppose, unforgivable: To me it isn’t among the very best.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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  • 1 month later...

I recently had the opportunity to try Great Lake. Like all 'best of' article's Alan Richman's choice of best pizza was controversial. Practically everybody weighed in with an opinion on why he bypassed their favorite.

I walked away from Great Lake having tried the three pizza's being offered that night and without any doubt could understand why it was Richmans number 1 pick.

I would put this pizza at the same level as Pizzeria Bianco and in pinpointing any particular style it was most similar to Chris Bianco's pizza.

Like Alan Richman I also watched the owner Nick Lessins preparing pizza's and that's where my opinion and Richman's differ. If Nick Lessins could be transported into the kitchens of Per Se, Jean George, etc etc one would call his work meticulous attention to detail and certainly not slow.

These pizza's are taken to another level and great care is used that is comparable to the best kitchens. But I think pizza is so implanted and stereotyped in our minds as being simple fast food that we can't imagine it being anything else.

Great Lake is not to be missed!

Robert R

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