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5.0 out of 5 stars A search for Pizza Perfection, and how you may achieve it, December 23, 2003
This review is from: American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza (Hardcover)
I'm sure there are other books devoted to the pizza, but this is the one which all true foodies will want. For starters, it's written by Peter Reinhart, a major American authority and writer on bread baking. Then, there are connections in the story to culinary luminaries such as Alice Waters, Wolfgang Puck, Mario Batali, Rick Bayless, Paul Bertolli, and David Rosengarten.
The first half of the book is a quest to find the best American pizza, after an incident in Reinhart's home town of Philadelphia when he has a pie from a fondly remembered local restaurant, and it simply does not come up to his fond memories of the pizza of days gone by. As one would expect, the quest begins by a visit to sample the pizzas of Italy in Genoa, Florence, Rome, and Naples, the legendary home of the pizza archetype.
Upon returning home, the author and his wife visit famous pizza locations in New York City, New Haven, San Francisco, Los Angles, Chicago, and Phoenix. In case the Food Network has not caught onto this fact yet, some of the very best pizza is made at Pizzeria Bianco by Chris Bianco, a James Beard Best Chef of the Southwest award winner.
The author is not so gauche as to make a pronouncement on the best pizza in the country, but comes to the conclusion that a local `best' is the conjunction of a perception of what the best pizza should be and a very good pizzaioli who can produce a pie to meet those expectations. One of the most difficult problems for maintaining a good pizza in the U.S. is keeping a dedicated pizzaioli at work at that position and not to treat the job as just another station for a chef to master and move on. Even food meccas like Chez Panisse have problems keeping up the quality of their crusts in the face of staff rotation.
The second half of the book is dedicated to recipes and techniques for making pizzas at home. Given the great variety of wood, coal, gas, and electric ovens used to make pizza commercially, it's hard to imagine that with a reasonable amount of dilligence, people cannot get very good results from their home ovens. The biggest difficulty is that the typical home oven cannot manage more than about 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Reinhardt offers three methods to improve your chances with a home oven, both with and without the convection oven.
As Reinhart is a recognized expert on bread baking, I find no basis for my questioning his recommendations. And, since many of his colleagues believe the crust is five times more important for the quality of the pizza than all the toppings put together, I have to believe Rienhart's advice will be a golden addition to your pizza skills.
If there is any question in your mind up to now, be aware that this book deals only with the real deal. There are no short cuts here. The recipes part has chapters on:
The Family of Doughs including Napoletana, Roman, New York, Chicago, Sardinian, and Focaccia dough
Sauces, including tomato, pesto, and specialty sauces
Pizzas, including Mapoletana, neo-Neapolitan, Roman, Grilled, Sardinian, and Pita.
The classic American pizza represented primarily by New York City is a neo-Neapolitan pizza, but people in Chicagoland live and die by their deep dish pizzas. This is the source of Reinhardt's conclusion that one's perception of the best is affected greatly by what you grew up with.
If you don't like chatty books and you just want the recipes, this may not be the best book for you, but if you want the history, the general techniques, plus an excellent presentation of all the classic recipes, this is the book for you, especially at the very reasonable list price for a very well composed hardcover book.
Highly recommended.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 17, 2010 6:19:51 AM PST
Sounds like Mr. Marold reviewed this book without trying any of the recipes...How does a person dare reviewing a cookbook without testing some of the recipes?

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 17, 2010 8:14:02 AM PST
B. Marold says:
Dear Mr. Maltbie,
Recall that I point out that this book deals far more with tradition and exposition than with recipes. I address this aspect of the book. I refer you to the 64 other reviews if you prefer opinions on the recipes.
Bruce W. Marold
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