Introduction: New York Pizza in California
I was born in New York and have lived most of my life there. About a year ago I left the east and headed west to California to explore the hills, the nicer weather, the rivers...the other side. One of the things that I miss most from New York is the pizza. Whether it's something in the water or a secret pizza making skill they are hiding from the rest of the world, very few places are capable of creating a New York pizza pie outside of New York. Since I couldn't buy the pizza I wanted in California, my only option was to bring it back from the source.
Step 1: Find a Good NY Pizza Place
This should be pretty easy to do. There are tons of good places to get a slice in New York, many of which make a great pizza pie. I grew up in Port Washington, NY - which is on Long Island about 35 minutes away from Manhattan. According to Google maps there are 13 pizza places in Port Washington alone! I have eaten at every one of them - my favorite is a place called "The Original Carlo's Pizza." They made the pizzas that I ate at elementary school birthday parties and they are the ones I turn to when I need pizza brought to California.
I almost always order just a plain cheese pie - this is New York PIzza in its purist form. No need for toppings, I think it's plenty good just like this.
I have included just a few pictures of the pizza making process below. I think that just some of the key factors into making great New York slices are:
-good sauce to cheese ratio
-proper high temperature oven (see large pizza ovens in background of photos)
-the right type of cheese - you want a little bit of the orange oil that accumulates on top once it's done cooking
-cooking the pie directly on the oven surface - whats the deal with pizza shops using those wire grates?
There are many many more factors that go into making a great slice - but I am not qualified to deal with them all, I just have my own personal preferences.
Check out Jeff Verasano's NY Pizza Recipe for the most complete guide on New York Pizza I have ever seen. (Thanks Jeffreyf for the link).
Step 2: Buy Some Pies and Pack the Slices
Once you have found a pizza place of your liking, go in and buy a couple of pies, or better yet, have a friend or family member buy the pies for you. Thanks Dad - Carlw!
I like to let the pizza's cool for a while before starting to package them. If you pack them up while the cheese is still hot it can stick to the packing material. Once the pizzas have cooled I had the slices individually wrapped in wax paper (I know this is a little wasteful, but I like to have total control over how many slices I reheat at a time) and then bundled together in tin foil in groups of 8 slices in order to recreate the original pie.
The bundled pizza pies then go into a plastic bag just for safe keeping and then get stored in a piece of carry on or checked luggage.
In this most recent pizza shipment my parents brought over two pies in a small bag. My friend Michal brought over three pies a few months ago in a Chicago Bulls gym bag. It had to be checked since it got kind of heavy - but both carry on and checked luggage methods seem to work well.
Step 3: Fly the Pizza Across the Country
Once the pizza is packed up and ready to go I like to have it airborne within a couple of hours and in my belly a few hours after that. This means flying the pizza across the country - no "I'll drive your pizza cross country and see you in a week" sort of thing.
I haven't been able to convince anyone to fly across the country for the sole purpose of delivering pizza, but I have been able to convince enough visitors to bring it with them in exchange for staying with us that we have been able to keep a pretty solid supply on hand in our freezers.
It's tempting to sell the pizza slices on the plane ride over - people around you will smell it, and they will want it, especially on flights where they don't offer food, but don't let them have it! Remember, you're on a mission flying pizza across the country to your loved ones.
Step 4: Receive, Reheat, and Eat
Once the family members/friends have arrived give them a warm hello and then head straight for the pizza. Some can go into the fridge or the freezer but I like to have a couple of slices right away. Anything you're not going to eat in the next day should be put in the freezer.
Whenever cold pizza comes into the home I have a general set of events which I follow...
1. Turn the oven up as high as it will go - if its a gas oven you can set it to broil, which will basically just keep the flame burning as long as the oven is on. If you have an electric oven set it to the highest temperature you can on bake mode. Broiling in an electric oven will actually activate a second set of coils at the top of the oven and you will end up burning the top of your pizza before you heat it up.
2. I have a pizza stone that I made by rolling out a large lump of clay in a press - so I use that anytime I am cooking pizza - fresh or reheated. Its pretty heavy and does a good job of transferring heat to the bottom of the pizza. You can go out and get a pizza stone, or you can use a real stone, or even a big terra cotta tile if you only want to spend a few dollars. Let the stone get nice and hot before you put in your pizza.
3. While the pizza is heating up I like to get a couple spices together and even some Franks Red Hot Sauce to put on just before I eat it. I didn't always require hot sauce on my pizza, and I rarely use it on fresh slices I eat, but when having a reheated slice it tastes really good.
When the pizza has been sufficiently heated - just a couple of minutes if your oven is cranked up, I transfer it onto a plate, spice and hot sauce accordingly, and then enjoy!
My house mate Doug Spielman (also a NY native) and I send down a couple of slices in just a few minutes. It's good.
Step 5: The Future of Transcontinental Pizza Delivery
There is already a service called I Want New York Pizza who will mail out an authentic New York Pizza Pie to anywhere in the US. A few pizza places in New York and Brooklyn will also overnight their pies Rocco's Pizza in Brooklyn, NY does this, as well as Eddie's New York City Flying Pizza's in Manhattan.
I haven't tried any of these services yet, but I imagine once the visitors from New York stop coming I will be forced to place an order. Overnight shipping from these places costs a pretty penny ($20-$50), so I recommend having someone bring it over for you if possible.
The real future of transcontinental pizza isn't in finding the right delivery service, it's in finding a way to cook great New York Pizza all over the world.