My 22 year old son came home to visit from Texas last week. He asked me if I could have a pizza from a local pizza restaurant waiting for him when he got in at 11 pm. Of course, I obliged him. What mom wouldn’t?
Connecticut is the pizza capital, I guess. I know in my experience it has always been a well received treat present at most celebrations, especially if young people are present. I can’t even think of a birthday or school party where pizza wasn’t served while my kids were growing up. Mom and pop pizza parlors are a constant in this neck of the woods and they never appear to lack business. Of course, they are all different and everyone has their favorite.
I, myself, enjoy many different kinds of pizza. In fact, I’m hard pressed to think of any I would refuse. I think I would say, however, that that to me when it comes to pizza, simple is best. Nothing beats a simple, basic pizza pie. Frank Pepe’s makes a white clam I dream of. It’s nothing but dough, oil, garlic, spices, cheese and freshly shucked clams. The combination of the spices, garlic and the briny taste of the clams is so delicious. It’s not easily forgotten.
My favorite pizza is truly home grown, however, and originates from my father. My Dad, Mr. C, used to enjoy cooking and pizza was one of his specialties. From dough to sauce, it was all from scratch. A weekend warrior in the kitchen, my father perfected his perfect crust – thin and crisp.
The essential ingredients were tomato sauce, oregano and parmesan cheese. Lots of parmesan cheese. Not freshly grated parmesan though, but the kind that comes already grated. ( Personally, I’m with my Dad on this. On certain foods, pizza being one of them, the pre-grated kind actually seems to have more flavor.) And just so you don’t think my father wasn’t a discriminating chef, I’ll have you know he only used the highest quality brand of shaker jar cheese, such as Colonna. He would then sprinkle aromatic oregano on top of the pizza and drizzle oil over it all before putting it in the oven. It smelled wonderful
I still make Mr. C Pizza today. It is the signature pizza of my family. I am not the purist my father was, however, I switch between homemade and jar sauce, and alternate between mixing my own dough or buying it uncooked from the bakery department of Stop & Shop. I also sprinkle cornmeal on the round pan I use before shaping the dough. This makes for an even crisper crust. Sometimes I add fresh mozzarella (but it really doesn’t make a difference because it’s all about the parmesan). The end product is the same, a simple, delicious pizza.
To be honest a few family members have confessed they prefer less parmesan. Did I mention there’s lots of parmesan on Mr. C pizza? For me, there is no such thing as too much parmesan, so I don’t get it. My middle child begs me to make Mr. C pizza and my husband praises it, so I know I’m not alone. Some things you just don’t change.
The sauce is also a point of debate. One of my daughters has said since she was old enough to speak, “too much sauce”. This gets to the heart of the matter and like the parmesan isn’t open to negotiation. Sauce isn’t just glue for toppings on Mr. C pizza; it is an integral part of the taste experience. Mr. C pizza is a “wet” pizza, but not so heavy with sauce you can’t pick it up and eat it. There is a talent to getting the sauce just right. You can’t ask someone who has mastered the sauce to forget this hard earned skill and make it less than perfect. It would be like asking an athlete to play less than their best. Sorry, pizza excellence is not achieved by compromise.
In my approach to pizza, I live by a simple philosophy: If heaven was a cheese, it would be called parmesan. And, if pizza is served in heaven, it’s made by Mr. C.