Peter Reinhart wants to know: “Who makes the best pizza in the United States?” He starts his incredible adventure in Italy and journeys across America. To borrow a phrase from Bill Graham: “This book is not the best at what it does; it is the only book that does what it does!”
Not only do we search for incredible pizzas, but we learn how to make them, as well.
The first section of American Pie is the quest for pizza perfection. The subtitle should be “my search for the perfect “pizzaiolo” (pizza master), as Peter meets with a host of pizzaiolos who share ideas and philosophy about pizza. One of the most notable pizzaiolo is Chris Bianco, of Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix. Bianco, who makes all of his dough and mozzarella by hand, emerges as the hero of the book.
According to this book, there is more to pizza, than just throwing together water, flour, yeast, salt, along with tomato sauce, cheese and other toppings. The fact of the matter is that you must bake part of your heart into each pizza, to reach brilliance. (Author sidebar: “I call this Spiritual Pizza. Pizza from the heart, pizza from the soul.”)
The second half of the book allows Reinhart to do what he does best, bake. The recipes are all here and Reinhart makes them easy to replicate. He claims to have the ability to identify all of the ingredients and cooking methods of anything he eats. Further, he shares these secrets with the reader. With the numerous recipes, you will be able to reproduce some of the most famous pizzas in the world. He adds his take on “Pepe’s” (Wooster Street, New Haven, Connecticut) world famous clam pizza, New York style, Chicago style, focaccia as well as numerous other pizzas. He gives tips on grilling pizza and even devotes some lessons on “tossing” pizza in the air!
I enjoyed the countless anecdotes throughout the book. For example while waiting in line at the legendary “Sally’s Apizza” in New Haven, Connecticut, he stops into “Nick’s Apizza” across the street to use the restroom. He is impressed with their pizza and makes a mental note to come back. Upon his return six months later, “Nick’s Apizza” has gone out of business. The obvious conclusion is: simply making fantastic pizza may not be enough to sustain a business.
American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza covers the gamut of all things pizza from coast to coast. A nod is given to Chicago Deep Dish along with recipes. “New Age” pizzas from the West Coast are also discussed. Reinhart actually uncovers the mystery of Wolfgang Puck’s pizza and California Pizza Kitchen’s secrets. Master pizzaiolo, Ed LaDou is credited with creating both Wolfgang’s Pizza as well as the California Pizza Kitchen menu. (Some Chefs were understandably, hesitant to be interviewed). He may have gone over the edge by reviewing “sushi pizza”, but it does fit in with the spirit of the book.
This book is for anyone who has ever sampled pizza as well as those who posses a passion for pizza. The journey alone will suffice for some pizza aficionados and is worth the price of admission. Add to that, Reinhart’s years of expertise in baking breads of all kinds, and you have a volume that is unmatched in scope. Buy it, read it and make your own perfect pizza!