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My grandfather started as a bread baker in Palermo before coming to Brooklyn to open several restaurants. There, he would greet his guests, play guitar and sing sentimental Italian love songs, which I always found mortifying. His last place, Frank's, was a small pizzeria in Park Slope, long since torn down to make way for a highway. I remember that he made really great Brooklyn-style pizza with a thin but substantial crust, lots of cheese and tangy sauce.
For the Tasting & Testing column in March Food & Wine, my challenge was to make a great pizza using a standard oven, pizza stone and accessible ingredients. Mine is not actually a Brooklyn-style pie, but a Neapolitan-style one with a thin chewy-but-crisp crust with lots of bubbles, a well seasoned uncooked tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella.
I tried using several types of flour-bread flour, two types of 00 (finely milled flour favored by most artisanal pizza pros). Straight bread flour yielded a crust that was a bit too chewy and dense, whereas one of the 00 flours (Bel Aria) created one that was a bit too fragile. I loved the the 00 flour called Gran Mugnaio for its elasticity and workability, and will use it when available. My left-leaning tendencies compelled me to make the best pizza dough I could with the most accessible ingredient, all-purpose flour. And surprise, I was especially happy with the result: a chewy, air-bubbly crust with just the right amount of give.
Letting the dough proof in the refrigerator overnight or even up to two days gives it a perfect texture and adds a slightly tangy flavor. If you don't have a coal-burning oven (which Grandpa used) or a wood-burning oven, a reliably hot oven with a pizza stone is the next best thing. Be sure to allow the stone plenty of time to get nice and hot—45 minutes is usually just about right.
I've worked pretty hard to come up with a pie that would meet Grandpa Frank's standards, and after many attempts, I think I nailed it.
If the process is just too daunting—I hope it's not, but then again, it took me 48 tries—here are a few of my favorite pizza places.