Pizza philosophies - balance and taste

As Kim and I wander farther afield and sample more and more of our colleagues’ pizzas, we find that there are an amazing difference of concepts/profiles/philosophies for building and serving pizzas. Some are appealing to us and some are not to our taste. One thing that will always stand out is poor execution.

I have now corrupted some friends who often dine with us, and they cannot just eat dinner anymore. It’s about the appreciation and understanding of the meal now. So, we had a pizza this week at a place we have dined at several times . . . they have good entrees, pastas and other goodies, so we’ve never had their pizza. We asked them to build us a 4-quarters pie: cheese, meatball, pepperoni, and their hawaiian pie. We may have tripped them up, but the pie lacked a certain something. It was not miserable by any stretch, but it just wasn’t our kind of pizza. Moreover, it was not well executed in that there was scant tomato, a heavy load of cheese . . . and a really prominant gum line in all four sections. This was a somewhat pricey pizza level, and not what we expected.

The execution isn’t what struck me . . . it was the stark lack of tomato or any other flavor but cheese. I know some places make their pizzas that way. There are people who want a “cheese delivery system” in the shape of a pizza. I just find it lacks finesse, and vision of the pie . . . anyone can dump a bunch of cheese on a dough and melt it in an oven. We will try it again on the assumption they just had an ‘off pizza’.

It just really struck me the really wide variety of approaches to accomplishing this pizza task. Some cringe at any cheese oiling, while some find it part of the orthodoxy of all good pies . . . . some highlight the tomato . . . some overwhelm the poor 'mater with a pound of spices/seasoning . . . cupping/charring for pepperoni is a must . . . or a sacrilidge . . . . heavy cheese versus moderate sheese . . . . mozzarella ONLY or blended cheeses . . . .

I just know that given the quality tomatoes I use (Stanislaus), my style is definitely to balance and highlight the complimentary flavors of lightly seasoned tomato with toasty mozz/prov cheese on a yeasty, chewy base.


Most of us would go broke trying to make the ‘perfect’ pizza. As for quarters… ROFL. Best I’ll do is HALFs. Chances are, I might like your pizza, or not. Same with you. I’m not obsessed with the ‘perfect’ pie in the world, only the BEST pie in my world. I won’t do halfs on special pizzas, to me it ruins the presentation. If you have enough $$s to order it, then you can order 1 of each.

Not long ago, some were talking about how some people can’t even recognize a ‘great’ pizza and will pick CiCi’s everytime, because its what they were introduced to. Thats how they think all pizzas should be. Go figure. In viewing the Mack’s pizza video the other day, it struck me that they may not have been using yeast in their dough - but people seemed to love it anyway.

It staggers me to see the pizzas some people put out and what they charge for them.

We aim for a consistent high quality of every pizza that goes through the oven. everyone on the make bench know of my expectations of the finished item and many times they have had to wear my wrath when I reject one as I deemed it not suitable to pass on to the customer. Perfection is infinitive, but consistentcy and quality is paramount.

We do halfs but hate doing so as presentation can be affected when they order a light topping half and a heavy topping half. Halfs are restricted to standard pizzas and Gourmets are excluded because of similar reasons to pizza2007 and some have different base sauces which we won’t mix.

My philosophy is that you eat with your eyes before you taste and if you have a mis-mash of toppings (ie quaters), heavy cheesing or poorly executed laying of toppings no matter how good it tastes the initial pre-emptive taste expectation is compromised.

Nick I think what you experienced was someone who makes pizzas, not creates pizzas. You probably saw a pie that was made without care and thought of how the end product would be, plus you made the task harder for them to make a visually pleasing pizza by ordering quarters. Just imagine how your shirt would have looked ifit was 1/4 hawiian print, 1/4 re, 1/4 blue and 1/4 black and white stripes? And you wanted 4 different quarters on a pizza to look good !!

Only by visiting other places can you see how good, bad or indifferent your fare is. Sometimes you flatter yourself and others you get a wake up call to improve. But like you I have a standard and expectations on how our pizzas must be and staff are expected to do the same.


Sorry Nick I got a laugh out of the quarters too. That probably did throw them a curve. I do agree with everyone here about what people consider pizza. Cardboard and cheese and there ya go…it’s a pizza. Opps…forgot the red stuff in the middle…will they notice? It is hard to go out and actually enjoy a meal someone else makes anymore because I do what a lot of you do… we take apart the meal piece by piece and try to make it better. Only problem is nobody is ever listening. I have in a few cases actually asked to speak to a manager or owner and politely asked to even make a suggestion to their cooks… I can not go as far as saying “chefs”… as I trained under an executive one in Chicago for a number of years and well…enough said. These are different types of restaurants. Don’t get me wrong…it’s the cooks of the world that keep the kitchens going anyway. I also am amazed at what some places charge for a really horrible pie that has low quality ingredients and no flavor except the fillers in the cheese and grease. People just do not know what a good piece of pizza is anymore! :frowning:


I have a question regarding your sauce. I use Stanislaus Full Red Pizza sauce and add spices. However, it is a bit too thick out of the can so we add some water to thin it out some and make it easier to sauce the skin. In doing so, I wonder if the water has any negative effects. Any thoughts or suggestions of something else to use in place of the water? Do you use a combination of Stanislaus products or just one in particular. Thanks in advance for any insight you provide.

Pizzasource…we, too, use Stanislaus products…Super Dolce & Tomato Magic & add our spice mix & some water & olive oil…too much water may cause some gum line crisis…

Nick, I, too strive for the ‘perfect’ pizza and am getting closer each day…

I’ve stopped using any sugar in the dough…

I use walk-in cold water, but have increased the mix time…

The dough now seems more pliable, after proofing…even lasts a bit longer in the cooler (we use dough trays)

I am constantly stressing to the crew about dough management…I want that dough to be out of the walk-in at least an hour…

I’m driving old MM 360’s and can’t believe the quality they produce, when compared to 1st making a 5 minute pie, straight from the cooler…

I now get many more positive comments about the unique taste of our pizzas…

I get to try a few new places from time to time…its hard to evaluate them, because I really prefer my “style”

Even tho we run a ‘volume/price conscious’ operation, I still put quality 1st…and, yes, we do a $5 pie & make money…

A part of this topic struck me as interesting - “poorly executed laying of toppings”. I had someone complain that our pizza looked like it was put together haphazardly. In my world, that is part of the charm of hand made pizzas. I had a cook that would lay individual slices of pepperoni in a perfectly spaced arrangement. To me, it looked like a frozen pizza and I told him to stop. We use lots of toppings and the random placement of those toppings to me is part of the charm of the pizza. Don’t get me wrong, I want relatively equal placement. But perfect symmetry, in my mind, destroys the character of our pizzas. To that end, I had our cooks stop cutting perfect circles in our skins. I have them free-cut 1/2" around each pie. Again, to me, it gives the appearance of a hand made product.

Obviously it’s a matter of personal preference. But it’s interesting to see the different philosophies in operators and diners.

Patrick Cuezze
Next Door Pizza and Pub

I’ll jump in here as well. We hand form all our “thin” pies and aim for “roundish” but are perfectly happy to have a pie that looks like what it is…hand-made. Our sauce is simply 7/11’s with some spices added, no water. Our oven is an old XLT. After 60 days I’m finally getting my pizza guys to appreciate the “why” we do things like add some fresh uncooked pineapple after the pie clears the oven to give the consumer an unexpected shot of sweetness on our “Rockstar”. I insist a jalapeno be balanced out with a pineapple tidbit or a dice of fresh tomato…it’s all about textures, balance, and how a flavor plays against the next bite.

I also try to limit a customer doing more than 1/2 & 1/2 on our specialty pizzas. We use ranch dressing, jerk sauce, bbq, red sauce, olive oil, etc. as a base, they all shouldn’t be used next to each other. We simply will not make several of our specialty pies in our deep-dish, we sauce our deeps on top and with some of our pies, there is just no way to make it look, or taste right in a deep pan. I agree with another poster, if they want to sample, order a couple of 8" pies and sample to their hearts content.

And as a side, every post you make like this Nick makes me more sure I need to get down to Georgia someday and experience your menu. You see past the basics and really seem to appreciate what food can be!

I am laughing at the laughs about 4ths.

I love pizza…it would have to be really bad for me not to like it. I am always amazed at how something so well known can taste so different from one place to another.

We are in the midwest and St. Louis style is one of the most popular kinds around here but man if you get an out of towner trying it they will pretty much laugh at the thought of calling it pizza. VERY thin crispy with provel cheese. Tastes perfect when it is on that line of almost burnt. Some compare it to cardboard…done right I compare it to heaven.

But as a poster states…Pizza is heaven.


REALLY sorry I missed this one before. 1st question . . . do you use fresh garlic in your sauce, or dehydrated/powdered?

We blend 7-11 with Saporito Super Heavy with Basil . . . and water. If I wanted to maximize the tomato flavor even more, I would mix 7-11 straight with the Super Heavy. The Super Heavy gives me a “stretchability” to get more servings for a little less $$ while still having a really good, intense tomato flavor and the slightly thick consistancy I look for. I could use straight 7-11 and seasonings and be happy with the sauce, but the blend has been hard to leave.

I cannot remember specifics too well on that one. Full Red Pizza Sauce (Full Red concentrated crushed) looks in the Stanislaus website to be kinda similar to Tomato Magic? If I remember correctly, this is a basic tomato product and natrually think. I might suggest mixing it with 7-11 to thin it some . . . 7-11 and tomato magic are their lowest viscosity products . . . and are really good. Water definitely dilutes the benefits of the tomato freshness . . . Ask your supplier for a sample of 7-11 and try mixing them 1:1. You may hit the mark first try.

I can tell you that the folks at Stanislaus absolutely LIVE to help us use their products better. They are extremely helpful and knowledgable about their produts. If what I said doesn’t inspire confidence, and no one else hops on, go ahead and call the company and tell them you are having to thin your product and ask if they can recomend a blend that gets you what you are looking for. Steve rouse had a Specific Gravity measure for their products and can do easy math to help make a blend you will be happy with.

I believe the difference between TM & 7/11 is 7/11 has skins crushed in…I’ve used both b4 w/ Super Dolce & can’t really tell the difference, but think TM is a bit sweeter

you are right on with TomMag and 7-11. 7-11 has skin and some seeds, a bit finer grind, too. A bit more of the ‘essential’ tomato flavor since the velvet right undr the skin comes along for the ride. More pectin as well that will set up in presence of garlic powder. I use both tomato products in house.

I am just not certain about Full Red Pizza Sauce compared to these two.