Replicating restaurant pizza at home is pretty impossible, but with a little know-how, you can make pies that are almost as good as your favorites. Here, some tips from the pros.
Go for the dough
“Go to your favorite pizza place and see if they’ll sell you a raw dough for $3 or $4,” says Anthony Falco, formerly the pizza czar at Roberta’s in Bushwick, and now an international pizza consultant. If you’re making your own dough, let it rise slowly in the fridge overnight, instead of quickly in a warmer area. “You’re going to get much better depth of flavor,” Falco says.
Most times of the year, canned tomatoes are the way to go. Falco recommends buying a 28-ounce can of Jersey Fresh crushed tomatoes, and blending them in an immersion blender with 5 to 10 grams of salt and 10 grams of olive oil. No need to cook it. You can add garlic or herbs if you want, but just know that’s not what the pros do: “A chain restaurant will dump a bunch of herbs in your sauce to cover up the taste of the tomatoes, but I like to have my tomato speak for itself,” Falco says. You can always use garlic and fresh herbs as toppings.
Don’t get shredded
Use fresh mozzarella, not the pre-shredded packaged stuff. “It has a lower melting point than the commercially made kind, and also has low moisture, which means it will melt quicker and more evenly,” says Al Di Meglio of Barano in Williamsburg, who adds that there’s no need to shred it, just cube it with a knife. And don’t overdo it. “You want to see the sauce between the cheese, so it has some room to melt,” Falco says.
Keep it simple
The biggest mistake most beginner pizza cooks make is overloading on the toppings. “Until you’re really a pizza master, keep it under five toppings,” Falco says. This will taste better and prevent the pie from getting soggy and not collapsing at dinner time. Place the least amount of ingredients in the center of the pie. “Gravity will pull all the toppings toward the middle,” Di Meglio says.
Turn up the heat
Baking the pizza in the hottest possible oven is the only way to get close to the crispy, chewy crust you’ve had at restaurants. “When you blast the pizza with high heat quickly, it allows the dough to puff up, and really replicates a Neapolitan-style pizza,” says Christian Petroni, chef at Fortina, which has locations in Brooklyn and Yonkers.
Aside from turning the oven to its highest temperature setting, you can put the pizza on the oven’s top rack, set the temperature to broiler mode, cook it for five minutes so the top gets blistered, then transfer it to a skillet on the stove-top to finish cooking the bottom, Falco says.
Or, make it “Providence-style,” he says, and use a barbecue. Brush a grill with olive oil, get it nice and hot and lay the stretched-out dough, sans toppings, directly on the grill. “After like a minute and a half, give it a shimmy so that it releases from the grill and has a nice dark brown char on the bottom,” flip it, he says, then put on the sauce, cheese and toppings until the cheese melts.
And get even hotter
Try using a cast iron pan to create an especially hot surface for cooking. “Brush the pan with olive oil, stick your dough in there, put your toppings on, crank up your oven as high it will go, leave it in for 15 to 20 minutes, [and you] have a pan-style pizza,” Falco says. If you’re ready to up your pizza game, consider investing in a thick pizza stone or “the Cadillac of pizza making,” a pizza steel, which gets even hotter, Falco says. For the DIY crowd, head to Home Depot and buy some quarry flooring tiles, which can tolerate high heat and not crack. “The thicker the better — an inch is ideal,” Petroni says.