Albanians Demand Bad Pizza
First, forget the headline. It’s inflammatory, and it is a gross exaggeration. What I’m going to talk about isn’t bad pizza, but rather potentially brilliant pizza that has been hobbled by our friends and neighbors.
Things get really exciting over here when owners of local restaurants start participating in the conversation. And last week I got another comment from Lorenzo, the owner of Paesan’s pizza, that I really thought deserved everyone’s full attention.
It is an amazing story. I was shocked and saddened, but at the same time hopeful after reading it.
Here it is:
When my brothers and I first came up to Albany in 1994 we served pizza that way, no screens no popping bubbles and a little cornmeal on the bottom to slide of the peel into the oven. I should have recorded some of the complaints we got for not having a round pizza or a customer saying they got a slice with very little cheese on it due to a bubble and wanting a discount or a new pizza. As we grew our business we had no choice but to have our product be uniform from store to store and stop some of the complaints.
I wish that Lorenzo had held onto some of the complaints too, because I would go and visit each one of those people and give them a piece of my mind.
But this story does have an up side.
The up side is that all of this happened over fifteen years ago. And people change. Communities change. Tastes change. Even awareness of what makes good pizza changes.
And thanks to one of my readers emailing the FUSSYlittleBALLOT to Lorenzo’s family, for better or for worse, he seems to be keeping an eye on how things are unfolding here. As it turns out there have been several comments in praise of pizza bubbles and cornmeal.
– John Sconzo said, “I have traveled to NYC and New Haven just to eat pizzas like you describe and they have been worth the trips!”
– Jess explained, “The coveted bubble is, well, coveted in our household.”
– Andy wrote, “I can’t imagine a scenario in which I wouldn’t want bubbles in my pizza.”
– Jenny on the Block suggested, “A bubbly (even charred) pizza delivered to my door would be great.”
– Beck declared, “I love crust bubbles in pizza. I would definitely buy a pizza that had crust bubbles. I love a smattering of cornmeal on the crust, too, which is uncommon around here.”
– Otis put all his cards on the table with this comment, “Lorenzo, if you would be willing to make available an off-menu version of a bubbly pizza in one of your stores, the ‘rustica’ or whatever, I for one would journey down from the frozen north (Saratoga) to try it.”
That is six responses in praise of bubbles without a single response opposed to the phenomenon. But Lorenzo has to sell more than six pizzas. Maybe if we could rally our likeminded friends and colleagues to post more comments in support of bubbles and cornmeal dusted (rather than screened) crusts it would send a more significant message that the times have changed.
And I’m not asking for systemwide change. Let the suburban locations have their perfectly round and bubble-free pizzas. But in Albany, on Ontario Street, Paesan’s should make the pizza they opened their doors to make, the way they know it should be made.
The microwave oven post got 28 comments. Can we get 50 in support of this noble cause? Can we get 100? Am I seriously considering another quixotic campaign? Am I starting to ask too much of you too soon after the FUSSYlittleBALLOT? And will any of it matter?
In all honesty the risk to reward ratio isn’t in our favor. Paesan’s is loved by many and has won countless “Best of” designations. Adding a new style of pizza to the menu, and cooking it directly on the oven floor, could cause all sorts of problems. If Lorenzo said that regardless of this community’s support the juice wasn’t worth the squeeze, I would certainly understand.
That is why the appeal has to be emotional rather than rational. Yes, it’s a business. But I have to assume it is a business that started for a reason, to bring great pizza to Albany. In 1994 the residents of the city were clearly not ready.
I say we are ready now.
Are you with me?