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Albanians Demand Bad Pizza

April 27, 2010

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?

19 Comments leave one →
  1. dannyburton permalink
    April 27, 2010 9:05 am

    i am most definitely with you bro.


  2. April 27, 2010 9:36 am

    I puffy heart the coveted pizza bubble. I worked at an independent pizza place in college and if the bubble was too big we would pop it but for the most part they were left alone. I think DeFazio’s does a good job of letting the pie be what it will be and I am totally okay with the lack of uniformity…but I miss the cornmeal crunch on the bottom.

    I will follow my tastebuds to any local establishment with crust bubbles and cornmeal. Let the quest begin!

  3. beck permalink
    April 27, 2010 9:59 am

    Well, as I declared on the earlier post, yes, I support bubbly pizza! I’d order from Paesan’s more often if they had bubbly, cornmeal-crusty pizza.

  4. Ellen permalink
    April 27, 2010 10:33 am

    Paesan’s pizza is pretty good — I have ordered delivery from the Ontario St. location and gotten slices for lunch dozens of times from the Guilderland location — but bubbles would make it even better! YUM. Count me in as someone who would patronize a pizza place willing to make a rustic, bubbly pizza.

  5. mirdreams permalink
    April 27, 2010 10:35 am

    Give me a pie that doesn’t make me wish I was in NYC instead and I will be eternally grateful.

  6. wendalicious permalink
    April 27, 2010 10:58 am

    Did you see the results of the Capital Region Living “Best Of” poll? No chains in the results, and Paesan’s won “Best Pizza”.

    Here are the results:

    I don’t read the magazine very often, so I wasn’t aware of the poll until last Friday when Schenectady County issued an official press release congratulating SC winners. But the results have the kind of authentic local representation that you were striving for with the TU poll.

    Perhaps it’s time to give up on the TU, and focus your attention and accolades on CRL?

  7. April 27, 2010 10:58 am

    I would make a special trip to give a more rustic pizza a try. Hopefully I would end up making more than 1 trip.

  8. Jenny on the Block permalink
    April 27, 2010 12:41 pm

    I was in on the last post, but I might add that I order pizza from Paesan’s almost once a week, so maybe my vote will count twice?

  9. April 27, 2010 1:33 pm

    I am somewhat of a Pizza Meanie. I am from Long Island and have had NYC pizza and LI pizza my whole life. I forever search for the perfect slice (and yes, the prefect bagel). I have to say that I have found it a few times, but not even every time in the same place. These are my regular goto places for pizza:

    Saratoga (I work there): Caputo’s Cheese Slice – when I tell people this they usually argue with me about their pizza being “burnt” but I do like a really crispy bottom, so I assume that my crispy bottom is someone else’s burnt?

    Albany: Paisan’s Veggie Pizza “crispy bottom please!” – This is the best and most delicious pizza I have had around here. It is not NY pizza but the amount of veggies they load on this (if t hey crisp the bottom) makes it it’s own kind of animal. I get this almost every time we order pizza for dinner at home.

    And…that’s it. I have not found an amazing cheese slice yet in Albany – usually really dry or the crust is way too crusty. I have had plenty of awesome pizza after a night of going to the bars, but I can’t trust my mouth at those times because I could probably lick the sidewalk and think it was pretty good as well.

    It’s hard. We all have different desires for pizza. It is hard to say that the best for me is the best for you. I do appreciate the bubbles, the cornmeal, the use of good cheese, a good sauce (but not too much) and a lot of love.

    It is not hard to make pizza. It is hard to make it right.

  10. Vicki permalink
    April 27, 2010 1:36 pm

    Totally on board with the pizza! We should not have to drive 3 hours south to get a good slice. Not so sure on the microwave, although ours gets used mostly to soften butter and heat water. But it’s a built-in that came with the house, so it is staying put.

  11. Andy permalink
    April 28, 2010 8:17 am

    I never even knew that local pizza restaurants actively remove bubbles from their pizza. What a ridiculous idea – to TRY to produce a lesser quality product. As children growing up my sister and I would fight at the dinner table over the bubble slices. Please bring back the pizza bubbles, corn meal, and slightly charred bottoms.

  12. MiMi permalink
    April 28, 2010 11:32 am

    Please don’t tell Lorenzo to leave out suburbia. I order from the Guilderland location all the time. I love pizza bubbles and cornmeal dusting.

  13. john permalink
    April 28, 2010 2:06 pm

    Yes people have different ideas of pizza. Sovrano’s with its way-too-thick, undercooked, doughy crust used to be a favorite of my friends, which i thought sucked. But Paesan’s touts itself as “brooklyn’s finest”, which has the bubbly slightly burned crust. I would think that all the residents and students from downstate that are probably a big part of their business would appreciate it being made correctly. Otherwise it does not stand out at all from the other joints right on the same street corner. Try Fiorello’s imports on western ave. they embrace the bubbles !

  14. Andrew permalink
    April 28, 2010 8:58 pm

    I shouldn’t tell anyone this because my wait for pizza will go to an hour but Marino’s Flying Pizza on State St. in Schenectady has the best pizza. If you like pizza from NY try this.

  15. Vincent permalink
    April 29, 2010 10:00 am

    I agree with the above poster, I’ll stand with a Marino’s pie done “crisp.”

  16. April 29, 2010 7:13 pm

    I would go to each and every Paesan’s location to try the rustic pizzas. Or just one specific one. Either way, I am in support of bubble pizza (but I also like the pizza they have now).

  17. King Supreme Lovin Torben permalink
    April 29, 2010 9:26 pm

    I made this comment in a Graduate Seminar last week. ” Any pizza north of the bronx sucks.”

    I stand by that statement.

  18. May 1, 2010 1:09 am

    I am with you. And this post made me hungry for pizza. Dammit.

    I’ve noticed recently that the pizzas I order from my regular places in Albany (Mild Wally’s and Bello Pranzo–which is basically on top of my house, and whose pizza has been a guilty pleasure for the 5 years I’ve lived here…plus, it gets even better when you heat it up in the toaster oven the next day…I digress) Um, anyway, the crust from these two places has been getting thicker. This is not acceptable. Perhaps I should complain.

  19. May 1, 2010 10:09 am

    Yes, yes, yes! I have to admit Paesan’s was a staple of mine until I found a bubbly, corn-mealy, non-circular pie. I patronize both, but I’ll admit I prefer the latter. The fact is, Lorenzo has a point – he adapted to what the market demanded, can’t fault a guy for that. BUT, kudos to FLB for reminding the capital district that there is a critical mass of us who recognize conformity to a cookie cutter standard does not equal quality and that Macaroni Grill should not rank among the best Italian restaurants in Albany. And we’re part of the marketplace too.

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