“Vive la difference!” Want a breath of fresh pizza air-go to Co. Pane in New York City.
Last weekend, I dragged my wife south along the crowded streets of Manhatten to a destination that I had been waiting to visit for a few years now- Sullivan Street Bakery. We almost walked by the small storefront in Hells Kitchen that, (my baker-hero) Jim Lahey owns and operates and after opening the door we were rewarded with a face-to-face introduction with a beautiful long Pizza Bianca, Jim’s famous Pizza Potate, Pizza Funghi and a very fresh Pizza Pomodoro, not to mention the breads, OHHHHHH the breads!
My wife would have waylaid my idea to come down to Hells Kitchen if I hadn’t mentioned the fact that Jim Lahey is the “inceptor,” or “proprietor”, so to speak, of the “No Knead Bread Recipe.” Now, annoying as it is to me, it must be a thorn in Jims side to have this recipe referred to as “Frank Bruni’s no knead recipe.” Dianne Rehm (on National Public Radio,) reffered to it this way whilst interviewing the guy who wrote that book about 52 loaves. The guy, who is not a professional baker, pompously blasted Mr. Lahey’s recipe as misguided. My wife did indeed follow Jim’s recipe to the letter and I have since enjoyed some of the best loaves I’ve ever had.
Now, back to Sullivan Street…I am somewhat egotistical about my Pizza Bianca prowess, AND I hate to admit when other bakers/pizza guys make something better than me. So, I’ll say it now, Sullivan Streets pizza bianca was the best I’ve ever tasted AND better than I’ve ever made. My wife fell in love with the potato pie and we wanted to spend the whole day there but move on we did after I bought a t-shirt.
After heading south, we past a corner restuarant and my wife alerted me to the fact that it was a pizza place. “Oh my god Debra, it’s “Co.”, Jim Lahey’s pizza place.” So, after rolling her eyes and saying, ”Here we go again…”, we went in and had a great pie called the “Popeye” (fresh spinach, pecorino, gruyere, mozzarella, cracked black pepper and some bodacious garlic.) It was cooked to perfection- not the usual “You should only do pizza this way” perfection, but MY perfection- a perfect amalgam of toppings up to the edge of a light, airy and blistered crust. No pretentions, just a fabulous pizza made with the diner in mind, not just the pizza maker.
No, thats not an artsy attempt to show the “Popeye.” Black truffle oil damage, low light and sticky steam from a future blog entry about sorghum has killed my camera. This pizza rocked our world!
I was then lucky enough to get introduced to the staff and the chef at Co Pane. His name was Matthew Aita and he gladly let me film a pie being cooked. Jim must be doing something right because all the guys in his kitchen have been with him for years and hold the same amount of respect I have for this great guy. Most have graduated up from dishwasher to stalwart pizza guys. Matt was obviously dedicated to fulfill Mr. Lahey’s vision of making pizza that he had experienced in Italy and is determined, as he put it, to “Use the pizza as a landscape and use the toppings to dress it with flavor.” One thing struck me as telling about Matt was his admission that great pizza had “Become his obsession.” Now that’s a pizza guy that I like!
Here ya go with a fabulous Boscaiola pie with sausage, red onion, chili, mozzarella and mushroom made by guys who are making thier own rules, thinking outstide the pizza box and turning everyone on to some fabulous pies. Thank you everyone at Co., Matt Aita and Jim Lahey!