Joined: 19 Jun 2006
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii, USA
|Posted: Sat Jan 01, 2011 11:28 pm Post subject: Review of Popular Plates Pizza
|The Popular Plates Pizza volume by Jane and Michael Stern, creators of Road Food, is a must have book for any pizza lover. This project is a labor of love all about pizza by Jane and Michael Stern who are clearly obsessed with pizza. And not just any pizza: great pizza. In addition, they are intimately familiar with all the different regional styles of pizza. The Stern’s document 120 pizza reviews which are comprehensive, inspiring and fascinating.
Much of this book was created with assistance of the members of their Road Food Team. The Stern’s sent out these Food Warriors all across the United States in search of the best pizza. These pizza aficionados traversed the country looking for the obscure and the well-known. The pizza analyses are extraordinary and mouthwatering.
You will discover the origins of pizza, pizza lingo and the official way to make certified VPN DOC Neapolitan. You will unlock the secrets of making different kinds of fantastic pizza with recipes as well as specialized toppings. There are loads of tips on how to re-create your own outstanding pizza at home. You will also discover methods on how to grill pizza and how to create dessert pizza.
While this volume was released in a magazine format it could easily be a coffee table book. (Side note to Jane and Michael: you may need to re-release this as a hard back!)
The Sterns have done their homework. They describe and define the many regional tastes of pizza across America. These styles include: New York, New Haven, and Chicago, as well as Old Forge (PA), Trenton tomato Pie (NJ), West Virginia, St. Louis, Detroit, the Quad Cities and more. The historical aspects of pizza are well documented here. They also include a nod to Legend of Pizza, Ed LaDou for his contribution, to Wolf Gang Puck’s and the California Pizza Kitchen’s menus.
It’s easy to see that the Stern’s have a soft place in their heart for New Haven Pizza. They both met at Yale, which is located right down the street from Pepe's, and Sally's. As a matter of fact, the book closes with a section called “New Haven: Pizza Capital of the World”. In this short piece they review New Haven legends: Pepe’s, Sally’s, and Modern as well The Spot (also owned by Pepe’s.)
The pictures alone are worth the price of the book. The photographs are simply outstanding. The pizzas seem to jump off the page and invite you to eat them. These are photos are so well created and researched that they are in a class all by themselves. The pizza pictures are stunning, and astounding. The images add much to the entire pizza experience.
This may very well be one of the best photographic pizza volumes ever created. There are photos of some of the early and current superstars of pizza including many shots of Frank Pepe and his family.
This book describes famous as well as obscure pizzerias scattered across the country. For example the Dog Town Roadhouse in Floyd, Virginia is featured. The owners use wild yeast, make their own mozzarella and use local produce. Floyd, located in the mountains of Virginia is one of those “you can’t get there from here” kinds of places. I‘ve been to Floyd, Virginia and it is certainly located off the beaten path. And yet the pizza at Dog Town Roadhouse is simply amazing.
Another great pizzeria mentioned was "Pizza on Earth", a Jay Vogler's Wood Oven Bakery located in Charlotte, Vermont. In his wood oven, Jay makes thin crust pizzas, and hand formed artisan style breads. He is the epitome of the old time pizzaiolo, making pizza for pleasure and to help spread the mission of pizza passion.
The reporting on New Haven apizza is extensive. You get to feel the importance of the Wooster Street Experience. West Coast pizza is not left out, as master pizzaioli such as Tony Gemignani (Pyzano's, Tony's, California), Chris Bianco (Bianco's Pizzeria, Arizona) and Brian Spangler (Apizza Scholls, Portland) are honored. Each one is a true Legend of Pizza. The Pizza Restaruants discussed are extensive and almost comprehensive. Almost.
While this volume describes many types of regional pizza there are some short comings. What ever happened to the city of Atlanta? The entire state of Georgia is not commented upon. I was also disappointed that the Best pizza in Alaska and the Best Pizza in Hawaii were not even mentioned as sources of great pizza. After all, Alaska boasts, The Moose’s Tooth Pub and Finn’s. Hawaii claims Inferno’s Wood Fire, V Lounge and J.J. Dolan’s and more. Each one of these pizzerias deserves some type of recognition.
Another area lacking was the failure to reference the strong community of pizza related information that has been created on the Internet. Let’s face it; much of the movement about giving regional pizzerias recognition would not be possible without the thousands upon thousands of pizza related references on line.
While the Stern’s do briefly reference Roadfood.com, (an incredible resource for any foodie), there is no other mention of the impact websites, blogs and forums have had on popularizing pizza. Internet pizza sites such as Pizza Therapy, other piza websites, pizza blogs and pizza forums have taken pizza out their local regions and spread the word about pizza globally.
Were it not for the Internet (and the rise of food related television shows) the notion of discovering great pizza outside your own area, would not have existed. A simple paragraph explaining the influence of the Internet on the world of pizza, would have been welcomed.
The truth is Popular Plates Pizza is a must have book for anyone who ever tasted pizza. Get a copy (or two) for yourself. Read it and discover some of the freshest pizza material on the planet. Take action on your pizza cravings and discover things about pizza you never knew. Popular Plates Pizza is a must read book for anyone who ever tasted a slice of pizza.
A great book is one that causes you to action. This book inspired me to eat more pizza. And what could be better than that?
"Pizza on Earth...Good Will to All!"