Did you know that Little Caesar’s still exists? It’s been years since I’ve seen an ad for them (though that stupid jingle remains an eternal earworm), much less a physical location, but a few months ago one popped up a few blocks away on 125th Street, and whenever I pass it I always feel bad for the people who now have the orange glow of the signs blaring into their windows at night, as they can’t possibly cast a pleasant glow into a room.
Of course, this is also amusing because the chain is the complete antithesis to the artisan pizza movement that has taken the city by storm for the past few years as they continue to pump out pies with perfectly round crusts, pre-made sauce and shredded cheese, and step-by-step visual instructions on how to assemble every iteration available on the menu. No big signs are visible that say that they’ve improved their pizza like Domino’s or switched to all-natural ingredients like Pizza Hut; no, it’s the same old pizza they have been presumably making forever. It may be seen as ballsy to some, but the place is usually busy whenever I pass it on the way home so they must be doing something right.
We wouldn’t know, of course, because our pizza consumption is limited to either pies we make at home or ones we order from one of the local places nearby. Maybe that makes us snobs to some degree, but after spending over three years in New Haven and having access to some of the best pizza I’ve ever had on a fairly regular basis, the national chains hold no interest for me anymore.
Besides: pizza makes an excellent dinner party option as you can get everyone (who wants to, at least) in on the act from the shopping for ingredients to the prep work, and traditional rules can be generally thrown out the window. When T and K made their first visit to our New York apartment a few weeks ago, pizza was quickly decided upon as our dinner Saturday night, even though it also played into our brunch the next morning.
K isn’t much of a pizza person in general, but what I think she enjoys most about making it with us is that we tend to go far beyond what you’d get at a traditional pizza joint, including choosing less-than-normal cheeses. The first time we did this was almost a year ago, first making a simple white pizza with lumps of soft goat cheese and garlic scapes from her mom’s extensive garden and then a more traditional margherita. Craving something different this time around, we took advantage of the tomato and basil selection at Whole Foods (these smelled like tomatoes, the first we’ve really had all season) as well as their house-made mozzarella and did a simple caprese-salad style pizza. We wanted something more substantial for the second pie, so one piled with Mountain Moon Goat cheese (a harder cheese purchased on the recommendation of one of the cheesemongers and worth every penny), hot Italian sausage, a mixture of cremini and shiitake mushrooms and some onion did the trick nicely, even if the photo above doesn’t do it justice.
I fear that our pizza-making days may be numbered until the end of the summer if the weather continues to be balmy and humid out, but I’m sure we’ll cave quickly enough to brave a hot oven and kitchen in order to enjoy more kooky, homemade creations.
As always, our basic pizza dough recipe can be found here. Buon apetito!