I may not be a wine expert, but I know a thing or two about a thing or two. And that’s Pizza. You might even call me a pizza snob. You have Starbuck snobs why not pizza snobs?
I cringe at what passes for pizza in some places. Hands down, Brooklyn, New York, and New Jersey pizza are on my top three list, in that order. Chicago pizza? I’ll buy it. It has a place of its own. But Brooklyn pizza rules. Alright, I might be a little prejudice, but I like what I like.
The large chains that are out there? They are not even worth a mention. And you know who they are!
L&B’s places slices , not shredded, mozzarella cheese on top of the dough before putting on the sauce. And it’s not drowning in cheese, it’s just enough. Everything has to be in balance. After the cheese they put on their delicious sweet sauce with just the right amount of oregano and herbs and then a heavy dusting of Pecorino Romano cheese followed by a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Simplicity at it’s best! What comes out of the oven is pizza magic.
What’s pizza magic? I was working in Paramus, NJ at a part-time job and after work, on a Friday night at around 10pm, I asked my co-workers if they wanted to go for a slice of pizza. We all got in my car and I drove to L&B’s Spumoni Gardens in Brooklyn. They thought I was crazy. At least twice a year, and I haven’t worked there in over four years, I get a call from my ex-coworkers to take them down to L&B’s Spumoni Gardens. THAT’S pizza magic.
But here’s the kicker….since I was a child I have gone to L&B’s for pizza and their home-made spumoni, still served in the little white paper cups. It wasn’t till I took my co-workers down there that I even tried the food they serve in their restaurant, which is connected to the pizzeria. We dined al fresco. And before the square pie arrived we had platters of fried calamari that were light and delicate and tender, with a side of tomato sauce like my mother’s, and a sprinkling of Pecorino Romano cheese. We also ordered an antipasto platter that had Soppressata, Cappicola, Prosciutto, Mozzarella, Provelone, Ricotta Salata & Marinated Vegetables over Romaine Lettuce. In addition to that we had a fresh seafood salad with Shrimp, Calamari, Scallops, Mussels, Scungilli, Lemon, Garlic, Olive Oil, Pimientos, Olives & Lettuce. To die for! I watched as the waiters brought huge plates of pasta and sumptuous veal dishes to the other tables. Where have they been all my life?? L&B’s quickly became my favorite Italian restaurant as well.
After all that the Sicilian pie came, this is what we made the pilgrimage for. I enjoyed watching my friends faces as they took their first bite into those saucy squares. They all had the same reaction. OMG! I never tasted anything so good.
We ended the meal with a family style platter of Italian cheese cake, spumoni, chocolate ice cream bomb, chocolate covered strawberries, gelato, tiramisu, and mounds of whipped cream. I had to be lifted from my chair. I think I was the only one awake for the ride home, and that’s because I was driving.
All that food, including a carafe of red wine and coffee, we wound up paying about $20 a head. It just aint right!
Here is the link to L&B’s Spumoni Garden’s web site:
This recipe for Sfincione is true Sicilian pizza, they way they make it in Sicily, and the way my grandmother has always made it. I said L&B’s was great pizza, but not made the same as my grandmother’s pizza. Don’t be afraid of the anchovies in the recipe. When done right, it is not an over powering taste. It never should be. The anchovies lend a subtle background and taste of the sea to this pizza. If you never ate or don’t like anchovies, please give it a try. It makes all the difference in the flavor of this true Sicilian pie.
Basic Pizza Dough
- 5 g dry yeast
- 220 g warm water
- 300 g of bread flour
- 9 g salt
Put the yeast and water into a small bowl and stir.
Add the flour and salt and mix well until all combined. Cover and let rest 10 minutes.
On a lightly floured board, knead the dough, folding it over and over until it is smooth and silky. Add a little flour as needed until the dough is no longer sticky. This is a wet dough so don’t overdue it on the added flour. Knead for 10 minutes. Lightly oil a bowl and place the dough in the bowl, turn dough over to coat the other side and cover it with plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm place until doubles in size, about 2 hours. I find the oven is a great place to proof your dough. Turn on the oven light and that will keep the oven at the perfect temperature.
Sfincione (Sicilian Pizza)
- 1 recipe basic pizza dough
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced and separated into rings
- 8 peeled tomatoes, canned, finely chopped
- Salt and black pepper
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 pound caciocavallo or mozzarella cheese, cut into thin slices
- 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano Cheese
- 3 anchovies, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- plain bread crumbs
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and stir in the onions and anchovies. Cook over low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring often, until onions are soft.
Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste, and the sugar. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring often. Remove the mixture from the heat and set aside to cool.
When the dough has doubled in size, punch it down. Shape or roll the dough into a rough 12 x 16 inch rectangle. Add two tablespoons olive oil to a 12×16 baking pan with 1 inch sides and fit the dough into the pan.
Place the cheese slices on top.
Then cover with the sauce to within a little less than an inch of the sides. Sprinkle with the oregano, Romano cheese and a light covering of bread crumbs. Let the sfincione rise for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Cook the sfincione for 20 to 25 minutes or until the edges of the dough are golden brown and the top sizzling.
Let the sfincione rest for 10 minutes, then cut into squares and enjoy. This is Sicilian Pizza!