The best job I ever had was working at St. Anthony Main Pizzeria during my freshman year in college. Back then I didn't see the job as the pinnacle of career success, but back then I didn't know what I do now. Working for Mike Smith and "Noonie" taught me about work ethic, quality food service, and taking pride in what you do. Serve up your best, at all times.
For those of us who love food many of our memories are linked to those food moments that interrupted assumptions or changed our eating habits. The summer of 1985 brought the most unique and wonderful flavors I had, up to that moment, ever experienced. That was the summer of the pesto and clam pizza special. We sat in the back of the kitchen scarfing down our free slices, keeping a watch on the front of the shop in case a customer approached (more than one of us greeted a hungry patron with green basil toothed smiles).
Too many years later I still experiment with pizza crust (although the recipe I learned at Pizzeria is by far and away the best) and fuss with toppings. No toppings are better than pesto and seafood of some sort especially when paired with a bright tomato or sweet red peppers. Last week the new Saveur featured a Neapolitan-like crust recipe, which baked up great even in my oven that tops out at 500 degrees.
Pesto, Shrimp, and Lobster Pizza
Guest Starring Cherry Tomatoes, Red Pepper, and Walnuts
Crust (makes 4 pizzas so you'll want to think of something else to top the other 2):
1 package active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups 110-115 degree water
1-2 teaspoon salt
6 cups flour, plus more for kneading
Combine yeast, sugar, oil, and water; let sit until foamy, 10-12 minutes. Stir in salt and flour; transfer to floured surface and knead until smooth, 10 minutes. Quarter dough; roll each portion into a ball. Place balls on floured baking sheets and cover with plastic wrap; let rise in warm place until soft and tripled in sized, 2-3 hours.
Divide these toppings between 2 pizzas:
16 ounces shredded provolone
1 container prepared pesto (make your own in the summer when basil is abundant)
8 ounces cooked and chopped lobster meat, shell removed
8 ounces cooked shrimp, cleaned and shells removed
scant cup chopped walnuts or pinenuts
scant cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 red pepper, sliced thin
1 cup shredded Parmesan
Preheat baking stone, if available, in 500 degree oven, about an hour.
Transfer dough ball to parchment paper and working from center gently stretch dough to 10" diameter. Cover dough with towel and let rest 15 minutes. Top pizza with provolone and transfer pizza to stone; bake until cheese is melted, 5-7 minutes. Remove pizza from oven and spread pesto over melted cheese. Top with remaining ingredients and return to oven. Continue cooking until golden brown, another 5-10 minutes. Remove pizza with spatula.
(And if any of you know where I can find Mike, please forward that information to me. I'd love to set up shop with him, or at least discuss some new toppings.)