By Matthew Ross
“Everybody loves pizza,” says Ruth Gresser, the owner, manager, chef and head pizzaiola at Pizzeria Paradiso. And recent author of Kitchen Workshop Pizza, an informative book on pizza making. Gresser’s book is more than a cookbook. It is her gift to pizza lovers everywhere that want to bring a little more pizza into our homes. Gresser’s other three theses after “Everybody loves pizza” are (1) her fundamental truth that pizza is “the people’s food,” (2) that “pizza is a meal in itself,” and (3) that pizza is on almost everyone’s list of favorite foods. I concur on all counts.
Kitchen Workshop Pizza attempts to cover the entire pizza pantheon, from the traditional Neapolitan with type “00” flour, San Marzano tomatoes and mozzarella di bufala, to New York style, Chicago deep dish style, Pizzeria Paradiso classics, and a number of modern riffs using everything from whole wheat, multigrain and/or gluten-free dough to all of the proteins, vegetables and fruits imaginable on pizzas.
First, a quick word on my pizza provenance. I grew up in New York City 3 blocks from Little Italy and spent my Junior year of college living in Rome. I have enjoyed pizza at least once a week for almost 4 decades. That’s over 2,000 pizzas. I will not say that I am a pizza expert by any means. But I will admit to being definitely a pizza enthusiast and a bit of a pizza snob.
On a freezing cold January 28, I bustled into the warm, basement of the Pizzeria Paradiso flagship on M Street in Georgetown. The bar area (“Birreria Paradiso”) was replete with exposed red brick walls, hardwood bar and tables, fireplace, and chalkboard menu. It was exactly how a pizzeria should look (minus the oven). First we had a few snacks to limber up the palate and stomach.
This was soon followed by a pizza and beer tasting.
There was an asparagus, fontina, red onion, and grape tomato pizza paired with a double IPA.
We also tried a chickpea, cucumber, feta, mint and yoghurt pizza with a light, crisp Saison.
My favorite was a fig and prosciutto pizza with shredded gorgonzola and a balsamic glaze, paired with Dogfather Imperial Stout. The Dogfather was aged in bourbon barrels, which imparted notes of smoky oak, caramel and a hint of vanilla to the stout, creating a complex and robust accompaniment to the rich, savory pizza.
All in all, it was an enjoyable and tasty evening. I look forward to tasting my way through Chef Gresser’s book.