Peter Reinhart starts his incredible adventure in Italy and journeys across America, as he searches for incredible pizza pie. To borrow a phrase from Bill Graham: This book is not the best at what it does; it is the only book that does what it does! Not only do we search for these incredible delicious disks, but we learn how to make them.
The first section of American Pie is the quest for perfection. The subtitle should be “my search for the perfect pizzaiolo (pizza master),” as Peter meets with a host of pizzaiolos who share ideas and philosophy about pizza.
According to this book, there is more to pizza, than just throwing together flour, yeast oil, tomato sauce, cheese along with other toppings. The fact of the matter is that you must bake part of your heart into each one, to reach brilliance. (Author sidebar: I call this Spiritual Pie. Pizza from the heart, from the soul.)
The second half of the book allows Reinhart to do what he does best, bake. The recipes are all here and Reinhart makes them easy to replicate. He claims to have the ability to identify all of the ingredients and cooking methods of anything he eats. Further, he shares these secrets with the reader.
With the numerous recipes, you will be able to reproduce some of the most famous pizzas in the world. He adds his take on Pepe’s (Wooster Street, New Haven, Connecticut), world famous clam, New York style, Chicago deep dish, focaccia as well as numerous others. He gives tips on grilling and even devotes some lessons on tossing” in the air.
I enjoyed the countless anecdotes throughout the book. For example while waiting in line at the legendary Sally’s Apizza in New Haven, Connecticut, he stops into “Nick’s Apizza” across the street to use the restroom. He is impressed with their pizza and makes a mental note to come back. Upon his return six months later, “Nick’s Apizza” has gone out of business. The obvious conclusion is simply making fantastic pizza may not be enough to sustain a business.
This book covers the gamut of all things pizza from coast to coast. A nod is given to all types of American pizza along with the recipes. New Age pizzas from the West Coast are also discussed.
He actually uncovers the mystery of Wolfgang Puck’s and California Pizza Kitchen’s secrets. (Some Chefs were understandably, hesitant to be interviewed). The answer is both pizza menus were created by noted Legends of Pizza, Ed LaDou, star of Pizza: The Movie and owner of Caiote Pizza Cafe, located in Studio City, California.
Reinhart may have gone over the edge by reviewing sushi pizza, but it does fit in with the spirit of the book. This book is for anyone who has ever sampled pizza as well as those who posses a passion for this food.
The journey alone will suffice for some aficionados and is worth the price of admission. Add to that, Reinhart’s years of expertise in baking breads of all kinds, and you have a volume that is unmatched in scope. Buy it, read it and make your own perfect pizza!