Our Lunch with
Imagine having a conversation with the author of one of your favorite
books. Now imagine he's also a great pizza man. Now
imagine he's personable, charming and humble. Now
that the conversation takes place over some great pizza!
That was our lunch with Peter Reinhart.
We like Peter Reinhart. Ever since we first read American
Pie and Lillian recognized one of Grandma Antoinette’s
one of Peter’s recipes, we’ve felt a certain affinity for
him. If you haven’t read about our adventure of driving all
night to study pizza-making with Chef Reinhart at his Pie Town
restaurant in Charlotte, NC, you
can find it here. He’d told us then that he was
unfamiliar with the Long Island style of pizza called the Grandma Pizza.
The master at
work at Pie Town
So when he told us that he was coming to NYC to teach a bread class, we
opportunity to invite him to lunch with us at Umberto’s, the New
Park landmark where the Grandma pie was invented.
We picked him up at LaGuardia airport on a rainy Saturday afternoon and
whisked him off to Nassau County. In the car, we talked about
his new book, Peter
Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day, the bread
baking class he was going to teach the
next day at the
Institute for Culinary Education, how things were in Charlotte (where
Peter lives with his wife Susan), and how hungry we all were.
One of the more interesting parts of the conversation was hearing about
Peter’s amazing abilities as a pizza detective – diagnosing the problem
with one pizza-maker’s dough as over-fermentation based on the flavor
and the light color of the cooked pizza. He told us that when
the pizza has fermented too much, the yeast consumes all the sugars in
the dough leaving none to caramelize the crust into a golden brown!
We got to Umberto’s
pretty quickly, and got a table right
away. Even though the lunch rush had passed (it was past two
in the afternoon) it was still pretty crowded. We decided to
order a Grandma pie, three Sicilian slices, and a small Margherita
pizza (although we are regulars, we’d never had what Umberto’s calls
their ‘brick oven’ pizza). We thought that by 'small', they
meant 'small,' but we'd say it was about 15". We’re not sure
what people around
us thought as all these pizzas came to our table and Cary started
snapping pictures, but we’re getting used to that by now…
Grandma) at Umberto's
In addition to being a bread baker, restaurateur, author, teacher, and
pizzaiolo, Peter Reinhart is a big pizza fan. He easily kept
up with us in eating the
three styles of pizza we'd ordered
and launched into stories about multi-style pizzerias
and the people who make them. He told about great pie men
around the country, including world-champion pizza maker and tosser
Gemignani (Peter’s already been to his new place in San Francisco)
and others, from Chris Bianco of Phoenix’s Pizzeria Bianco to
Spangler and his Apizza
Scholls in Portland, OR.
never did run out of interesting conversation and it could have gone
on and on. We learned a few dough-making tips that will help improve
our future homemade pizzas. We also found out that Peter will
be launching a website soon and is shooting some pilot episodes for a
proposed television series. He's a busy man, and if you'd like to keep
up with Chef Reinhart, his blog can be found at http://peterreinhart.typepad.com.
It was unfortunate that we weren't able to attend Chef Reinhart's class
the next day, but as we've said before, if you ever get the chance to
baking class with him, by all
means do it.
We were all stuffed by the time we left Umberto's. Peter
told us that he'd liked the Grandma's best, though the brick-oven
Margherita was close.
we got into the car to take Peter to his hotel in
said he was meeting some people in Manhattan for dinner at Keste and at least
one other pizzeria! We told you we like this guy!
And we'll treasure our new autographed copy of Artisan
Breads Every Day (thanks,
from Our Lunch with Chef
Reinhart to the Pizzadventures
from Our Lunch with
to the passion-4-pizza