Last week took Team SPT on an epic field trip to Sysco Metro NY, a huge distribution hub for restaurant supplies throughout the New York area. We were invited for a visit by Chef Michael Salvatore, who graciously hosted us for an afternoon of massive pizza insanity.
Our first stop was the warehouse, where Chef Michael showed us how Sysco maintains a consistent supply of everything from flour to tomatoes to mozzarella di bufala. It was awesome, but we weren’t allowed to take photos. Use your imagination; it looked like the last scene in Raiders of the Lost Arc.
Our next stop was the test kitchen, where Chef Michael got to business with some different dough/sauce/cheese combinations. He baked everything in a Blodgett gas-fueled deck oven, so it was a real treat to see how different doughs reacted. I was joined by Team SPT members Miriam and Alexis, who each downed about a dozen slice experiments.
Chef Michael prepped two doughs: one using “00″ flour and the other with a high protein flour. You’ll usually find “00″ flour in Neapolitan pizzas and high protein is common with New York pizzas, so it was really interesting to experience the different. Neapolitan pizzerias typically use high temperature wood-fired ovens but we were baking in a gas oven, so our results weren’t what you’d expect from most restaurants using the same product. We found the New York style pizzas to be more successful.
We get a lot of tomato questions on pizza tours, mostly concerning the difference between crushed tomatoes and pizza sauce. The prior is exactly what it sounds like: actual raw tomatoes that are crushed and deposited onto the dough skin. Pizza sauce is a seasoned and cooked preparation. For our Neapolitan pizzas, Chef Michael opted for crushed tomatoes. You’ll see the whole peeled tomatoes in the photo above.
The photo below shoes a cooked sauce (left) and the crushed whole tomatoes (right). Notice how the sauce looks so much darker. That’s because it’s cooked and concentrated. You’ll easily recognize the difference between a cooked sauce and a raw tomato when you have a chance to sample them side-by-side.
Big thanks to Chef Michael and Sysco Metro NY for having us for an incredibly educational afternoon!