Who doesn’t love pizza? I would venture to say that I don’t fully trust a person who doesn’t enjoy this heavenly, gooey, tomatoey, crispy concoction. As you know, I currently live here in our nation’s capital, but I grew up in Suffolk County in lovely Long Island, NY. Growing up there, I was under the impression that all pizza tasted as delicious as the local shops smattered across the Island. Boy was I wrong.
The thought of Long Island pizza makes me yearn for the days of my misspent youth, galavanting around town, grabbing a slice of what would become one of the most coveted and craved delicacies I have ever had the pleasure of eating.
If only I had truly appreciated what gems I had right in the palm of my hand at the time and not taken them for granted. While D.C. has definitely come a long way, I have yet to find a pizza joint that serves a true Grandma pizza. Something is always off or missing. New Yorkers will always credit the differences in the water effecting the dough, and maybe this is true. Maybe it’s the sauce, or perhaps just the tradition passed down through generations of Italian families up there. Whatever the reason…it’s just different.
Most people consider pizza that of a puffy crust with canned sauce, drenched with a bag of greasy, store-bought mozzarella. Such a shame. The Grandma pizza is the O.G. of the pizza world, with it’s crispy, paper-thin crust and fresh robust ingredients. It’s a taste that I long for and one everyone should experience.
On Long Island during my comeuppance in my teens, my family had a tried and true tradition. Like most good New Yorkers, Friday pizza night was a staple. And there was only one place we wanted to order from…Mama Santina’s in Brightwaters…just a hop, skip and a jump from West Islip, the sleepy, seafaring, bay-front town where I spent my days marauding through my formative years. I remember the drive there being fairly short, but the ride back seemed excruciatingly endless.
I was always my parents’ trusty wing-woman. They were tasked with driving, and my post was held in the front passengers seat, grasping tightly to our precious, steaming-hot cargo…the scent teasing me the whole way home. The drive back to our house seemed hopelessly long. A series of local stop lights taunting me as we bobbed and weaved our way back to our warm kitchen, where the oven heated with pizza stone intact and ready to perform its duty.
There was nothing like that feeling of propping open that box to reveal the square-shaped treasure ensconced within. The crisp, thin crust glistening with olive oil. The chunky plum tomatoes blanketed with strategically placed crescents of melted, fresh mozzarella, garnished with fresh-from-the garden basil. It was golden, bubbly, savory perfection.
My mother and I still frequently wax poetic about this pizza. Perhaps if we were to go back and taste it now, we would realize that we have turned this delicacy into a modern-day foodie version of a yeti tale, or a flying unicorn fantasy. The more the years pass, the better this pizza becomes in our minds, though I doubt I will ever find fault in it.
I recently came across a fantastic little recipe for this pizza in my recent copy of Cook’s Country, stopping me dead in my tracks. It’s amazing how our senses respond…how a photo or a scent can take us right back to a specific memory. Seeing this recipe shot my brain right back to adolescence. I hope that you will give this a try and that you enjoy it as much as I have, do, and will for a long time to come.
Please note…this method lets the dough proof right on the sheet. Spread the dough on an oiled baking sheet and then set it aside to rise. Makes for super easy prep!