This article first appeared in the 1 November 2005 issue of Restaurants & Institutions (R&I).
R&I is the USA's leading source of food and business-trend information and exclusive research on operators and restaurant patrons. Editorial coverage spans the entire foodservice industry, including chains, independent restaurants, hotels and institutions. To find out more about R&I, visit its website www.foodservice411.com
With deep-rooted appeal that spans foodservice segments and diner demographics, pizza is in perpetually high demand: 60% have ordered the pies in the past 12 months, according to R&I's 2005 Tastes of America survey.
About 225 pizzas sell daily at each Oregano's Pizza Bistro, a seven-unit Scottsdale, Ariz.-based chain where pizza-making is such serious business that kitchen staff train for more than a year before they are allowed to oversee the restaurant's stone-hearth ovens. The exacting preparation method requires six quarter-turns during cooking; pizzas then are finished in a second, higher-temperature oven.
Toppings that include cotija cheese and chorizo reflect a Southwestern influence on the casual-Italian menu, but Oregano's standard pan pizza follows a more basic formula: chunky tomato sauce, provolone, mozzarella, chopped tomatoes and a sprinkling of the namesake herb atop hand-tossed crust.
Cornmeal and beer are among the ingredients in executive chef Ken Likewise's thin crust recipe, creating a dense dough that emerges crisp from the oven.
When using frozen dough, keep frozen or only thaw partially before adding sauce, cheese and toppings for ease of assembly and transporting.
Let diners customize with condiments located on tables or counters. At Oregano's, options include hot-pepper-infused oil, Parmesan cheese, red-pepper flakes and fresh oregano.
1. Double time
Oregano's Pizza Bistro's pan-pizza dough goes into a stone-hearth oven once to rise and again after toppings are added. Pans are coated with cotton-seed oil for extra-crisp, golden crust.
2. Getting sauced
Fresh romas are steamed, skinned and cut into chunks to top Oregano's pan pie, but many operators prefer canned tomatoes for consistent, full-flavoured sauces.
3. Melting pot
Sharp provolone mingles with mild mozzarella in standard pizza-cheese blends. Mix it up with more adventurous cheese choices such as fontina, Cheddar, Asiago or Gorgonzola.