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Pizza uncovered

13 December 2005

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.

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