Face Time: Pizza Cuz

May 23, 2013

As co-owners of New York’s Artichoke Basille pizzerias, cousins and co-chefs Sal Basille and Francis Garcia know about slinging dough. The pair show off their pie intelligence in the new Cooking Channel series “Pizza Cuz” (9 p.m. Mondays), which sees them checking out pizzerias around the U.S.

Crust is so crucial in pizza. What’s the key to making it?
Francis Garcia: Use good ingredients! And don’t use hard water; it won’t work wonders on the dough. And beyond that, experience.
Sal Basille: And if you’re new at dough-making, you can always go to your neighborhood pizzeria and buy it. Most of them will sell it to you cheap.

What’s the easiest way to ruin a pie?
SB: If you put too much of one ingredient on the pizza, you may spoil the dish.
FG: Yeah, don’t overtop a pizza, either, or it’ll have no body. You’ll have a soggy mess.

What’s the secret to a good sauce?
SB: To me, it’s all about the right tomatoes. We really like Nina brand canned ones. Don’t use puree, don’t use crushed. Just add olive oil and salt. A lot of places destroy pizza sauce by dumping in hot peppers, garlic and all this other stuff that’ll just give you heartburn.

You’ve been hitting pizzerias around the country. What’s the wildest type you’ve tried?
FG: I was blown away by this Indian pizzeria in San Francisco, Zante Pizza (Zantepizza.com). They make the dough with turmeric in it, and they put spinach curry sauce and baba ghanoush on it.

It sounds like there are regional American differences in pizza.
SB: Yes, there’s a place in Berkeley, Calif., that has sourdough crust!

Are there any ingredients that you can’t put on pizza?
SB: No — pizza is a blank canvas. You can put anything on it! If you like meatloaf and mashed potatoes, they’d work.

Pizzerias obviously have very hot ovens. What can we do at home to help us make pizza with regular appliances?
FG: You can do things to make your oven like a pizza oven. Use a pizza stone, or go to Home Depot, buy a box of quarry tiles and use those to line the bottom of the oven. That’ll do a pretty good job at really heating up the bottom of the pie. [Read more at Cookingchanneltv.com/shows/pizza-cuz.html.]

What about grilling pizza?
FG: I think grilled pizza can taste like cardboard. It’s hard to melt the toppings. But people do put pizza stones on their grills, and that can often work out OK.

OK, you get one last slice before dying — what’s on it?
FG: My electric-chair pizza? A simple combination of Pollio and Pecorino cheeses, anchovies and plum tomatoes. It’s a pizza we have at the restaurants called the Burnt Anchovy, and the fishes actually melt into the pie. It’s a real umami effect.

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