Lanzalotta plays his pizza cards close to the vest, but he pointed Joe to a recipe for rolls in his 2006 book “The Diet Code” and told him to turn those into a pan pizza. To get his crust to approach the ethereal puffiness of the Micucci slab, Joe upped the liquid, remembering that Lanzalotta boasts that his dough is almost equal parts flour and water. The dough is quickly mixed by hand, then sits in the refrigerator for up to a day before baking. For the sauce: crushed San Marzano tomatoes, a good dose of olive oil, slivers of garlic and a hefty pinch of sugar (for that sweet-tart flavor).
His biggest advantage over Tim, he thought, was the fact that the one pie serves a crowd, while Tim would be chained to the oven to crank out pie after pie, missing the action in order to keep the football fans happy, a little slice or two at a time.
For the first time in Smackdown history, the challengers agreed to bring in professionals to judge their dishes, independent masters of the pizza trade: Pete’s New Haven Style Apizza chef and co-owner Thomas Marr and pizzaiolo Edan MacQuaid, formerly of Pizzeria Orso and now at Bryan Voltaggio’s Range. Joe, worried that neither pro makes the style of pizza he had settled on, unilaterally decided that Bonnie would cast the tie-breaker vote, if needed.
If there’s anything more nerve-racking than cooking for pros, it’s cooking for pros in a kitchen other than your own. Joe and Tim prepared their components at home, then had to lug the dough, sauce, toppings, a pizza peel, baking sheet, pizza stone and more to The Post. They prepped their pies in one area and had to carry them two floors down to the paper’s cafeteria kitchen, whose convection oven burns hotter than Joe Pesci’s temper.
As Nixon used to say: Mistakes were made. Plenty of them, in fact. Tim forgot to bring his pre-cooked hot Italian sausage, which he’d bought at Whole Foods. He had to borrow rubbery, emulsified, commercially produced links available in-house. Joe couldn't master the temperamental oven, which browned his cheese and crisped his pie’s edges but left the interior as soft as bread pudding. Gummy is not a word you want to associate with pizza.