Delancey's Brandon Pettit Talks About His Pizza Quest

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Before Brandon Pettit and Molly Wizenberg opened Delancey, the Ballard pizzeria I reviewed this week, Pettit traveled around the United States to learn from the pizza masters. He told Voracious about his trip, as well as what's next for Delancey.

There's a famous music composition teacher in Paris named Nadia Boulanger who taught tons of famous composers like Aaron Copland. She said, if you're going to write a piece for violin, you should go back in history and study every piece of violin music that has been made so that you can see how people write for the violin and bring out the best of the instrument.

So I took that advice and applied it to pizza. I went to all the places that were regarded as the best in the country, and saw what I could learn from them. In New York, I went to the coal-fired-oven places, namely John's of Bleecker Street and Di Fara in Brooklyn. I went to Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, which is closest to the style that I'm doing. He's using a wood-fired oven, but he's doing more of a crisper, flavorful crust that was more of a genre that I was excited about. Then there are the places in Portland like Ken's Artisan Pizza. And in Los Angeles, I went to Pizzeria Mozza. The toppings there were really phenomenal.

I took a mix between the crust from DiFara and Bianco, and the normal New York toppings from Di Fara, as well as the way he seasons his sauce. In the future, I want to add more nontraditional, seasonal toppings inspired by Zuni and Chez Panisse [in the Bay Area] and Mozza.

When I was in Phoenix, I spent a half-day talking to Chris Bianco. [Pettit's wingman on that trip, Matthew Amster-Burton, wrote a piece for Gourmet.com based on their talk.] Since the school I went to was located close to Di Fara, I used to eat there several times a week, and I talked to Dominick DiMarco about the oven temperatures and how he made the dough. The the same thing happened with Ken at Ken's Artisan Pizza -- I talked to him for an hour or two about his process.

Nobody was even slightly secretive. They gave me a piece of dough to feel, taste raw, see the texture. A lot of them gave me specific recipes and fermentation times, as well as hints of what to try and what to avoid.

Voracious: You've kept the menu simple to start with. How are you planning on developing it as you go along?

There are certain things that we're starting to do now -- adding wood-fired starters, for example. The other day we tried roasted cremini mushrooms and roasted shishito peppers with chili-garlic oil. It got too hard to keep up so we had to stop in the middle of the night. I'd like to do a few more things in the wood-burning oven. Right now I'm also making beer vinegar, and we make the red wine vinegar for the salad. Like to make some sodas, too, and I'm looking into laws about making small batches of beers. I'd really to make our own cheese, but that takes a lot of work.

 
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