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A Pizza Love Story

April 1, 2018 | Frank Bonanno

Jacqueline’s story goes something like this:

We’d met working together and we’d been flirting a lot across the line. One day, I invited her to join me for pizza at Anthony’s downtown. She show up on her bicycle, and as she hops the sidewalk, sees me in the window, spinning a pizza. According to her, it’s the first moment of falling in love.

My story goes like this:

I’d been falling for Jacqueline for weeks. This date was important to me. A couple years earlier, in college, I’d worked for Anthony’s at DU, and I kind of wanted to show off–to show off the pizza (Anthony’s is great), and to show off the girl (J’s pretty great, too). We met at the downtown store because in those days, Jacqueline’s primary mode of transport was a bicycle. She didn’t even learn how to drive until she was 33, which is insane, right? But I digress. Bottom line: I’m very particular about my pizza. I wanted to get there before she did because, well, here’s another odd thing about Jacqueline–odd only because she’s never worn it as a badge or anything, and odd because she fell for me–but Jacqueline is a vegetarian. Part of me was worried Anthony’s wouldn’t have the right pizza for her, and part of me was worried she might be a pain in the ass about her preferences. So I got there early and slipped behind the counter, spun her a pizza so she’d have something hassle free and tasty waiting when she arrived. I wasn’t trying to impress her, but I’m super happy it worked out that way.

There’s another part to this story, too. I was really looking forward to lunch at Anthony’s. Like, really, inordinately excited about it, and part of the excitement stemmed from looking forward to making a pizza. I’d been cooking at RattleSnake Grill for months, in a super fine-dining setting that was fun–and challenging–but took me away from cooking other foods that I love. Like pizza. I missed the feel of the dough, the lightness as it stretches, the blank canvas it presents, and the artistry in turning that canvas into a really great pie.

Here I am, in my fiftieth year, married to Jacqueline (so the pizza thing worked. I highly recommend it if you can pull it off). I possess a solid portfolio of restaurants and cooking styles–and I love it all. Love the juxtaposition of complexity/simplicity that goes into the broth at Bones, love executing every station of the line at Mizuna, and love rolling morning pasta at Luca. Love pulling a perfectly tender brisket from the smoker at Russell’s and love cooking a simple sole meunière at French 75–lightly dredging the filet in flour, sautéing it in a beautifully browned and bubbling butter, and

But I digress again. The bottom line, the Truth with a capitol T, is that I love to cook, an no matter how elevated, or elegant, or complicated the cooking gets, it’s always good to return home, and home for me is pizza.

I’ve got two more pizza places opening in the spring, and Jacqueline asked me for a recipe to give to guests for the opening party of Engine Room. A pizza recipe–as in, something you might be able to make with pizza. I’ve never done that–never even thought about it, and there I was googling Leftover Pizza Recipes when I came across this great little Thrillist piece –good ol’ Lee Breslouer, friend to celebrities, and they had a recipe for leftover pizza croutons created by Perry Santanachote. How great does that sound? I’m going to take it an extra step, though.

Listen. Pizza Panzanella Salad.

Instead of the traditional day old bread, use day old pizza! Toss with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, capers and all that other deliciousness? I did it, too. Made a panzanella salad with croutons from day old sausage pizza. Granted, that salad was nowhere near as healthy as it looked, but damn. It was a really, really, really good salad. So here, in this sort-of-ode-to-pizza, I give you two recipes, one for pizza croutons, and one for a panzanella salad.

Naturally, if I make one for my wife, there won’t be sausage in it. Let me know how yours turns out.


(The recipe is here. . . )