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The Pizza Revolution

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You sit down to a pizza at Garage Bar. You notice the crust — blistered, glistening, lightly charred — as you bite through a thin layer of cream, studded with bacon, garlic and sweet corn kernels. You savor the combination of salt and sweet, the chewy crust and toothsome bacon. It occurs to you that this delicate creation is a far cry from the pizza you grew up with: the saucy slabs at Impellizzeri’s, the reliable deliveries from Papa John’s that you’d grab out of a cardboard box as you watched a basketball game with friends. As you savor the little beauty in your hands, you wonder: What the hell happened to pizza in this town?

You say you want a revolution The past 18 months or so have seen a radical shift in the Louisville pizza scene. Take a look at the names that have hit the scene: Papalinos. Mozz. Coals. Garage Bar. MozzaPi. Peek at the resumes of the pizzaioli: Garage Bar’s Michael Paley is executive chef of Proof; Papalinos’ Allan Rosenberg has done chef turns at Park Place and Seviche and owned the Frankfort Avenue fine dining spot Danielle’s. Check out the super-hot dome ovens stoked with wood or coal. Consider the dough recipes. The toppings. The pizzas don’t even look like pies Louisvillians grew up with. You could call it a pizza revolution. And Allan Rosenberg is pretty sure he knows who started it. “I think we started it all,” he says. By “we” he means himself and his partner, John Browne, owners of Papalinos NY Pizzeria. Rosenberg is a burly guy, a little scruffy, a lot tattooed, who once served up $30 plates at upscale restaurants. But his biggest success has come in a cramped, overheated storefront on Baxter Avenue. There, he has found glory baking 18-inch pizza pies, quartering them, and serving the oversized slices for three dollars and fifty cents a pop. But Papalinos isn’t just about big, cheap slices. What’s revolutionary for Louisville is what goes onto those slices — an impressive array of artisanal toppings: bacon cured on the premises, sausage made in-house, smoked duck, elk meatballs, roasted fennel, whole-milk mozzarella — right alongside standards like pepperoni and banana peppers. You say you started a revolution, Allan? Well, he thinks so. “We opened very busy and got The Courier-Journal restaurant of the year,” he says. Hard on the

heels of that success, “I noticed a lot of places started opening up.”

The beginning of the beginning But to trace the roots of the revolution, you have to look back to 1998.That’s when Louisvillian Tony Palombino opened a tiny delivery-and-carry-out business on Willis Avenue. Three years before, Palombino’s Pollotate chickenpotato-and-rosemary pizza won the International Pizza Festiva contest. “The media picked it up and put my pizzas and the concept on the map,” Palombino says. He called his concept “wood roasted pizza,” but the real news was in the gourmet toppings and sauces. Palombino taught Louisville that pizza sauce didn’t have to be red. Instead he offered garlic cream sauce, pesto sauce, or no sauce at all. And the toppings? Pepperoni was fine, but how about some Parma prosciutto?

Papalinos’ Allan Rosenberg

Palombino didn’t think what he was doing was radical. “Potatoes, chicken, pesto sauce — those are toppings that have been used in Italy for years.” But the departure from local tradition was a huge change, and one that Louisvillians embraced. This was California-style gourmet pizza, and we opened our hearts to it, not that we loved Clifton’s or Wick’s any less.

Better ingredients, better pizza If Tony BoomBozz broke ground for gourmet pizza and Papalinos introduced artisanal toppings, a slew of new entries have taken the concept ever farther. When Paley opened Garage Bar this summer, he kept his culinary standards high in developing recipes like the sweet-corn pizza ($16). At Coals Artisan Pizza, the Waverly features www.facebook.com/foodanddine Winter 201 1 19

Profile for Food & Dining Magazine

Winter 2011 (Vol. 34)  

Nov - Dec - Jan 2011/12

Winter 2011 (Vol. 34)  

Nov - Dec - Jan 2011/12