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Anton Forte's NYC Pizza Diaries

Words by Anton Forte

Mere weeks before Covid swept aside all travel plans for 2020, Swillhouse visionary, Anton Forte, joined longtime friend and collaborator, Dan Pepperell, to venture deep into the crust of the New York City slice scene. Ultimately, their findings would inspire a fresh vision, approach, and appreciation for the art of pizza making. Hundreds of slices were harmed in the making of this article, and Anton claims to still be bloated from the trip. It’s a hard job, but somebody’s gotta do it!  

In February 2020, before Coronavirus thwarted everyone's travel plans, Dan and I decided to go to NYC to learn about the city’s pizza culture. Our goal was to take that knowledge back to Sydney and redefine our pizza offering at Frankie’s.  

New York City has a pizza scene that is as diverse as it is interesting. The spectrum of styles is vast, from price point, to venue experience and pizza style. The sheer amount of pizzerias is staggering - people can get a dollar slice on the go, or happily wait up to two hours for one of the city’s most revered slices. 

New Yorkers are educated and vocal with their opinions - proclaiming their favourite spots and disparaging any place that they think is lacklustre, sometimes without reason or rationality. Just for the sake of it. I love it.  

Pizza culture in New York is beautiful, awesome, and truly remarkable. We worked off a criterion, analysing pizza’s merits from prove and cook times, dough composition, sauce style, cheese mixes, and toppings. We also checked out the atmosphere and vibe of each venue to understand what made its offering unique, special and fun.  

From this dream research trip, we developed a deep understanding of the pizza we wanted to create back home. What we came back with was a plan: our new dough was to be composed of high ash content, stone-ground flour fermented for three days, cooked on stone at a low temperature to create a super crispy, blistered crust with chew, tang and depth of flavour. It’s a product that’s easy to digest, beautiful to look at, and totally delicious. 

Anton and Dan in NYC, 2020.

SOME OF OUR FAVOURITE INSPIRATION CAME FROM THESE JOINTS

Prince St Pizza: Thick chewy squares cooked for over 20 minutes, curled shared pepperoni, epic scene, epic line. 

Scarr’s Pizza: Hip hangout for gangsters and the fashion scene. Giant delicious slices, awesome small bar. 

Ops Pizza: Local Brooklyn hangout, intimate, friendly and delicious. Wood-fired beauties, hot and delicious, fresh out of the oven. 

Rubisrosa: Fun Italian tavern, the Shady Pines of pizza shops. Vodka and Pesto Pie. 

Pasquale Jones: New age Neopolitan style. Sourdough base, creative toppings, natural wine, charred and blistered bases. 

L’Industrie: The best slice of the trip. Topped to order, super Italian style toppings with a light, crispy, NYC base. 

Joe’s: Lame, doughy, flavourless junk. 

Mumma Too: Crazy hectic, thick, oily, fried slices - kind of disgusting if they weren’t so delicious - Cacio e pepe pizza. 

Bread and Salt: New Jersey hangout for large rectangular pies cooked on stone. Delicious, fun, serious. Beautiful. 

F&F Pizza: A mother and her young daughter discussing the merits of this particular pizza: “See…. The cheese is good, tomato is tasty. It’s really good, right?  Do you wanna be pizza specialist when you grow up?”

“Yes Mum, I do.”

“Good crust, really good, can you taste that?”

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