Its worth the wait, that is what I saw over and over again on Four Square when I checked in while waiting in line and what everyone who had been there before kept reminding us.  And once we finally made it inside and sat down at Filippi’s Pizza Groto, in San Diego,  it was worth the wait.

The atmosphere was authentic, it wasn’t wedding receptions nice but it was close but not cramped, dimly lit and fairy noisy.  All characteristics of a restaurant I would typically never want to come back to, however, Filippi’s managed to combine all these things into a tremendously enjoyable atmosphere.  The service was a cut above out waitress was fun and full of attitude, she was a riot.  And then there was the food.  Wanting to keep things simple we went with a pepperoni, extra cheese pizza and we were rewarded for out simplicity.  It was perhaps one of the best pizza’s I have ever had.  The salty oily cheese on top and the subtle but magical sauce on the crispy crust made this pizza something to long for.  It was awesome I would not hesitate to visit again and we just may yet this week.

Filippi’s Pizza Grotto in San Diego, it’s worth the wait.  It also has a neat deli and carry out available.

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Tonight we took pizza to a new level, we grilled it, this is more my style.  Nothing gives pizza the flavor and texture of a hot wood fire and the closest I can get here in our condo complex is pizza on the grill with hickory cooking chunks.  That is just what I did.

Pizza on the grill

Because we were out of pizza sauce and pepperoni we had to improvise and ended up making a pizza with chicken, spinach, basil and olive oil.  We then finished it with a balsamic reduction my wife whipped up.  It was light and most tasty.  The wood smoke flavored the cheese and crust nicely, it complimented the strong flavors of the basil and the dry heat and free flowing air from the grill gave the pizza a nice crispy crust .

So here is how I did it, I cheated, I first pre-heated the stone in the oven at 500°F for about an hour.  While I did this I got the grill ready with half charcoal – half hickory chunks; spreading the coals evenly around the charcoal grate.  I then cooked up a chicken breast, I had marinaded the chicken over night in a combination of 3 tablespoons of olive oil, a clove of pressed garlic and a teaspoon of paprika.  My wife wilted spinach and fresh basil leaves from our patio with some olive oil and pressed garlic.  Once the chicken was cooked up, I sliced it up, rolled out the dough onto my pre-heated pizza stone.  I then brushed the crust with olive oil, topped with the spinach-basil mix and cheese.  Then it was onto the grill for about 15 minutes.  At this point the charcoal had passed its prime so it took more time than I would have liked, but it was worth it.

Our grilled pizza

So in the end we had two verdicts, I thought the grilled dough was much better than that baked in the oven.  My wife however would rather have the crust baked in the oven.  So what was the difference?  The pizza from the grill had a nice, crispy and slightly burnt crust.  Burnt in this case is not a bad thing, it was just lightly charred in the center on the bottom.  The pizza from the oven was much more moist and the crust was not nearly as crispy.  The crust from the oven also lacked the flavor the grilled pizza got from being exposed to the fire and smoke of burning wood.  If it was up to me we would be done eating pizza from the oven and keep the heat outside, and get a better flavored crispier crust from the grill.

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It is summer and I should be BBQ’n or smoking something in the smoker but, lately I have been fascinated with pizza and getting it right.  I have a new found love of no knead pizza dough, the crust is tasty and easy to make, but requires a little planning.  A couple weeks ago I made some no knead pizza dough and baked it in a hot cast iron skillet, which worked pretty good or so I thought.

Pizza on a pizza stone

Way back in my cupboard was a pizza stone that we had not used in a couple months, so out it came and into the 500°F oven until it was hot.  I did everything like before, plopped the dough on the stone; added sauce, cheese and toppings as quickly as possible and popped it back in the oven.  It did its thing, somehow cooking pizza on a stone is magical the crust was ‘fluffier‘ than before, it was awesome.  It did take me a while to realize how awesome it was, it wasn’t tell I was sitting back craving more pizza that I realized it was that good and it only had mushrooms and pepperoni on it.

I learn a couple of lessons this time that I will be applying to the next pizza we make.  First I will be sure to bake the crust alone in the oven for a few minutes prior to topping with sauce, cheese and toppings.  And second if I am going to be using alot of moist toppings I will be sure to pre-cook them a bit to get some of the moisture out.  With those two things, I dare say it will be pizza baking perfection.

Tomorrow we try pizza on the grill, wood-fire style.

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With all the hype about no knead bread and no knead pizza dough I decided it was time to take the plunge and give it a whirl.  Last night I started on the journey to make a homemade pizza with some no knead crust and to through a little twist I decided to cook it in a cast iron skillet in the oven.  Well it turned out to be incredible and I am glad I made enough dough to make a couple more.

No Knead Pizza

There was a slight bit of kneading required in spite of the name but the dough was awesome, but it needs to be planned for and made well in advance.

3 c + extra flour
1 1/2 c warm water
1/4 c + extra olive oil
1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp yeast

Mix together dry ingredients thoroughly, then mix in water and olive oil until it is mixed evenly, it will be very wet, like sticky and not dough like wet.  Drizzle olive oil over the surface of the dough, cover bowl with plastic wrap and let set for 12-24 hours.  Once dough has raised.  Turn oven on the highest temperature possible (500°F in my case) and put cast iron skillet in the oven until it is heated well.  Punch down dough flip out onto a floured surface and divide into small balls and make individual rounds of dough, for pizza.  I made three.  Roll or stretch out the dough into thin crusts.

Have your toppings, sauce and cheese ready.  Lightly oil the skillet and then place the crust in the skillet.  Quickly put sauce, toppings and cheese on the crust.  Bake in skillet in oven until pizza is done.  Mine took about 5 minutes.

Even though you have a little more planning to do than with normal this crust is well worth the effort and advanced preparation.  I am glad I have two crusts left, I can’t wait to make it again.  This time it was just pepperoni, next time it will be much more elaborate.

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