Give Now  »

Make pizza like a pro–at home

Read Transcript
Hide Transcript


KAYTE YOUNG:  From WFIU in Bloomington India, I'm Kayte Young and this is Earth Eats.

PETE GIORDANO:  00 refers to the fineness of the grind, so it's super fine because of that designation, which also helps make it be as smooth and glutenous as possible in the final dough. They buy them in these 55 lb bags through, like, restaurant store and I just get it shipped to me.

KAYTE YOUNG:  This week on the show, we go all in with a pizza making fanatic. Toby Foster talks with Pete Giordano about what it takes to make the perfect Neapolitan style pizza at home. And we learn how to make persimmon pudding using a recipe from Clara Kinsey. That's all just ahead. Stay with us.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Thanks for listening to Earth Eats. I'm Kayte Young.

KAYTE YOUNG:  When Susan Gray was growing up in Bloomington, Indiana, she lived a few blocks away from the Kinsey family. That's right, Kinsey family as in Alfred Kinsey, the famous biologist and sexologist, founder of the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana university in 1947, now known as the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction. The Kinseys lived in a brick house on First Street and they had a large yard with many native plants. Alfred's wife Clara was the member of the Kinsey family that Susan GRAY remembers most. The Kinsey kids were a good ten years older than her, so she never played with them, but Clara Kinsey ran a day camp that Susan attended for two weeks each summer as a girl scout.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Mrs Kinsey, as Susan knew her, was a knowledgeable naturalist who would show them treasures from the natural world, like a grass snake she had captured in a glass jar. Susan vividly recalls Mrs Kinsey letting the snake out so the girls at the day camp could pet it.

SUSAN GRAY:  She was always at the day camp. She ran it for years and years and years. And, you know, we just looked up to her. She knew everything about everything in nature, so you couldn't stump her with a question. One of the activities was going on hikes around Morgan Monroe State Forest and she was always pointing out various trees, bushes, animals, birds. I'm not sure about snakes. We did have that one snake that she brought in. That was the first time I had ever felt the skin of a live snake and it was very interesting, all the little scales on it. Everybody was very impressed with her.

KAYTE YOUNG:  She was also a forager and had a recipe for Persimmon pudding that she shared with Susan's mother, the girl scout troop leader, who also knew Clara Kinsey socially through a hiking club that Mrs Kinsey led. Susan's family had persimmon trees in their yard and they gathered them every year for baking. My colleague, Alex Chambers, visited Susan GRAY this fall to hear about Mrs Kinsey's persimmon pudding recipe. She is family. Alex knows her as Aunt Suzie.

ALEX CHAMBERS:  And you grew up with eating this?

SUSAN GRAY:  Yes. I grew up eating persimmon pudding, persimmon cookies. [LAUGHS] Not so much persimmon bread. I make that and I think that is probably my favorite thing, but my mother didn't make that.

ALEX CHAMBERS:  So, did you see Clara Kinsey using persimmons or making this recipe?

SUSAN GRAY:  No, I never saw her bake, but she was well-known for all kinds of natural foods. And so this was definitely one of them. I assume she had a persimmon tree in her yard, but I'm not sure.

ALEX CHAMBERS:  And she shared the recipe around with, like, the hiking club?

SUSAN GRAY:  She shared the recipe with anybody who wanted it. I think it was pretty popular. A lot of people have this recipe and then a lot of people bake persimmon, a lot of people my age, at least, bake persimmon pudding, although many of them use different recipes.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Susan notes that Clara Kinsey's recipe for persimmon pudding is not the only one out there. Indiana State Park Service sells a booklet of persimmon recipes from Bear Wallow Books.

SUSAN GRAY:  This has 17 pudding recipes, six bread recipes, six cake recipes, eight cookie recipes as well as pies, pancakes, biscuits, candy and fudge.

KAYTE YOUNG:  But Susan likes to make this one because it comes from Clara Kinsey. That's often how it is with food, isn't it? Our favorite dishes, our most treasured recipes are the ones with the story behind them, or a memory, the one grandma used to make. The recipes that have been passed down or passed around for generations.

SUSAN GRAY:  I make it always for Thanksgiving, for family Thanksgiving. I make it for Christmas. I had a friend who unfortunately had Alzheimers and was at Gill's house, but she loved persimmon pudding and came out to help me pick up persimmons. And so when she was at Gill's house, I used to make recipe in the fall and take it in and give it to them so that they could give it to her for dessert from time to time.

ALEX CHAMBERS:  Can we go do the recipe?

SUSAN GRAY:  We can do the recipe. Okay, so I'm going to make a two-cup persimmon pudding because I'm sending some home with you.

ALEX CHAMBERS:  Sounds great.

SUSAN GRAY:  And some to Hank and some to various other people.


SUSAN GRAY:  So, I have pulp from last year which is frozen here in a two-cup container. I bake it in a ten by ten glass thing. You have to bake it in either CorningWare or Pyrex. You cannot bake it in a metal pan. It discolors the pan and discolors the pudding. And you bake it in a slow oven, 325 or lower. So, I'm going to start the oven now. Flour, sugar, soda and the spices: cinnamon, all spice and ground cloves. Okay.

ALEX CHAMBERS:  Okay, great.

SUSAN GRAY:  So, there's the pulp. I mix it all in the same Pyrex that I'm going to bake it in. Saves a dish.

ALEX CHAMBERS:  That's nice.

SUSAN GRAY:  Okay. So the pulp, the egg, two cups of milk, and a scant cup of sugar. I mix it all with a whip.

ALEX CHAMBERS:  Yes, can you describe that. I've never seen a tool like that, I feel like.

SUSAN GRAY:  Oh well, this is a special whip that I bought in Germany when we were in several bed and breakfasts or apartments over there. They had them and I thought it was so neat for mixing up soups and stuff like that, that I prowled the supermarkets till I found one. But the ordinary whip that's a spiral works just as well, but this one has a small spiral that goes around a half circle and I just think it's better.


SUSAN GRAY:  We mix the wet ingredients. I beat in the flour with the whip rather than just dumping it in and mixing it with a spoon because it makes the consistency better. Okay. So, it takes a while to sift it in in my sifter and then beat it in. But, that's the way cooking is sometimes.


SUSAN GRAY:  I don't know, Alex, are you going to post the recipe on the web or anything like that?

ALEX CHAMBERS:  Yes. Yes, I assume that's okay?

SUSAN GRAY:  Well, Clara's not around to object, but I think there are enough people that make her recipe. She would be thrilled to know that it's being perpetuated.


SUSAN GRAY:  Okay, that is the first cup of flour, of two. And the soda. One teaspoon of soda. So, this is all going in the sifter. The flour and the soda and a teaspoon of cinnamon, a half a teaspoon of all spice and a half a teaspoon of ground cloves. And if you don't happen to have ground cloves, you can substitute nutmeg, but it doesn't have the same, what do I want to say? Bite to it.

ALEX CHAMBERS:  Yeah, cloves had a little bit of bite, I guess.

SUSAN GRAY:  They're spicier than nutmeg. You can use any kind of milk. This is 2% I'm using, but my mother used whole and I've even, in an emergency situation, used skim made from dried skim milk [LAUGHS] reconstituted, so.

ALEX CHAMBERS:  That would be an emergency situation.

SUSAN GRAY:  Yes, that was an emergency situation. [LAUGHS] But as I said, there isn't any shortening, so I think skim milk is probably not the best thing to use. [LAUGHS]

ALEX CHAMBERS:  Yeah, it seems like you want to get some fat in there somehow.

SUSAN GRAY:  Yeah. Okay, we're working on the second cup with the spices and the soda and everything in it. Like I said, it's not fast to make, but using the whip means, that as you beat in the dry ingredients means that you're not trying to beat out lumps, which you probably would if you just dumped all the flour in and used a spoon. You know you're going to have to cut out some of this whisking. People aren't going to put up with ten minutes of whisking. [LAUGHS]

ALEX CHAMBERS:  We're just going to, like, air it raw and it's just going to be the whole thing. [LAUGHS]

SUSAN GRAY:  Making it in the same pan that you bake it in does mean that messes up the sides of the pan, so I go around with a spatula and scrape it down a little bit. So, then in the oven for an hour and, like I said, a slow oven, 325 or lower. And, at the moment it is very pale tan color, although persimmon pulp is dark brown, but this is very pale tan color. But as it bakes, it will rise, turn dark and then fall, which means that you have to bake it in a pan that has enough free board on it so that you don't want it much more than half way up your CorningWare or whatever it is you're using, because otherwise you'll have it overflow in your oven. You will not like.


SUSAN GRAY:  So, that's really it. And we will just wait for an hour and then we'll have dessert. [LAUGHS]

ALEX CHAMBERS:  Sounds great.

SUSAN GRAY:  You're supposed to serve it with unsweetened whipped cream, although we have been known to serve it with vanilla ice cream.

ALEX CHAMBERS:  I mean, you can't go wrong with vanilla ice cream.

KAYTE YOUNG:  They got the persimmon pudding in the oven and, I suppose, cleaned up the kitchen during that long hour of waiting for it to bake. Finally, the timer was going off and it was time to check on the pudding.

SUSAN GRAY:  There's the timer.

SUSAN GRAY:  Let's see what it looks like. Okay. Well, has risen and then fallen.


ALEX CHAMBERS:  It has definitely fallen.

SUSAN GRAY:  Yeah. So, we should be good. Let me see here if I put this in. It's still a little juicy in the middle but I think it's going to be okay. So, we can now have our dessert.

ALEX CHAMBERS:  Sounds great. So, let's eat.


KAYTE YOUNG:  That was Alex Chambers in the kitchen with Susan GRAY, baking a persimmon pudding recipe handed down from Clara Kinsey, the wife of the well-known biologist and sexologist, Alfred Kinsey, who founded the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction at Indiana university. Clara Kinsey, a researcher herself, supported Alfred's work and she was known to be an avid naturalist. She ran a day camp in the Morgan Monroe State Forest that Susan GRAY attended for years as a child. You can find Clara Kinsey's recipe for persimmon pudding, along with 100s more seasonal recipes on our website, It's time for a short break. When we come back, pizza. Stay with us.

TOBY FOSTER:  One thing that I've really appreciated about my time working at Earth Eats so far is that I frequently get the chance to talk to someone who's really passionate about something. I love talking to someone who really wants to get into the nerdy details of a specific thing, even if it doesn't have anything to do with food. But it's even better when it does. For Pete Giordano that thing is pizza. Ever since about the summer of 2020, all of my friends have been raving about Pete's pizza. It's something that he's been interested in for a while, but having just bought one of those gas-powered outdoor pizza ovens, he really doubled down on during the pandemic. Pete and his wife Lesley also used this as a way to stay connected with others during that first pandemic summer and they bought a stack of pizza boxes so that they could bring them around to friends.

 He started ordering his flour in 55 lb bags and managed to take a trip to Italy last year that, as far as I can tell, was basically just a challenge to see how many different types of pizza he could try. Pete and I have had mutual friends for a while now and met briefly a few times, but I've never had the chance to try his handiwork. I decided to use my radio platform as an excuse to invite myself, my partner Ryan and our friend Megan over for a little dinner party at Pete and Lesley's really lovely house behind Bryant Park. You'll hear them chiming in from time to time and a little bit in the background too. Pete was nice enough to make us six different pizzas, answer all my pizza questions and tell me about what he's learned and what the future might hold. After some snacks and some small talk, he took me into the kitchen and opened up a proofing box to show me six absolutely perfect looking balls of pizza dough.

PETE GIORDANO:  Alright, so the only ingredients in this dough: flour, water, salt and yeast. And the yeast is naturally occurring. So, this is sourdough fermentation, or natural fermentation. So, really the only ingredients that you have to buy at a store are flour and salt. And I keep the starter and keep that fed and then I use it to make this dough, sometimes like once every two weeks.

TOBY FOSTER:  So, where does the starter live?

PETE GIORDANO:  The starter lives in my fridge in a little container, and you can see it's practically ready to overflow because it's all active from being fed today. And then I can basically just leave it in there for even more than a month. I've never had to leave it longer than that because I always make pizza again, but then I can just revive it whenever I want by feeding it again. It might overflow. [LAUGHS] We'll see about that. I use Caputo 00 flour from Naples. It's a classic pizzeria flour in Naples. Generally, for Neapolitan style pizza that's cooked a super high temperature, you want to use a different style of flour than, like, American bread flour, because they react differently to the heat. So, this is a flour that has very little processing and very high heat tolerance and it's perfect for that super hot oven setting.

TOBY FOSTER:  And that's what the 00 means?

PETE GIORDANO:  00 refers to the fineness of the grind. So, it's superfine because of that designation, which also helps make it be as smooth and glutenous as possible in the final dough.

TOBY FOSTER:  So, is that hard to find in Bloomington?

PETE GIORDANO:  I buy it in these 55 lb bags through, like, a restaurant store and I just get it shipped to me. Buying it in tiny bags, like, by weight, it's super expensive compared to giant bags, so.

TOBY FOSTER:  Well, the doughs look very nice. So, when did you start these?

PETE GIORDANO:  Last night is when I started prepping the starter that ultimately went into these. This final dough has risen for about nine hours, which is kind of the classic for Neapolitan pizza because in old school pizzerias in Naples they didn't have refrigeration so there was no, like, super long fermented dough that's kept in the fridge. It was also just however long it, kind of, naturally ferments, takes like eight plus hours and then it's ready to go.

TOBY FOSTER:  So, these have been here for about nine hours and then now what's our next step going to be?

PETE GIORDANO:  So, now we're going to stretch it out and get ready to put on our peel. Alright, so we need semolina flour out for the actual shape. It's, kind of, just like little ball bearings, this coarse flour for the dough. It makes a great outer layer for the pizza to protect it from your hands and slide around on the peel, but it's not in the actual dough. The dough is just all double 00 flour. Alright, so now I'm just rotating it and stretching it out and letting the weight of the dough mostly stretch itself. In the colder months it's a little stiffer, so it'll probably take a little bit to get it perfectly stretched out.

TOBY FOSTER:  And so, this is, like, mostly a pandemic hobby or did it start before that?

PETE GIORDANO:  This hobby, for me, started a long time ago, probably about 15 years ago when I was in my early 20s living with my best friend as a roommate, and we started making pizza just in the most, like, humble mom 80s way with his mom's sauce recipe and making it in a sheet pan. But over the years, I got more into gourmet food in general in my life and just had a lot more experiences with pizza, and I gradually got more and more serious about it, and a really big game-changer for me was when they invented these at-home propane powered pizza ovens that can get up to 900 degrees. It's a big change to not have to use a wood-fired brick oven to make pizza like this. So, that, kind of, made it possible for me to start doing full-on Neapolitan style pizza.

TOBY FOSTER:  And when did you get that?

PETE GIORDANO:  I think I got that about three or four years ago, maybe like 2019. Yeah definitely pandemic was a good time for me to practice making pizza as much as possible. Alright, we got this all stretched out now. So, this first one is going be super simple, just pizza marinara. In Italy people typically just use tomatoes and salt, but I like a little bit of oregano and red pepper and garlic in here.

TOBY FOSTER:  Is it a cooked sauce or just blended?

PETE GIORDANO:  It is just straight out of the can, San Marzano tomatoes that have been very lightly processed to kind of smooth them out a little bit. We got this oregano in Italy from a little shop in Amalfi, so authentic oregano in this case too. I've got a little dried twig of it here and I'm just going to, kind of, crinkle it about the pizza. What do you think about the smell of that oregano? Very floral smelling. Different variety of oregano is grown in southern Italy.

TOBY FOSTER:  Despite being, as Pete said, just a little dry twig, the oregano is still very fragrant and the simplicity of this pizza really lets it stand out. The only topping left to add is garlic that has been sliced and soaking in olive oil.

PETE GIORDANO:  Got a bunch of sliced garlic here from Rosehill farm stop in Bloomington.

TOBY FOSTER:  Chopped up and you've got it in some olive oil?

PETE GIORDANO:  Yeah, just in a little olive oil here to keep it from burning and to infuse that oil.

TOBY FOSTER:  Oh okay.

PETE GIORDANO:  Alright, my friend, this is pretty much good to go. A little olive oil to finish it off. I always salt everything at every stage. This is ready to go in the oven.

TOBY FOSTER:  So, we're going to take this outside?

PETE GIORDANO:  Let's take it outside.

TOBY FOSTER:  Alright.

PETE GIORDANO:  Here we are at the oven. Just go ahead and turn the heat down a little bit so you can slide the pizza in. This is 900° in the ambient air. And this pizza's going to cook in less than two minutes because it's so hot.

TOBY FOSTER:  I'm excited to see one of these in real life. I've seen ads for them and stuff.

TOBY FOSTER:  Yeah. They really live up to the hype, I have to say. I always have a knife out here and there's always one bubble that comes up that I have to pop with the knife, so I sit and wait for it. [LAUGHS]

TOBY FOSTER:  So, we're going to turn it half way through or just leave it?

PETE GIORDANO:  If we do it perfectly, we'll be able to turn it two times and get it all evenly cooked. Alright, look at that first crust. Got the signature leopard spots. I definitely don't mind if it's a little dark, but this is pretty perfect with the dark spots and the light crust.

TOBY FOSTER:  Yeah, that looks great. It's a fine line.

PETE GIORDANO:  I don't even know how many pizzas I had to attempt before I successfully made even one pizza in this oven. Every single one of them I was like smashing onto the front of it and, like, getting it stuck on parts of the oven and dropping them everywhere. When I started, I was making the dough way too wet because I was making it using the same recipes that I used in a home oven and it was total chaos, resulting in dough all over the oven. The good thing is the oven gets so hot that it literally vaporises anything that you spill over it. [LAUGHS] Alright, we're almost done. I'm going to heat up our tray.

TOBY FOSTER:  Heat up the tray to not cool down the pizza too fast?

PETE GIORDANO:  Yeah, exactly. Alright, this is done. Look at that baby. Steaming away. [LAUGHS]

TOBY FOSTER:  Yeah, it looks amazing.

PETE GIORDANO:  Alright, let's go in and taste it.

TOBY FOSTER:  Alright, let's cut it.

PETE GIORDANO:  Sit here. These will crunch if this is cooked correctly... There we go.

TOBY FOSTER:  Was that the crunch you were looking for?

PETE GIORDANO:  That's right. That sounded perfect. I gotta say I'm not just saying this for your radio story, but I'm very, very happy with how these pizzas came out.

LESLEY NAGLE: Okay, so we have six pizzas so we have to eat six slices, okay.

PETE GIORDANO:  After this first slice I will allow a subdivision You can taste the salt?

TOBY FOSTER:  It's true that there's not much better for a friendship than sharing a good meal together and this pizza really is something special. I'll admit I haven't been to Italy, but I've eaten my share of Naples style pizza and Pete's stands up to any of them. The crust is flavorful and just dark enough, the tomatoes are bright and the oregano and garlic are given enough space to really come through. I would eat more, but there's still a lot of pizza yet to come. After a short break, I'll ask Pete about the San Marzano tomatoes he mentioned and he'll walk us through the steps of a few more pizzas or five. Stick around.

TOBY FOSTER:  Welcome back and thanks for listening to Earth Eats. I'm Toby Foster and I'm talking with Pete Giordano about making pizza at home. Pete uses a gas powered pizza oven that he sets up outside. We talked about the special 00 flour that he orders and the oregano he brought back from Italy, but I was curious about the type of tomatoes Pete uses. I've seen plenty of San Marzano style tomatoes in the grocery store, but I was pretty sure this was something different.

PETE GIORDANO:  San Marzano is a region and you can get DOP certified tomatoes, which the Italian government regulates them. Those are guaranteed to be from that region, but also moreover they're guaranteed to be canned and handled according to very strict regulations that make it as good as possible.

SPEAKER:  Can you get those locally?

PETE GIORDANO:  Yes. They've got a bunch of brands of San Marzano tomatoes at Little Italy, which is amazing because it's hard to find even one brand of San Marazano tomatoes and they have, like, four or five at a time there.

SPEAKER:  And there's lots of trickers out there a similar sort of the style.

PETE GIORDANO:  Yes, oh my God, there are so many fake-outs. There are these ones that, like, used to be very popular that used to say San Marzano, and they changed them so that they say SM and, you know, no doubt they're not from San Marzano anymore. It's why you gotta get the DOP certified, get those bureaucrats in there to make sure everything's above water.

LESLEY NAGLE:  I love that you can taste a little bit of saltiness in the dough. It's always my favorite part about your pizzas.

PETE GIORDANO:  I never hold back on the salt. Salt is in both of my mantras. Flour, water, salt, yeast and salt, fat, acid, heat.

TOBY FOSTER:  Once the first pizza is mostly gone, Pete takes me to the kitchen for pizza number two.

PETE GIORDANO:  Time for pizza margarita, the classic. Alright, so we've got the tomato sauce, then we've got the two traditional hard cheeses for pizza, Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino Romano. I like a blend of both of them. Put that on the bottom so it doesn't burn in the oven. [UNSURE OF WORD] underneath the pizzarella here. Alright, here's our mozzarella. Now, I know this is not fresh mozzarella in this case because that fresh mozzarella at Kroger has been getting super expensive. So, I've got some Galbani whole milk mozzarella here, which is maybe a little bit more what you would use for, like, New York style pizza. But, I think this is the best value in Bloomington right now.

TOBY FOSTER:  Crumbled, not shredded.

PETE GIORDANO:  Yeah, I like to crumble it like this in the food processor because I like an even distribution and also it's very easy to do it in the food processor. And then we can do the basil. Some people like to just throw the basil leaves all over the place and see what happens, but I like to obsessively lay them out so that there's a perfect distribution on each slice. So, I'm ripping them up a little bit and then placing them perfectly here.

TOBY FOSTER:  And I like that you're generous with the basil as well.

PETE GIORDANO:  Oh my God, people often put so little basil on.

TOBY FOSTER:  What's the point?

PETE GIORDANO:  I agree. Alright. We're ready to fire this one now. Slide in our first pizza with cheese here.

TOBY FOSTER:  While the margarita pizza was in the oven, I asked Pete about his trip to Italy last year. Judging from his Instagram photos, I think he might have eaten more pizza on that trip than I usually eat in an entire year.

PETE GIORDANO:  That was a life-changing trip that I personally hadn't had the chance to go abroad since I was in college, which is like more than 15 years ago. So, it was a big deal for us to get to go to Italy. And we went to Rome and Naples and to Salerno in the Amalfi coast, but it was a real pizza pilgrimage in Napes especially, where I got to go to some of the pizzerias that I've been seeing in videos and reading articles about for years and getting to eat at all those places myself was amazing. I even got to meet one of my idols in Italy, Enzo Coccia from La Notizia, a famous pizza maker. And he picked our pizzas for us at his restaurant and chatted with me. So, that was a really special experience.

TOBY FOSTER:  He just happened to be there or did you write to him ahead of time?

PETE GIORDANO:  Well, we got there right as it opened because I was worried we wouldn't be able to get a table at this legendary pizzeria. They opened at, like, seven and there were no Italian people there yet. It was clearly too early for dinner, like, for an Italian person. So, it was surprisingly empty right at opening and he was there, like, meeting with the staff and after he finished his staff meeting, I approached him and he was super chill and generous about me coming up and wanting to talk with him. I told him that I went to Italy to eat at his restaurant and that was pretty true, so he was very nice about it.

TOBY FOSTER:  Was that the best pizza you had on the trip?

PETE GIORDANO:  All of, like, the legendary places we went to really lived up to the hype and were just the highest possible standard of quality with minor differences in, like, style between them. So, I can't really pick one. Look at that margarita.

TOBY FOSTER:  That looks very good.

PETE GIORDANO:  Oh my God, man, it looks super good.

LESLEY NAGLE: Are you sure it's okay if we cut them into smaller slices?

PETE GIORDANO:  Yes. Let me put this in.

LESLEY NAGLE:  We have six pizzas to eat.


LESLEY:  We did learn that pretty quick to cut them in half because when you first started making them, we were just, like, a whole piece, whole piece and then the third one, it was like oh my God.

TOBY FOSTER:  The margarita pizza is another winner. The crumbled mozzarella did make it more of a New York style pizza, which I think I actually prefer, and the hot oven melted it in just the right way, where a moment longer would have caused it to start to burn, but instead there's just a tiny bit of browning on top. I asked Lesley if she had any favorite pizzas from their trip.

LESLEY NAGLE:  They were all so good, but the very last one we had was in Salerno and it was yellow tomatoes, basil, lemon and ricotta. The lemon and the tomatoes were so amazing and it was the last pizza. And then we left.

PETE GIORDANO:  That was at Rodolfo Sorbillo's in Salerno and I think my favorite pizza was at his uncle's pizzeria, Gino Sorbillo's in Naples. So, that was the family to eat with, Sobillos.

TOBY FOSTER:  I guess this is what I mean about talking to someone who really wants to nerd out on the details of a particular obsession. It's so rare to find something that you like so much, that you want to know which pizzeria owner is related to which other pizzeria owners. There's a joy to it that can be really infectious if you let it. Pete also printed out a menu for the evening, which I found to be really charming. Next up is another simple pie with potatoes and rosemary.

PETE GIORDANO:  Alright, so here's a topping that not many Americans are familiar with. A pizza with nothing but potatoes and olive oil and rosemary. This is a signature pizza topping in Rome, pizza con patate and we do a version of it here.

TOBY FOSTER:  So, it looks like you've got gold potatoes. Did you use a mandolin or a food processor?

PETE GIORDANO:  Yes, I used a mandolin to slice these Yukon Gold potatoes and I've got them all coated in olive oil. They're super thin. I'm just going to lay them all over the surface of the dough here. A lot of people think this pizza's going to be weird because it's just putting a starch on another starch, but believe it or not, the texture, like the potatoes kind of crisp and curl up a little bit and the flavor of the olive oil, the salt and the potato is enough to carry it.

TOBY FOSTER:  You salted them already or is that after?

PETE GIORDANO:  I have not salted these yet because it might leach a lot of water out of them and I just want to leave them intact here.

TOBY FOSTER:  So, you've got the whole thing covered in basically a single layer with them overlapping maybe just a tiny bit.

PETE GIORDANO:  Yeah. And I put a few more on just because there's a few more potatoes and I don't want to waste them, but it's pretty much ready to go here. The last thing, which is crucial, is to put some, kind of, fresh herb on this that complements potatoes and the classic is rosemary, but you can also use thyme. You got heavy rosemary just like a heavy basil.

PETE GIORDANO:  Lots of Maldon sea salt.

PETE GIORDANO:  A little black pepper. Why not? It's pretty much out of black pepper. It's fine.

TOBY FOSTER:  Just really just a little.

PETE GIORDANO:  Why not? Or, you know, why at all? Alright, what do you think, man, ready to go?

TOBY FOSTER:  I think it looks great. I'm really impressed by how much you can stretch it with all the stuff on it.

PETE GIORDANO:  Yeah. When it's weighed down, that really helps actually stretch it out that last bit. Push a little bit of that ash off of the plate here. Probably don't have to worry about bubbles forming on this one because it's got heavy potatoes weighing it down.

TOBY FOSTER:  Was this something that you'd made before your trip to Italy or did you learn about this there?

PETE GIORDANO:  I read about this type of pizza, so I was familiar with it. Made a big difference being able to see what I was reading about, though.

TOBY FOSTER:  Do you have any pizza book recommendations? I know there's been a couple, kind of, recently that have come out that are expansive.

PETE GIORDANO:  Absolutely. Yeah. Well, there's one book that I feel quite strongly about because it really helps me understand, not just like the recipes, but the fundamentals of why the recipes were the way that they are and that's helped me get further with my pizza making in the long run. That book is the Elements of Pizza by Ken Forkish. The recipes are intended for a normal home oven, rather than one of these super hot ovens, but even still, I mean it was really just learning the fundamentals from that book that made it possible to make these pizzas too.

TOBY FOSTER:  Do you have any tips for making a pizza in a home oven?

PETE GIORDANO:  I think using a pizza steel helps. That's a nice accessory to have something really hot to cook on.

TOBY FOSTER:  Is that the same a pizza stone?

PETE GIORDANO:  It's the same concept in it looks similar, but it's stronger, studier and it gets hotter and it distributes the heat more evenly. So, it's like a pizza stone, but it works a little better. I think the most important, thing, though to making pizza at home is probably just the methods and the recipes and, to that point, that book the Elements of Pizza is perfect. The big difference between pizza made in a home oven and pizza made in this kind of oven is going to be the hydration level, because the longer something cooks in an oven, even at a lower temperature, the more evaporation there is going to be. So, you need a lot more water to start in a pizza that cooks for ten minutes. Pizza that cooks for two minutes needs very little water in it because there's not much chance for evaporation. That was what really doomed my first, like, 20 pizzas in this oven was them being so wet. But now I understand that really well because I had all those learning experiences.

TOBY FOSTER:  Even though the pizza has only been cooking for about a minute, the potatoes are starting to curl up on the edges and brown a little bit, almost as if we're watching a time lapse video of them turning into potato chips.

PETE GIORDANO:  You wouldn't think necessarily that it's possible to cook a potato in two minutes and have it be done, but they're so thin and the oven is so hot that they truly are going to be perfectly cooked.

TOBY FOSTER:  It looks great. A little bit of browning on some of the parts, but yeah. It smells so good.

TOBY FOSTER:  We all sit down to enjoy and then it's time for pizza number four.

PETE GIORDANO:  This is my wife and I's favorite white pizza, a pizza with ricotta and no red sauce. So, I'm putting some ricotta on the dough now first and I've seasoned this ricotta with a little bit of lemon juice and salt and pepper and then we're going to top this with a little more cheese, some kale that also has olive oil and lemon juice on it and some pickled red onions.

TOBY FOSTER:  This is like your signature.

PETE GIORDANO:  This is a little bit of a signature pie, yeah. We call this one the Sesame Street because I forgot to say it also has sesame seeds on it.

TOBY FOSTER:  Oh okay.

PETE GIORDANO:  Alright, so we'll hit it with a little bit of the hard cheese for a little salt. Put a little mozzarella on there. It kind of blends in with the ricotta. Alright, so I've got the red onions here. I just cut this red onion up and poured boiling half vinegar and half water over it with a generous pinch of sugar and salt. That's it. It's ready to go in a couple of hours. Squeezing all the juice out of these pickled onions so they don't make the pizza soggy. Look at the color. They're so bright.

TOBY FOSTER:  What kind of vinegar did you use?

PETE GIORDANO:  This is just your, like, Maynards floor stripping vinegar. [LAUGHS] This is white distilled vinegar, just for kind of a neutral vinegar flavor here, though. Plus, it's dirt cheap, so it's good for pickling.

TOBY FOSTER:  They are a very nice color.

PETE GIORDANO:  It's going to look like a lot of kale, but it all shrinks down and shrivels up, so just dump this dressed kale all over it. Every element, we try to make flavorful before and after.

TOBY FOSTER:  It looks great.

PETE GIORDANO:  Alright. Oh wow, listen to that kale popping. That's all the water in those vegetables. It's evaporating and bursting there. Another thing that I, like, ruined a lot of pizzas at first was trying to put them in because, I don't know, I guess I wasn't doing it smooth and confidently enough with the peel.

TOBY FOSTER:  It seems like you have to not be afraid.

PETE GIORDANO:  Yeah. You just gotta stick it in there.

TOBY FOSTER:  While the Sesame Street cooks, I ask Pete if he has any interest in moving this from a home obsession to a pop-up or a food truck some day.

PETE GIORDANO:  I have thought about that. I'm not too sure yet when and where that might happen, but it's something that I'm, kind of, work-shopping now. It's a scary thing to make a living from food, as I'm sure you can relate to, my friend.

TOBY FOSTER:  Yeah. Big job for sure to go from just doing it for fun and friends.

PETE GIORDANO:  Yeah. But I could see something in between with the pop-ups. It doesn't have to be my whole professional life, but it could be more than just the home. Alright. Look at that. The kale's perfect now. It's, kind of, burnt. [LAUGHS] A little burnt, but still perfect.

TOBY FOSTER:  I do hope that Pete is able to turn his pizzas into a business some day, at least to some extent. As he, kind of, alluded to, I used to own a restaurant, so I know that it can be extremely challenging, but also extremely rewarding. Although it's true that the kale is a little bit burnt, the combination is another success, with the earthiness of the kale balancing against the lemon and the pickled red onions adding some extra acidity that I think a white pie sometimes lacks. At this point, though, I'm also starting to worry how I will manage to eat any more pizza.

PETE GIORDANO:  Here's one of my favorite pizzas. I call this one Double Dracula, because it has garlic on it in two ways. I've got roasted garlic, that I roasted in advance and that's, like, soft and smushy, and I'll just, kind of, smear some of that in different spots. But then I've also got slices of garlic, fresh garlic in olive oil and I'll sprinkle those on the top and they'll cook in the oven. So, we have got the two types of garlic and then we'll also put hot honey on it at the end, which is honey that's infused with chili peppers. Other than that, it's a normal tomato and cheese pizza. Here's our roasted garlic. This is always hard to distribute evenly because it's really soft. I'm just going to break it into little pieces and drop them wherever. Now, let's get the second kind of garlic in there, sliced garlic. This is going to be really garlicky. I got a lot of this left. It's what it's all about. We got all this olive oil that's got garlic flavor all over it. Look at that. Oh yeah.

TOBY FOSTER:  Beautiful.

PETE GIORDANO:  Alright, let's do it. There we go. Pop that bubble. It's getting big. And if you let the bubble get too big and burst on its own, then you might have a hole in the bottom where the crust is and that's a big pain in the butt. This one might have a little hole in it, but I think it's holding together well enough to be fine.

TOBY FOSTER:  And then we're going to put the honey on at the end?

PETE GIORDANO:  Yeah. Put the honey on at the end because it's sensitive to the heat and would get obliterated in there. Just one more second.

PETE GIORDANO:  Alright. This one has the honey on it. This is the Double Dracula. Two kinds of garlic, roasted and sliced and they're hot.

TOBY FOSTER:  Somehow I missed that this pizza is named the Double Dracula because of the garlic and Dracula being a vampire until a few weeks later, although wouldn't Dracula not want to eat this pizza? Anyway, it tastes great whatever it's called. The last pizza of the night was listed as a mystery box on the menu and was, sort of, an amalgamation of all the other pizzas.

PETE GIORDANO:  This might be the first bad pizza. [LAUGHS]

TOBY FOSTER:  I also later learned that there's always six pizzas because for some reason when Pete tries to make any other number of pizzas, the dough doesn't turn out right. I'm not sure why. He sent it home with us because we're all too full to eat anymore and it was great the next day. When I came over to record Pete making pizzas, my friends gave me a little bit of a hard time about it. "What's the story?" they asked. "Local man likes pizza?" which, I mean, yes, but there's also something special about someone putting so much time and care and energy into learning how to make something really well and then sharing that with others. A lot has changed about how we eat over the last few years. Some people got used to just getting food delivered to their door each day, some of us got used to the experience of going to the grocery store and seeing a certain shelf just completely empty for some reason. We've waited for our food to arrive at woefully understaffed restaurants and heard restaurant owners complain with varying degrees of sincerity that no one wants to work, when, in fact, people just don't want to work in certain conditions that we're overdue for a change.

 And a lot of us went a long time without attending a dinner party, which is one of my favorite things to do. So, it's not something that I take for granted anymore. And I feel lucky to have been able to share such great food with such great friends. And I also happened to learn quite a bit about pizza.

PETE GIORDANO:  Alright, Mystery Box pizza, not a huge deal. It's similar to that other one, but it's got tomato sauce. So, [UNSURE OF WORD], no big deal.

SPEAKER:  I'm going to eat it.

TOBY FOSTER:  Yeah, thanks again for making us so much pizza.

PETE GIORDANO:  My pleasure. This was so fun. Thank you, guys.

SPEAKER:  I'm always down to eat your pizza.

KAYTE YOUNG:  The Earth Eats team includes Violet Baron ,Eoban Binder, Alexis Carvejal, Alex Chambers, Mark Chilla, Toby Foster, Daniella Richardson, Samantha Schemenauer, Payton Whaley and Harvest Public Media. Special thanks this week to Susan Gray, Pete Giordano, Lesley Nagle, Brian Woods and Megan McDonald. Earth Eats is produced and edited by me, Kayte Young. Our theme music is composed by Aaron Toby and performed by Aaron and Matt Toby. Additional music on the show comes to us from Universal Production Music. Our executive producer is Eric Bolstridge.

Toby Foster with headphones, a mic and a recorder in hand next to Pete Giordano looking into a small metal oven with a pizza in it. Pete has a knife in his hand.

Pete Giordano keeps a knife at hand in case any large bubbles in the crust need to be popped during the quick baking process. (Ryan Woods)

“Double zero refers to the fineness of the grind–so it’s super fine because of that designation, which also helps make it be as smooth and glutenous as possible in the final dough. I buy it in these 55 pound bags through a restaurant store and I just have it shipped to me.”

This week on the show we talk with Pete Giordano about what it takes to make the perfect, Neapolitan-style pizza at home.

And we learn how to make persimmon pudding using a recipe from Clara Kinsey.

Pete Giordano holding a pizza and smiling at the camera with a domestic setting in the background
Pete Giordano shows off a modified pizza margherita fresh from the outdoor pizza oven.

Pete Giordano is passionate about pizza. He has an outdoor, gas-powered pizza oven, orders special 00 flour in 55 pound bags, and uses oregano that he brought back from Italy. It’s something that he’s been interested in for a while, but really doubled down on during the pandemic, when he and his wife, Leslie, bought a stack of pizza boxes so they could take dinner around to their friends who were stuck at home.

Ever since that summer of 2020, all my friends have been raving about Pete’s pizza. Even though we’ve met a few times before, I’d never had the chance to try Pete’s handiwork, so I decided to use my radio platform as a reason to invite myself, my partner, Ryan, and our friend Megan over for dinner. Pete was nice enough to make us six different pizzas, answer all my pizza questions, and tell me about what he’s learned and what the future might hold.

When I came up with the idea to record Pete making pizzas, my friends gave me a little bit of a hard time. "What’s the story," they asked, “Local man likes pizza?” Which, in a way, I guess it is. But I also think there’s something special about someone putting in so much time, care, and energy into learning how to do something really well, and then sharing that with others. Pete wants to know everything he can about pizza, and he and Leslie took a trip to Italy last year that they described as a “pizza pilgrimage.” He buys special San Marzano tomatoes. He even printed up a menu for our dinner party, which I found to be extremely charming. There’s a unique joy in being around someone who is so enthusiastic about something, and I truly appreciate Pete and Leslie sharing that enthusiasm with me.

A lot has changed about how we eat over the last few years. Some people got used to getting food delivered to their door each day. Some of us got used to the experience of going to the grocery store and seeing certain shelves completely empty. We’ve waited for our food to arrive at woefully understaffed restaurants and heard restaurant owners complain, with varying degrees of sincerity, that “no one wants to work.” More accurately, people just don’t want to work in certain conditions that were overdue for a change. And a lot of us went a long time without attending a dinner party, which is one of my favorite things to do, so it’s not something that I take for granted anymore, and I feel lucky to have been able to share such great food with good friends.  And I also happened to learn quite a bit about pizza! Hopefully you will too.

* * * 

A recipe with a history

When Susan Gray was growing up in Bloomington,Indiana, she lived a few blocks away from the Kinsey family--as in Alfred Kinsey, the famous biologist, and sexologist. He was the founder of the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University in 1947, now known as the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction. 

The Kinsey’s lived in a brick house on first street, and they had a large yard with many native plants. Alfred’s wife Clara was the member of the Kinsey family that Susan Gray remembers most. The Kinsey kids were a good 10 years older than her, so she never played with them, but Clara Kinsey ran a girl scout day camp that Susan attended for 2 weeks each summer. 

Susan shares a recipe for persimmon pudding that Clara Kinsey shared with Susan's mom (and anyone else who wanted it). She tells the story and walks through the recipe with Alex Chambers, producer and host of Inner States

Mentioned in this episode: 

The Elements of Pizza, Ken Forkish

Caputo 00 Flour

San Marzano Tomatoes

Propane pizza ovens

Old Fashioned Persimmon Recipes, Bear Wallow Books

Music on this Episode:

The Earth Eats theme music is composed by Erin Tobey and performed by Erin and Matt Tobey.

Additional music on this episode from Universal Production Music.


The Earth Eats’ team includes: Violet Baron, Eoban Binder, Alexis Carvajal, Alex Chambers, Mark Chilla, Toby Foster, Daniella Richardson, Samantha Shemenaur, Payton Whaley and Harvest Public Media.

Earth Eats is produced, engineered and edited by Kayte Young. Our executive producer is Eric Bolstridge.

Stories On This Episode

Clara Kinsey's Persimmon Pudding

round orange fruit on a wooden surface in the sunlight

She shared her love of the natural world with her community, and she shared this recipe.

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

About Earth Eats

Harvest Public Media