By John Arena, Metro Pizza Las Vegas
Probably one of the most noteworthy trends influencing the American pizza scene in the last few years has been the increased use of sauce being placed on top of cheese when the pizza is assembled. For some this has been seen as a radical or even sacrilegious movement. But let’s really think about it. A number of regional styles have always used this method including Chicago Deep Dish, Detroit Red Top, New Jersey Tomato Pie, NY Grandma style and the so called “upside down” Sicilian pizza of Brooklyn. In my pizzeria we have 3 different pizza styles that place tomato on top of cheese and I feel there are very valid reasons for doing so. In our restaurants everything revolves around engaging the five senses in a positive way.
1) Sight- The contrast of bright red tomato set on a base of milky white mozzarella is visually dramatic and eye catching
2) Aroma- The fragrance of a balanced and well-crafted tomato sauce is much more pronounced when the tomato is placed on top. The guests can notice it as soon as the pizza is set on the table.
3) Feel (texture) Americans love crispy pizza. By placing the cheese down first the butterfat in the cheese becomes a barrier protecting the dough from any moisture coming off of your sauce. In addition the sauce protects the cheese from being exposed to excessive heat in the oven. The result is a crispy crust and creamy cheese- the best of both worlds. As an extra bonus you will get a pizza that travels much better when placed in a box.
4) Sound -Because the sauce on top method reduces absorption of moisture into the crumb structure of the dough you will get a satisfying “crunch” sound when cutting or biting into the pizza.
5) Taste- Of course it all comes down to flavor. Most pizzerias purchase cheese, But every high quality pizzeria makes their own tomato sauce. By placing the tomato on top you are putting your key signature ingredient front and center to maximum effect and thereby setting yourself apart from the competition.