The Fork

The Fork: Make Better Pizza

Tips from a real-life pizza expert

This is Angelo Womack, a real-life pizza expert and friend of our editor. We know the photo’s a little blurry, no need to write us about it. It’s what he had, and we think you’re going to be a little more interested in the information than whether the photo’s blurry, so just chill out, OK?!?

Anyway, Womack owns and operates Rad Times Pizza, a restaurant consulting business with a special emphasis on pizza. How big a deal is it, you ask? And how much of an expert is he? Well, Womack recently spent two weeks in Dubai teaching the staff of a restaurant called The National (owned by none other than chef Geoffrey Zakarian) how to make an excellent pie. Here’s a photo of that with Womack right in the center, masked up and totally hanging 10:

He’s recently done the same in Atlanta for a place called Glide Pizza and, before that, he was the owner and pizza master at Oak & Rye, a restaurant in Los Gatos, California, that still exists to this day. Before that, Womack cut his teeth developing pizzas in New York City, including at the fabled Roberta’s, a haunt that, no hyperbole, revolutionized the pizza game in the pizza-ing-est city in the damn country. Before that, he worked in the pizza joint within the legendary Paramount nightclub in Santa Fe. Womack, who now resides in New York City, by all accounts, lives for pizza—and for folks ensconced in that world, he’s kind of a big deal. So, when we heard about this, we figured he might have some tips for making a better pie at home, and he sure did. Let’s see what he has to say, dear readers, shall we?

You’ve gotta avoid bromated flour!

Womack says the vast majority of pizza in America is made with bromated flour, which is flour to which potassium bromate is added. While this means you’ll apparently get a more photogenic rise to your dough and, perhaps, a nicer shade bake-wise, it’s also kind of wack for your body (and even illegal in many other countries as it has been shown to cause cancer in some lab studies...and yes, we said SOME). What to do? Find you some non-bromated flour, and Womack suggests King Arthur brand.

You’ve gotta get cultured!

Remember back during the start of the pandemic when everyone was making sourdough bread? Well, if you’ve got some starter left over or the wherewithal to get a new starter going for your pizza-making sojourn, you’ll get killer results. Those things can live forever, too, if you keep feeding them, so maybe do a little research on starters and cultures and bacterias and breads and doughs and stuff. You can get a culture online. Womack recommends feeding your starter some flour about once a week.

You’ve gotta get your cheese right!

While many a home chef dabbling in pizza thinks to delve into the world of fresh mozzarellas, Womack says this term is nebulous. “When you see something labeled as ‘fresh,’” he says, “it was usually made more than a couple weeks ago, and it’ll probably expire in a month. What it really means is ‘soft.’” Instead of opting for those so-called fresh containers where the cheese is sitting in water, you want to go for a low-moisture mozz. You can get these pretty much anywhere and, Womack says, they’ve been salted correctly to draw out the proper amount of moisture. Even this one step will make your pizzas taste better.

You’ve gotta find the proper tomato for the best sauce!

“I’ll say this about tomato,” Womack says, “the best and brightest you can find, they’re more expensive, but San Marzano tomatoes. They’re a little sweeter naturally and you can find them canned at most grocery stores.” Finding a good type is paramount, and otherwise, says Womack, you can just think simply when it comes to making your sauce: Crush the tomato and blend it with a little bit of olive oil and sea salt. If you have a food mill or a stick blender, that’s the way to go—just don’t blend on high. “You don’t want to pulverize the tomato seeds,” Womack explains. “They’re very bitter when they’re pulverized.”

You’ve gotta change how you think about toppings!

“People always say, ‘So-and-so has the best pizza in New York!’ but it’s really just about perspective,” Womack says. “It’s preference. It’s what you like. Just keep making it how you like, but maybe you change your flour, your recipe—it’s a matter of changing things little by little and understanding your percentages.”

You’ve got to understand your percentages!

Womack advises starting with your flour and counting it as the 100% thing in your pizza. Everything else is a percentage of that. So, he says, if you’re using 100 grams of flour and 60 grams of water, your pizza’s 60% hydrated. Develop your pizza recipe by weight rather than volume—invest in a digital scale and take notes as you experiment. Santa Fe, for instance, is what we’d call a high-altitude town, and that can affect how things bake. “You can give your pizza a numerical identity, which will help,” Womack adds. “Oh, and buy a couple gallons of spring water and watch out for municipal water.” Now, you might think that 60% water is a lot for pizza dough, but Womack says that when people assume their pizza dough’s too sticky and add flour, they tend to mess it up. Most pizza dough, he says, is hydrated between 55% and 80%.

You’ve gotta ditch that pizza stone and think about the heat!

“Most people have home ovens, but not everyone has some giant backyard with an oven they built,” Womack says. “Also, people buy pizza stones, right? But those suck. They crack, they can’t retain much heat—for a better cook, buy Baking Steel.” Now then, Baking Steel is a brand, and one Womack recommends, but you’ll find other kinds of baking steels out there. Why steel? “When you cook a pizza on a stone, it cools down because the pizza’s using the heat,” Womack explains. “If you have thick steel, it’s transferring heat better because it’s so hard and so thick.” He also advises cranking your oven to 550 degrees. Thats’s what they do in New York, bro. “As hot as it can go,” Womack says.

You’ve gotta know this ain’t easy!

If’n you want to make the best pizza, it’s not the kind of thing where you decide to do it one morning and then try to make it happen. You must plan. You must work. You must experiment and you must be prepared. Can you make a serviceable pizza quickly? Probably, but, as we say, if you want the best, it’s time to get real.

You’ve gotta read this one other article!

Womack highly recommends the work of Joe Rosenthal, a pizza champ himself who has an even lengthier piece on pizza-ing appropriately called How To Pizza. When all else fails, read that piece. It’s kind of like this one, just maybe not as fun to read. Oh, fuck, now Joe Rosenthal’s gonna have our legs broke.

So there you have it, dear readers. Think of this more like a starting point rather than some sort of quick fix pizza Rosetta Stone. It’s not a key, it’s a beginning. You’ll like things how you like things and you’ll probably stumble upon some cool ideas. Be patient. Be cool. Be open. Every oven is different, for example, and we can only imagine how many of you are thinking things like, “Phsshshst, I’ve been making pizza forever and it’s fine, stupid The Fork.” That’s cool, think that. All we know is we’re gonna take these things to heart, do a little experimenting and then we’re gonna go nuts on our home pizza.

WHO WANTS A RECIPE?!?

Sorry to scream that in all caps, but now that you have a mess-load of new pizza-making tips, here’s a dough recipe from Womack himself.

Note as well that, during the course of our correspondence, Womack informed your old pal The Fork that his real dream would be to partner with someone in Santa Fe to open a super New Yorky kind of pizza joint and maybe even move back home. If that’s you, visit his website or drop him an email at angelo@radtimespizza.com. Hell, even if you’ve got a pizza restaurant and want better results, this is the guy.

Angelo Womack’s Rad Times Pizza Dough Recipe

Equipment you’ll probably want

  • Gram Scale
  • Large Mixing Bowls
  • Unglazed quarry tiles, pizza stone, or pizza steel
  • Plastic dough scraper
  • An oven of some kind

The Dough

(Makes 1,200 grams; 4x300 gram dough balls=4x12″ pizzas)

700 grams flour compromised of a 50/50 blend of an Italian 00 flour and an American high gluten bread flour

420 grams water (420, bro) @65ºF

3.5 grams yeast

20 grams fine sea salt

20 grams extra virgin olive oil

105 grams sourdough starter

The Procedure

  • Thoroughly mix yeast and water into your mixing bowl until yeast is diluted.
  • Mix sourdough starter into yeast/water mixture until it is completely diluted (will have a viscosity similar to heavy cream).
  • Add flour to your water/starter/yeast mixture and start mixing by hand in your mixing bowl. (Don’t be worried that it’s gonna be a little sticky—learn how to handle it as the last thing you wanna do is add more flour in some vain attempt to make it easier to handle. Sticky dough only sticks to sticky hands, so if it’s sticking to your hand, lightly flour your hands, rub them together to get all the excess dough off then lightly flour your hands again).
  • Mix well until the ingredients combine well (around 1 or 2 minutes), then stop.
  • Cover dough in the bowl and let it rest for 20 minutes. (Resting your dough, aka the autolyse method, is a very important step).
  • After those 20 minutes, uncover and add fine sea salt to the dough, then start to knead until the salt feels fully mixed.
  • Slowly add small amounts of your olive oil to the dough and knead it in. Repeat this step until all of your olive oil is incorporated. This should take around 5 minutes total.
  • Mixing is done! Now let your dough rest for another 15 minutes before portioning.

Keep Going!

1. Divide your dough into four 300g portions. Roll this dough nice and tight in your hands until they look smooth and round. Place individually in a large lightly floured bowl and wrap airtight.

2. Let rest at room temperature for around 30 minutes (this time helps activate the yeast).

3. Place the dough in your refrigerator for 48 hours minimum, 72 hours maximum.

We usually just call and ask politely for something, but this kind of reminds us of Ween, so...cool.

Also

-After we let folks know the Pojoaque Dairy Queen closed recently, we’ve been informed there’s a Dairy Queen at Santa Fe Place (it’s still Villa Linda to us) and apologize for possibly sending people to Pecos. That said, the river’s nice, it’s beautiful out there and, we think, there are worse things than a nice drive to a choco-dipped cone. We’re also told there’s a DQ in Española, so that’s cool, too!

-Hidden Mountain Brewing, which was once known as Blue Corn Brewery, is now open seven days a week from 11 am ‘til 9 pm. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, too—the beer down there is excellent. Tell ‘em The Fork sent you. Not because they know us, but because we think more people should know that we’re sending people places.

-If you get your stuff together between now and Saturday, Feb. 12 at 5 pm, you can get a heart-shaped cherry pie from Modern General. Then you can give it to someone while making up your own lyrics to the tune of “Last Christmas.” You could be all like, “This V-Day, I gaveyouaheartshapedcherrypie, the very next day, you threw it away/And by ‘it,’ i of course mean the tin/because we straight-up ate that bad boy!” Dang, this fake song we’re making up is AMAZING.

-Santa Fe’s newest French spot Mille is extending hours from 2 pm to 3 pm because everyone loves it and wants it bad. Great news for people who look up at 2 pm and realize they need a freaking crepe.

Gaze into these eyes.

More Tidbits

-Since God is clearly dead, the people at Hormel are giving away a chili cheese keg for the Super Bowl. Good lord. Sadly, you’ve missed the entry date (which was Feb. 6), but we still thought you should know this unholy abomination exists.

-Vegan caviar? Can such a thing really exist?!? It can and it does, and Eater-dot-com has a whole piece about chefs who are working with and developing the stuff, and that includes how some of the ingredients are as old as time itself. Like the Frasier episode wherein Roz becomes addicted to caviar, so, too, should we all understand that eating the stuff at a Ramada in Tucson might not be indicative of the best and brightest caviar (and, hopefully, vegan caviar) has to offer.

-The recipes on Epicurious-dot-com often look incredible, but in an effort to up our breakfast game from sporadic French toast (which, as we covered, we usually make at night), we went looking for pancake ideas, only to be greeted with an easy skillet recipe right on the homepage. Kismet? Or the internet can read our thoughts? Existence is a prison and we didn’t ask to be born!

-Take this link with a grain of salt, but we weirdly enjoyed reading this list of weird Subway stuff. We haven’t eaten there in ages, though we do admit that when we were but young stoners romping through the fens and spinneys, a meatball sub for $4 was not such a bad thing.

-Meanwhile, in Arizona, you can file this one under “D” for “Dick Move” as some restaurant poached most of some other restaurant called Matty G’s staff, forcing that second restaurant to shut its doors temporarily. During a pandemic, no less? No word on what the restaurant that did the poaching was paying, though, so it could be as simple as a more money thing. Always take more money, says The Fork, because no job is ever actually going to care about you.

-Lastly this week in not-just-from-around-here news, we were tooling around the world wide web looking at things about green chile, as one does, when we came across a distressing piece describing how Costco shoppers have taken issue with a frozen potato skin snack featuring Hatch green. Seems they’re a little dry. While our heart goes out to whatever intern had to write the “snack too dry” thing, our heart double goes out to people who can’t just get green chile on literally anything at literally any time of the day they desire.

A Totally Scientific Breakdown of The Fork’s Correspondence

In this week’s print edition of SFR, that Rustica dinner finally happened. We weren’t there, but you can read the piece from our editor right here, including thoughts on how those desserts could start a war (or inspire a song), why well-cooked fish is such a joy and why the others there couldn’t work out what the heck was up with that sauce.

Number of Letters Received

35

*We were wary about doing a whole newsletter on French toast, but y’all LOVE THAT STUFF!!!!!

Most Helpful Tip of the Week (a barely edited letter from a reader)

“Oh, shut up.”

*No, thank you.

Actually Helpful Tip(s)

Egg nog French toast? Cinnamon bread? Nutmeg? Home made whipped cream? Y’all had no shortage of French toast recs, and now we’ve got a whole list of things to try. Our favorite tip, though? Orange liqueur. C’est si bon!

*Good thinking, everyone!

Get real, pizza breath,

The Fork

Letters to the Editor

Mail letters to PO Box 4910 Santa Fe, NM 87502 or email them to editor[at]sfreporter.com. Letters (no more than 200 words) should refer to specific articles in the Reporter. Letters will be edited for space and clarity.

We also welcome you to follow SFR on social media (on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and comment there. You can also email specific staff members from our contact page.