|Edan MacQuaid's Neapolitan Pizza at Local 16|
As Tommy Marcos Jr. tells the history of his family’s Original Ledo Restaurant - whose rectangular creations have been locally synonymous with pizza for generations - when it came to devising a recipe for this novelty, “They went with what they knew.” A local cook helped develop a flaky, breadlike dough. It was rolled out with an old-fashioned rolling pin and tastes a bit like pie crust. It’s still made fresh several times a day. Canned tomatoes were, and still are, the basis for the sweet sauce. Smoked provolone was (and is) used for saltiness and a smoky flavor. Pies were baked on rectangular cookie sheets, because they were lots cheaper than specialty pans.
Fast forward some 55 years: committed (to put it mildly) pizza specialist Edan MacQuaid's resume includes Pizzeria Paradiso, 2 Amys, Pizzeria Orso and Redrocks. He’s currently crafting pizza at Local 16 in the U Street NW corridor, and actively planning his next wood-fired pizza venture at 14th & T Streets NW. We asked him about the elements that go into his Neapolitan-style pies.
Wood-burning oven: MacQuaid explains that the humidity of burning wood and the extreme heat during the first few seconds that the pizza is in the oven produce a soft crust with a wood smoke char. In contrast a gas oven makes a crackly crust. The size and shape of the oven and types of wood all play a role.
Flour: He uses a mix of imported and local low protein flours. Math skills are need to crunch numbers for each batch to get the right flavor/fermentation profile. His aim is to produce flakiness and an aromatic crust.
Sourdough: While Local 16 uses a cold fermentation method, using old dough as a starter, he actually prefers a wild sourdough culture and long, room temperature rise.
Water: Despite all the ballyhoo about NYC agua, he uses local tap water.
Tomatoes: He’s a firm believer in the superiority of San Marzano tomatoes imported from the area around Naples, Italy. They have low acidity, lots of pulp, soft skin and a real sweetness.
Mozzarella: Yes, he uses buffalo mozzarella. No, it doesn’t make the center of the pie wet, if you “know what you’re doing." You must put the toppings on each pizza with care and finesse. The oven needs to be well-balanced too.