Santillo's in Elizabeth is an example of both qualities.
You don’t want sweaty dough, that’s for sure. What else? The choice of flour (Santillo generally uses flour from Ferraro’s, Roma or GDS Foods) is not as important as what you do with it: using the right amount of water and yeast, covering the dough and letting it sit for several hours, using quality sauce. Santillo uses Bonta Pizza Sauce ("the most expensive one on the market"). A 6-pound, 11-ounce container — enough to cover 12 pizzas — costs about $25.
He doesn’t swoon over San Marzano tomatoes, as many pizzeria and Italian restaurant owners do. He thinks California tomatoes are better; Bonta sauce contains vine-ripened California tomatoes. Those fabled Jersey tomatoes? Don’t ask.
"Jersey has the worst tomatoes, at least the canned ones," Santillo says.
For cheese, he uses a whole milk mozzarella aged at least 30 days. "If you don’t age it 30 days, you’ll have problems, it doesn’t melt right," he explains. A whole milk mozzarella contains a higher butterfat content, which translates to more flavor.
"You can do anything you want with the cheese," he says. "You like American cheese, put on American cheese. But that is not the Santillo way."
His pizzas take 6 to 8 minutes to cook in the brick oven, where the temperature ranges from 500 to 750 degrees. Pizzas cooked in the typical home oven should take about 12 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 550 degrees. Put in pizza, and then immediately dial it down to 500.