Start 2011 right with slices of breakfast pizza
When it comes time to entertain early-arriving guests on the morning of the Pinstripe Bowl or to feed the family on New Year’s Day, holiday celebrations may have worn us out a bit. But family and guests will still be hungry from all that revelry, so leave the cornflakes in the cupboard and serve them a late breakfast or brunch worthy of the holiday season like, maybe, a pizza.
Although they probably won’t want pepperoni and spicy tomato sauce at the year’s first meal, that’s no problem. Breakfast pizza is readily available from several local restaurants and pizza joints, and easy to bake yourself using your favorite pantry fodder or leftovers as toppings, limited only by your imagination.
The place to start for home cooks is with a really good foundation for their pie. You can’t beat a homemade crust, but there are shortcuts. An Internet search will lead you to numerous recipes that call for using refrigerated crescent rolls as the base, but it’s just as easy and more authentic to start with dough purchased from your local bakery or supermarket dairy case. Another option is to dress up a loaf of focaccia, flat Italian bread, available at many bakeries.
Such brunch staples as bacon, mushrooms, onions, cheese and, of course, eggs are obvious toppings, but feel free to apply some culinary creativity and explore a wide variety of vegetables, more exotic meats, like proscuitto, and just about everything else, from fresh herbs to seafood. Better yet, it’s simple to go healthy, substituting Egg Beaters, low fat cheese and veggies atop a whole wheat crust for a breakfast that’s still yummy and really nutritious. You can even make it into a delicious, fruity dessert (see accompanying recipe) for a non-breakfast twist.
Of course, the most convenient method is to buy your pie at a local restaurant or get takeout from a pizza shop, leaving nothing for you to do but put on a pot of coffee and pour some orange juice. At one popular downtown breakfast spot, Nick’s Place, located in the M&T Bank Building, 101 S. Salina St., overlooking Hanover Square, their hearty breakfast pizza is a customer favorite.
“It’s kind of our flair,” says owner and chef John Fratto. “We do it every Tuesday and Thursday morning. If people order ahead, we make more.”
Nick’s Place customers gladly forgo the omelets and home fries when they can get the breakfast pizza. “It starts with really good dough,” Fratto insists. “We get ours from Avicolli’s Restaurant in Westvale Plaza. They’ve got a dough recipe that they make and I think they’ve got the best dough in town. I think that makes the difference. It’s really good stuff.”
Of course, you need the best toppings on such a great crust. “Our sausage is fresh, never frozen,” Fratto boasts. “We get it ground locally, from a local butcher. Most places get their sausage for a buck-and-a-half, maybe $1.90, wholesale. We pay almost $3. On a pizza, we’ll put almost a half-pound; that’s quite a bit. We just do them on a halfsheet. If people are hungry, I make them bigger, other times I make them smaller.” Diner customers can buy squares for as little as $1, a little more for larger cuts.
At Cam’s Pizzeria, with 14 New York locations—including Camillus, Mexico and Phoenix—omelet plus pizza equals omelizza, their version of a breakfast pie. “Ours is the best breakfast pizza I’ve ever eaten,” raves Camillus location supervisor Tom Selesky. “It’s the quality of the ingredients. We use Grande Cheese, which is very high quality, and our owner, Tony, makes the dough from his own recipe.”
Each omelizza is loaded with American cheese, mozzarella and fresh eggs. The base price is $15.77 and customers can choose extra items, including sausage, bacon, ham, ricotta and tomatoes, for an additional charge. “We’re fanatics about pizza,” Selesky says. “It’s all handmade.”
When it comes to toppings, Nick’s customers, many of them midtown office workers, have it their way. “I’ve tried all different kinds,” Fratto reveals. “I’ve done ricotta cheese with Roma tomatoes, everything. People just want meat. They want breakfast sausage, bacon, ham and pepperoni. That’s been the one that everybody looks for. I’ll make anything people want. If I’ve got to go to Wegmans to get it, I’ll put it on there. They’ve just got to give me a little bit of a heads up.”
This recipe is from Food Network goddess Giada De Laurentiis and is reprinted from www.foodnetwork.com.
1 store bought pizza dough
2 tablespoons butter, melted
4 tablespoons cinnamon-sugar
2 cups mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon heavy cream
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 cups mixed berries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a rolling pin, roll out the pizza dough to a thickness of about ¼ inch. Transfer pizza dough to the lined baking sheet and brush the dough with melted butter. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons cinnamon-sugar and bake until golden brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Cool the pizza on a wire rack. Meanwhile in a medium bowl, mix together the cheese, cream, lemon juice and zest. Spread the cheese mixture over the cooled crust. Top with mixed berries and sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon-sugar. Slice like a pizza and serve.
As a downtown breakfast and lunch spot, Nick’s is closed weekends and holidays. “Our bread and butter is the people in the building,” Fratto says. “But they come six blocks, seven blocks, they walk down a couple times a week. They know when to find the breakfast pizza: Tuesdays and Thursdays. We just want to get people in. You come in to buy a slice, you’ll come back and you’re gonna try one of our burgers or our fresh fish on Fridays.”
Cam’s, a suburban pizzeria, is open most days by late morning. They’ll be closed on Christmas Day, but open regular Saturday hours, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., on New Year’s Day. “We have a new location we just opened on the Le Moyne College campus,” Selesky points out.
While some pizza reheats well enough (be sure to use an oven as the microwave will turn a crisp crust into a chewy, doughy lump), breakfast pizza is trickier, especially if eggs are used to top the pie. Come on—reheated eggs? Yuck.
Fresh is essential and homemade isn’t too difficult. “You make the pie fresh and then you put the raw egg over it,” Fratto explains “Then you put it in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes and it bakes the egg right into all the toppings. We put the egg on last. If you put it on first, it can be undercooked a little bit. We just lay it right across the top.”
With a little creativity, a slab of dough on your kitchen counter is a blank canvas, ready to be lavished with whatever you like. In so many ways, breakfast pizza can really be a special start to a great tasting day.