GMG Q&A- Melissa Smith Abbott Part III
What is your favorite Pizza Joint in Gloucester?
First of all I have to say that we are very lucky here in Gloucester. There are so many good pizza places that there is something to suit any mood. You know one night you might be in the mood for Delaneys or Marias thin crust and on another night you might be yearning for Sebastians or Valentinos. So we have it really good here as far as the variety and quality of all the Pizza places. Years ago there was a place in Gloucester called Ra-Joes on Main Street. It was exactly to the left of where the Halibut Point Restaurant is now. Ra-joes had 2 sides to it. One the right was a bar with booths and on the left was a dark restaurant with high tin ceilings and booths. about half way up the walls was a shelf with wine bottles spray painted black for decoration. There was a Chianti bottle with a candle on every table. The pizza was amazing and practically the same as Delaneys Pizza is now. I think a small pizza was like $1.50.and a large pizza was like $2.75.
Everyone used to go to the Strand Movie Theater which was located where the Liquor Locker’s walk in cooler is now and then for pizza at Ra-joes. In the early 70′s Earle Foote owned Ra-joes and that was at the time the 18 year old drinking age got ratified. You have to remember that this was during the Vietnam War and the big call of exasperation from a lot of young people was, “that they are old enough to get drafted and killed but they couldn’t have a drink”. All the kids started going to the bar next door and it got to be kind of a hang out. Unfortunately, the building ended up burning down and was rebuilt into a disco alled “Lil Earles” and later bought by Gorton’s.
But to get back to your question about the favorite Pizza Joint in Gloucester? I would have to say my own kitchen. I make the best thin crust Pizza I know of besides Delaneys. There is a trick to getting really crisp thin crust at home and I will share it with you. You must use a pizza stone or cast iron pizza pans that are heated in a 425 degree oven first. I will share my recipe with you because in this economy cooking at home is where it is at for many of us.
Melissa Smith Abbott’s Thin Crust Pizza
1/3 cup white wine – 2/3 cup warm water – 1 1/2 oz yeast – 1 Tbsp honey or maple syrup – 1 tsp sea salt – 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil – 3 cups King Arthur Flour
Combine the wine, water, and yeast in a large bowl and stir until dissolved. Add sweetner, salt and oil oil – stir. Add 1 cup flour and stir to make a wet paste. Add remaining flour and knead for several minutes. I use a Kitchen Aid mixer with a dough hook but you can use a food processor or do it by hand with very good results. Place dough in an oiled bowl and let rise for 45 minutes in a warm place. Divide Dough into 2 balls. Meanwhile heat up the oven and place your stone or cast iron pizza pans in the oven to heat up first. You can use a couple of cast iron frying pan in a pinch.
Using a little flour, a rolling pin, and your hands to create a thin crust the size of your pan. Use the rolling pin to get it nice and thin. Take out the hot pans from the oven and place the dough right on top and then quickly coat with sauce of your choice either homemade or canned in a thin layer. I use Prego (it doesn’t seem to have a lot of chemicals or fillers in it) with very good results if I have not made my own sauce from scratch. Then quickly sprinkled grated mozzarella and grated Parmesan on top of the sauce. I usually do one cheese pizza and then one with toppings. My favorite toppings are mushroom, red and green peppers, thinly sliced onion, sliced chicken or shrimp. I use whatever I have around. Quickly get first in oven and then repeat on 2nd pan or stone. Rotate the pizzas on the racks while cooking . They will only take about 10-12 minutes in this type of hot oven with preheated pans. If you have a very hot oven then you can turn down the
oven to 375 or 400 if the heat is making you nervous it will cook too fast. Experiment.
What is your favorite sub shop in Gloucester?
You can not beat Destinos. They serve the soup and salads with the sub and that is pretty amazing. I remember when Destino first opened up around 1960 or a little later. it was the cool hang out for the high school kids and believe it or not submarine sandwiches were a bit of a new thing. The place was originally across the street to the left of Our lady of Good Voyage Church where their parking lot is now. It was a little hole in the wall with a counter. I know a lot of people like the sandwiches at Virgilios too.