Summertime means it’s time to fire up the “barbie”, as in barbecue, and throw on anything formally a cow. But the hottest barbecue trend is grilled pizza with its intense smoky flavors.
New York City’s famous Lombardo’s on Mulberry Street made its name by using a coal-fired oven to impart the grilled burned flavor that is so famous. Given the restrictions on coal burning in most cities, real Pizzaiolos who want that authentic flavor had to find an alternative. American ingenuity moved in and the backyard grill took center stage.
The secret to good grilled pizza is to use a thin dough. After rounding, place it directly over the fire of a grill, and then turn it over once the bottom has baked. There may be some stickiness on the grill but, after a few minutes of cooking, the dough will release for you to pull it off. Place a thin layer of toppings on the baked side. This is a fast bake – 1-2 minutes – so keep toppings thin so they heat through. Pepperoni is perfect for thin toppings. Many chefs suggest making one with chunkier toppings like sausage or peppers and precook the items before placing on the pizza. Add garlic, herbs, or other ingredients to the crust to maximize the flavor.
On the operation side, grilled pizza has both positives and negatives. The fast cook time speeds service to the table or for packing for delivery. People love the flavor and the lighter crust is perfect for summer meals.
On the challenging side, running outside creates more complication as an opened back door is never good for management of flies or thieves. The thin crust does not hold heat as long so the product cools faster. Once your customers are “hooked” they will want grilled pizza rain or shine so you need a “Plan B” for rainy summer days and nights. Finally, check with your local health department to insure you are not violating any health codes with outdoor cooking.
As far as toppings, pepperoni can’t be beat, as you will double the smoky flavor of both the pizza and the pepperoni. Fire roasted bacon will also add tremendous flavor and a bacon-goodness smell to your restaurant. Also, consider shredded Parmesan, as the fast bake will allow the cheese to retain its shape and texture. The nutty flavor of Parmesan will cut through light sauce applications and truly enhance the overall flavor profile.
From a profit viewpoint, feature individual size pizza with a few choices of toppings. Consumers will perceive these pizzas as a real value-added item, so price high and let the pizza fly.