April 1, 2015 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Peter Taylor: Democratizing Pizza

Veteran pizzaiolo Peter Taylor has religiously studied the art of pie-making the world over, poking his head into blazing brick ovens throughout Europe, the Americas and the Far East.

His unvarnished assessment: Its all still a work in progress.

I dont think any one culture has it right, he told Roll Call.

Thats why Taylor, who says hes been experimenting with artisan dough and self-engineered hearths for more than 20 years, formally abandoned his accounting and tax practice a few years ago to launch Tampas original Wood Fired Pizza (2822 E. Bearss Ave.).

Slice of Life

The New York native grew up eating the prodigiously sauced, famously floppy slices that avowed pizza fans often tout as the gold standard in foldable feasting. But as he gobbled up comparative samples, moving from New York to Virginia and eventually landing in Central Florida, Taylors passion for unimpeachably delicious pizza mushroomed even as his palate progressively suffered.

When the opportunity presented itself to visit the birthplace of baked Nirvana Naples, Italy Taylor flew across the pond to touch and taste history. After huddling with Neapolitan icons and sampling their collective efforts, Taylor became even more disillusioned than before.

Ive seen what the masters do. And I dont agree with it, he said.

His chief complaints were that the crust was invariably too soft, the flash-fired pies remained soupy in the middle and, worst of all, there was no pepperoni to be found.

Reverse Engineering Greatness

Since no one else seemed to be capable of meeting his exacting standards, Taylor set out to produce the closest approximation to the perfect pie he could muster.

The Raquel Low Dome oven, which he first tested on his personal patio but has since migrated to Wood Fireds kitchen, is the offspring of Taylors fierce determination. The cooking center emulates the same round shape and dimensions used in the production of Naples coveted brick ovens, with several modern flourishes, not the least of which is the adoption of insular ceramic tiles similar to those that protect the space shuttle from blazing to cinders upon re-entry. Hes also fine-tuned the venting design and adjusted cooking times. And thats only the hardware.

Taylor prepares his dough with wild yeast he claims to maintain one strain captured during a tasting trip to the renowned coal-fired haven Patsys Pizzeria in Harlem, N.Y. and lets it rise, naturally at room temperature.

On a technical level, I have captured a strain of wild yeast which is a dominant local micro flora that makes my crust easily digestible, he said, billing his heirloom crust as the panacea gluten-free fans have long been pining for.

Taylor pads each pie with ingredients plucked from neighboring Natural Health Family Farm, a trusted producer that keeps him (and customers) supplied with all the fresh arugula, basil, spinach and tomatoes anyone can eat.

Honor Roll

Though hes been out of the area for a while, Taylor continues to keep tabs on the D.C.-area pizza scene.

He doesnt get, for instance, all the fanfare surrounding local favorite Two Amys. Im not a huge fan of it, he confided, of the crowded Cleveland Park favorite.

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