How to Cope: Pizza Night and Picture #2

We didn’t fool ourselves about the food we’d find in Montgomery.  The absence of extra virgin olive oil would have been a deal-breaker, but my future employer posted visual proof that it could be had.

Homemade is the only way to go in Montgomery.  And, like snowflakes, no two are the same.

Homemade is the only way to go in Montgomery. And, like snowflakes, no two are the same.

Homemade is the only way to go in Montgomery. And, like snowflakes, no two pizzas are the same

When it came to pizza and bagels, though, I figured we’d do without.  I’d kinda given up on carbs anyway a few years back and reckoned that occasional trips back home would hold us over just fine.

Of bagels we will not speak.  The concept is understood; the execution tragically misguided.

It turns out that it’s a lot harder to give up pizza.  Forty years ago at least, when you went to a place that didn’t have the right mix of ingredients and tradition, you’d be safe from pathetic attempts at the Italian-American mainstay.  Alas, today, you find pizza — or something being misrepresented as pizza — everywhere.

Do not hope for that lovely thing, the classic New York pie. The 16-inch diameter disc of thin dough, tomato and cheese with maybe a giant burnt bubble or two simply doesn’t exist as anything other than the Platonic idea of a pizza.  Do not expect to fold and hoist a one-eighth wedge of triangular goodness straight from a brick oven to your waiting mouth. That savory slice, the one that, if eaten too soon, will burn your tongue so that you need to slug down your nearby Coke or beer?  It cannot be found.

To be fair, Montgomery has a place or two that make a credible pizza alternative, but better to think of it as a Mediterranean quesadilla. You can this gourmet “pick one from column A, one from column B and one from column C” entree in in three sizes — 8 inch, 10 inch, 12 inch.  Go ahead — get one with (A) goat cheese, (B) ham and (C) arugula.  At another local spot, one favored by many people whose judgement I otherwise trust, serves up a doughy cross between what appears to be a Sicilian pizza and a chicken pot pie.

The only solution, clearly, was to make our own.  And thus was born the “Make Your Own Pizza Party.”  It has become a mainstay of our entertaining.  Mr. NYer, whose basil patch yields leaves for an average of eight months each year, makes pesto.  I whip up a simple light tomato sauce.  We put out sliced fresh mozzarella (available at both Costco and Publix), goat cheese and Romano.  Bowls of olives, capers, caramelized onions, artichoke hearts, roasted peppers and mushrooms form a line alongside.

Acting on a tip supplied by one of Lifelongnewyorker’s Southern readers, we discovered that Publix offers freshly made pizza dough in the bakery department.  We buy it in bulk.  I roll and toss the dough with something less than the nimbleness of any pie guy on Staten Island, but with far more skill — or nerve — than is usually seen in these parts.  And one by one, I lay a stretched dough before my guests and, in pairs, they assemble pies.

One of our regulars says she’s learned how to make bagels.  We’ll let you know.