Posts Tagged ‘pizza’

Mustard pie

January 9, 2013

A few years ago I was attending a board meeting of an organization I worked for. The meeting was held in the evening, right after the end of the work day so it was decided we’d order pizza.  As the group tried to decide on how many pizzas and with what toppings, I mentioned the possibility of getting a “mustard pie.”

The group was stunned. No one sitting around the table had heard of such a thing. I couldn’t believe it. Some of these folks were lifelong Trentonians. Others had been around long enough, they surely should have at least heard of this if not tried it at least once.

Nope! They hadn’t and we didn’t get any that night, either.

So what, just what is “mustard pie?”  Simple. Tomato pie (pizza) with mustard.

A plain "mustard pie" from Papa's. Note the mustard peaking out from under the sauce near the crust in the bottom of the picture.

A plain “mustard pie” from Papa’s. Note the mustard peaking out from under the sauce near the crust in the bottom of the picture.

Here in Trenton we take our pie seriously.  There is a particular, indigenous Trenton style that even has its own page on the Slice website. Basically, Trenton pizza or tomato pie has a thin but chewy crust, then cheese, toppings, sauce. Admittedly it is the pie I grew up on and, when done properly, it is the style that I crave over all others.

Unfortunately, what was once ubiquitous to this area has become somewhat of a rare delicacy. Fewer and fewer pizzerias make the true Trenton style any more. The well-known (as much for its lack of a public restroom as for its pies) DeLorenzo’s on Hudson Street in Chambersburg closed about a year ago. Their Robbinsville, NJ store carries on with mixed reviews (but I’m not getting into THAT discussion!).

The competing DeLorenzo’s on Hamilton (the original owners of both stores were brothers with a friendly, familiar rivalry) announced recently that they will be leaving the city for Hamilton Township, NJ. This was the DeLorenzo’s I brought members of the production team working on last year’s “One for the Money” film to for lunch. The entourage was made up of a native  of Buffalo, New York, a Canadian, and a Californian. They were impressed enough with Trenton pie to get permission to use the DeLorenzo’s name along with the names of other businesses for the film.

But I digress.

When we speak of Trenton tomato pie institutions we must pay extra reverence to Papa’s on Chambers Street at Roebling Avenue. Papa’s is the oldest family owned pizza restaurant in the United States!  Opened in 1912, it is still in the same family. Take that, Lombardy’s of New York City!

Stepping into Papa’s is a trip back to my youth. The paneling on the walls, the formica table tops. The decidedly delicious but seriously unpretentious antipasto.  And mustard pie!

I can remember mustard pies being around for a while but nobody really seems to know how they came about. When I asked Papa’s Nick Azzaro about it he kind of shrugged. “I dunno.”

Most people you ask, if they have heard about Mustard Pies at all, will point to a long gone place on Whittaker Avenue called “Shuster’s”.  They were definitely known for their Mustard Pie and use to fly a banner from the front of the building declaring it “The Home of the Mustard Pie.” Yet even those that remember the place and the pie, don’t know how it ever came about.

I pressed Nick a little harder. “You offer it as a special here on Monday nights. How did that come about?”

“I had this kid come to work for me. He used to work at that other place {Shuster’s} before they closed. He said to me one night, ‘You should make a mustard pie.’  So I did.”

What they do is, shape the crust for the pizza, schmear some spicy brown mustard over the crust (not a lot, just enough), then add the cheese, tomatoes, etc. It really is good. Would I want it every time I order a pie? No.  But every so often it is a very nice change.

If you are worried about a clash of flavors, don’t be. Have you ever had cheese board that had a little mustard on the sign for dipping? That worked, right?

Have you made a sandwich with mustard and fresh slices of tomato? The acid bite of the tomato and the sharpness of the mustard somehow both accentuating and attenuating each other?

That’s kind of what happens with the mustard pie.

Next time you are at Papa’s, order a mustard pie. You might just be surprised. Or, if you make pizza at home, spread just a little mustard on the crust before you build the rest of the pie. Get a real taste of Trenton-style.


Pizza with clams (pizza bianca con vongole)

September 5, 2010

A gorgeous Sunday with no plans other than lunch at home and that meant pizzas from the grill.  While I knew one would be a traditional pizza margherita, I hadn’t made up my mind what the second would be.

Pizza with clams

Stopping by the seafood adjacent to the Farmer’s Market answered the question: Pizza bianca con vongole (White Clam Pizza).    

This simple pie provides all the taste of linguini w/clam sauce in the convenient form of a slice or two of pizza.

Pizza bianca con vongole

  • 1 pizza crust (ready made or from scratch)
  • 3 – 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 18 fresh littleneck clams*
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 ½ tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 generous tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • Scant ¼ cup grated mozzarella

Add minced garlic to olive oil and set aside.

On pre-heated grill (or pre-heated baking stone in 500 degree oven), gently bake the pizza shell until lightly browned on each side. 2 to 3 minutes per side.  Watch closely and don’t let burn.  Remove from oven.

Brush top of pizza shell with some of the garlic oil and let rest while preparing the topping.

Remove clams from shells, reserving liquid and chop roughly.* Set aside.

Sprinkle the cheese over the pizza shell.  Add the minced garlic to taste.  Spread the chopped clams over the crust.  Add the minced parsley, oregano and red pepper.  Drizzle a teaspoon or two of the reserved clam juice over the pie and return to hot oven.

Bake until cheese melts and top crust had browned slightly.

Remove from oven and let rest for five minutes.  Slice and serve with chilled Vernaccia di San Gimignano.

*if you are not adept at opening clams, you can pop them on the hot grill just until they open or you can substitute two cans of minced clams.  Remember to reserve the juices for drizzling over the pie.

Pizza on the grill

July 23, 2010

It’s been a bear of a summer so far.  Too many 90+ degree days; not enough rain to keep the lawns green; and too hot to be doing a lot of indoor cooking.

Alternatives are to dine out (always a fine idea and your local restaurants will appreciate it…but please, not the national chains and franchises, ok.  Go truly local!) or to cook outside on the grill.

As noted in a previous post, this doesn’t only mean hamburgers and hot dogs.  All manner of seafood can be grilled.  And so can pizza.

It’s not that tricky and the end result can be pretty good.  And if you don’t believe me…ask my brother-in-law, Don.  I believe his skepticism was dispelled on a recent visit.

Pizza Margherita from the grill

Whereas I generally make my dough from scratch*, you can always find it ready to go in the bakery section of your favorite supermarket.  Most of the local bakeries will also sell you some dough.  And I’ve heard that some restaurants that make their own bread and/or pizza will also.  As a last resort you can pick up “pizza shells” (such as the nationally known “Boboli” brand) at many grocery stores.

Ready for the grill

The key to a successful grilled pizza is to light pre-cook BOTH sides of the crust before adding the toppings.

Roll out your dough, give it a light coating of some good extra virgin olive oil and place on the hot grill rack.  Cover the grill and bake until the dough has firm

ed up and bubbles have formed in the top (3 – 5 minutes or more depending upon how hot your grill is).   Flip the semi-baked shell over and bake until lightly browned on both sides. 

Grill briefly on both sides

Remove the shell from the grill and add toppings of your choice. If you’re using one of the store-bought, par baked shells, you might want to just “toast” one side of it on the grill.  Place the toppings on the toasted side and then put back on the grill to finish cooking.

For a traditional Trenton-style tomato pie sprinkle a small handful of grated mozzarella on the crust.  Over that, layer some canned whole San Marzano tomatoes that you have drained and crushed by hand.  Then add some fresh basil, more grated mozzarella and place back on the grill.  Bake until the cheese has melted and is just starting to brown.

Another favorite is our version of the “Seed” flatbread, one of the standards at Earth Bread + Brewery in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia.

The "Seed" flatbread from Earth Bread + Brewery, Mt. Airy (Phila), PA

The Seed

  • 2 tbs. pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tbs. pignoli nuts
  • 2 tbs. sesame seeds
  • 1 head garlic roasted until soft
  • Mozzarella, shredded or thinly sliced (about ½ cup)
  • Red pepper flakes to taste

In a dry skillet over medium high heat, lightly toast the pumpkin seeds, tossing frequently until just aromatic.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Repeat with pignoli and then sesame seeds. (Because of their disparate sizes, you get the best results by toasting each type of seed separately).

Prepare crust as above.  Squeeze roasted garlic onto crust and spread evenly. Sprinkle toasted seeds over garlic. Top with mozzarella cheese to taste (we go lightly on the cheese with this one).  Return to grill until cheese has melted and just starts to show some browning.

*Pizza Dough (from Cuisinart Food Processor Cookbook)


  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup warm water (105 to 115°F.)
  • 1 2/3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoons table salt
  • ¾ teaspoon extra virgin olive oil


In a 2-cup liquid measure, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water. Let stand until foamy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Insert metal blade in work bowl and add flour and salt.

With machine running, pour liquid through small feed tube as fast as flour absorbs it. Process until dough cleans sides of work bowl and forms a ball. Then process for 30 seconds to knead dough. Dough may be slightly sticky. Coat dough evenly with olive oil; transfer to a plastic food storage bag and seal the top. Let rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes.

Place dough on a lightly floured surface and punch down. Roll into desired crust sizes and place on well floured peel or back of a well oiled baking pan.  Slide onto grill to bake.