John Delpha cut his grilled pizza teeth at Al Forno, the Providence, RI, spot credited for inventing it. So it goes without saying that the man makes a hell of a fine grilled pizza.
And now, with the release of Grilled Pizza The Right Way (Page Street Publishing Co., $19.99), a book of over 100 pizzas from breakfast to dessert, and everything in between, he’s sharing the wealth. You might never have sampled the American beauty that is grilled pizza created by someone like Delpha—who is, as local restaurant kingpin Ken Oringer called him in the intro to the book, “a master of two words that normally don’t collide”—in which case, you, friend, are sorely missing out.
Sure, you could hit Rosebud American Kitchen and Bar (which he opened after he finished writing the book) for one of his grilled pies. But summer means grilling at home (where applicable), and courtesy of the book’s simple instructions and gorgeous food-porn photography, you could easily give it a stab at home. So I talked to Delpha for some thoughts, and tips, on a range of pizza-related topics that you may use as you see fit.
Where did your grilled pizza love start?
When I was at Al Forno, that’s definitely when I was introduced to them. I love the vibrancy and freshness, the whole way the smokiness comes together on the dough and the vibrant toppings you put on the pizza. It’s one of those pizzas you don’t overload, so it has a particular lightness but packs a lot of flavor.
I have a dough recipe in the book I’ve been using for about 12 years. So it’s a pretty solid dough recipe. I’m very happy with it, and it gives a very consistent pizza crust. [But] I’ve done plenty of successful pizzas with store-bought dough. You know it’s all based on what the supermarket carries. I’ve often just gone with the simplest ones I can find.
Real fire vs gas?
It varies. Live fire cooking with charcoal or wood coal, you’re getting a little essence of that smoke and smell coming off. If you incorporate a little wood into your charcoal grill you can impart some of that smoke flavor, but I’ve had success going with both. I clearly prefer the live fire, but I did pizzas for the book on a gas grill to show it could be done.
What’s a key pizza for someone living in an apartment, say in Allston or something, to try at home?
One that’s easy is there are good BBQ joints over in Allston … get some great pulled pork from one of them, and some basic tomato sauce and BBQ sauce, and some sliced red onions and scallions. With just that [and dough], you can put a delicious grilled pizza together really quickly.
What do you want people to get out of the book?
I’d say first thing to make sure you practice it first before having friends over for dinner. Second, when beginning, so you don’t get frustrated, move along and go through a bunch of pizzas in the book but keep simple at first. Do that, and you should have no problem having success.
Dan is a freelance journalist and has written for publications including Vice, Esquire, the Daily Beast, Fast Company, Pacific Standard, MEL, Leafly, Thrillist, and DigBoston.