This post is long overdue. A few months back, we met with Bart Nadherny, the pizzaiolo at Matchbox. We have previously reviewed the Matchbox in Chinatown as well as the one on Barrack's Row. But this was not a day for reviewing. It was a day for chatting about pizza and learning about some of the "behind the scenes" of the pizza biz.
A "pizzaiolo" is, simply, a person who makes pizza in a pizzeria. But if you're the pizzaiolo for three large restaurants (there's one in Rockville, too), this is a pretty big job!
It seems like a new pizza restaurant is popping up in DC every other day, and Neapolitan pies are all the rage. While Matchbox has a wood-burning oven, similar to what's used for Neapolitan pizza, their pizza has some distinct differences. First, the sauce. Matchbox uses California tomatoes, rather than the San Marzanos that you'll find at many other area pizza places. Why? Simple enough reason-- they prefer the taste. Also, the sauce has a zesty taste to it that is different than most pies you'll find in DC. Bart describes their pizza as closer to a "Chicago thin crust" rather than a Neopolitan. While the crust of a Neapolitan pie is soft in the center (Gary's dreaded "droop" factor), a Chicago thin crust is more crispy throughout.
One thing that any restaurant strives for is consistency in their product. How does Matchbox get their crust to have the same taste and texture day after day? Bart gave us some insight to how this is accomplished.
First, the pizza board:
Each day the chefs measure the air temperature, the flour temperature, and the friction temperature (meaning the heat added by motion of the mixer). By then plugging these numbers into a formula, they can figure out what temperature the water needs to be in order to keep the temperature of the dough consistent for each batch. This is important so the dough tastes and reacts the same way in the oven for each pizza.
Next, the wood burning oven:
The oven is kept at a temperature of about 700 degrees. Those pizzas cook fast!
Our current fave: the vegetable pizza which includes crispy potatoes on top. Delish. Matchbox has become one of our favorite Capitol Hill pizza spots (stay tuned for a new post...).