Yes, I've eaten at Pizza Rock on occasion, yet one can get an entirely different perspective when meeting the owner and learning more about the restaurant. Media events allow bloggers this opportunity so that we can share what we learn with our friends and readers. This week Pizza Rock's owner, Tony Gemignani, was in town to share some items that were being added to the menu at our Sacramento location.
Now most people may not realize who Tony Gemignani is in the pizza world. He's a pizza rock star. In 2007 he was the first American/non-Italian to win the World Champion Pizza Maker at the World Pizza Cup in Naples, Italy. This was a very big deal, like when Napa wines beat French wines in 1976 (depicted in the movie Bottleshock). And actually, when you look at his pizza bio on the World Champions site, you learn that he actually has won 11 World Champion titles! Being the foremost American expert on pizzas, Tony now teaches classes on pizza making and has a book out, The Pizza Bible, covering every style pizza imaginable.
|from Pizza Rock|
The Sacramento Pizza Rock is only one of 14 restaurants that he owns in Northern California and Las Vegas. Unfortunately I think most Sacramentans just associate it with "the restaurant with a semi truck coming out over the bar". As I've been doing a lot of restaurant profiles for restaurants and restaurant groups/chains across the entire country (for my day job), I've learned a lot about quality and what makes a restaurant group a success so that it can expand. Tony has obviously found a winning formula by supplying the public with every pizza they could ever want.
Turns out that Pizza Rock has 9 styles of pizzas and 4 different pizza ovens. I even learned of a couple of pizzas I'd never heard of before. Sure they serve American and Neapolitan, but they also have regional styles such as New York, New Haven, and Detroit. Keep in mind that all of these different styles require different crust recipes, pans, ovens, and temperatures. That's why there are always at least 4 pizza ovens in each of Tony's restaurants. Whether it's coal or wood fired, bread or cornmeal crusts, Tony makes sure that each pizza is made properly. For those that are gluten-free, they have a station and a dedicated oven just for gluten-free pizzas.
Detroit Red-Top style was one that was new to me and a new addition to Sacramento. It has a bread dough crust that is baked in steel blue square pans that originated in Detroit's car manufacturing. The pans get super hot and create a unique crust that is thick and yet the bottom has a toasty crunch unlike any other pizza I've had. It's topped with traditional Cabot and Brick Cheese and two "racing stripes" of marinara. Similar to a Squeeze Inn cheese skirt, the cheese on the edges of this pizza create a unique crusty edge.
Another one I was new to is the Roma pizza. Roma-style pies use more refined flour for the dough, requiring three separate fermentation stages instead of Neopolitan's one. It's rectangular in shape and baked in a Cuppone Italian Electric Brick Oven at a lower temperature than many other styles. This one had prosciutto, parmesean, and balsamic reduction.
A big hit with everyone was this Stout and Sausage pizza — with Honey Malted Guinness Beer Dough, House Made Mozzarella and Beer Sausage, Caramelized Onions, Fontina, Green Onions, Crushed Red Peppers, Beer Salt & Sweet Guinness Reduction. Full of flavor!
There's more than pizza at Pizza Rock. For instance, they have a pretty good burger! The Burrata Burger is made with Kobe Beef, Burrata Cheese, Crispy Bacon, Caramelized Onions, Arugula, Balsamic Reduction.
And we tried the Pasta Bolognese with house-made pasta, Italian Sausage in a Light Tomato Cream Sauce, Garlic, Ground Beef, Parmigiano, Onion, Provolone, Pancetta.
Speaking of house-made and sausage, Tony makes his own Calabrese and Sicilian sausage. Here is a new appetizer, the Calabrese sausage with honey. The sweetness of the honey works well with the spice of the sausage.
If you want a delicious kind of Italian fries, then order these house-cut fries with honey and pancetta.
There were more pizzas brought out, but it's time to move on to dessert. One of Tony's chefs learned that he like mud pies as a child and so he created 8 different versions and Tony picked the one he liked the most. This one is made with House Made Oreo Cookie Crust and Chocolate Ganache, Coffee and Vanilla Bean Flavored Ice Cream, Topped with Hot Fudge, Caramel and House Made Whipped Cream.
I was more into the Fried Banana Split with 4 Pieces of Fried Banana on Top of a Healthy Scoop of Sea Salt, Caramel and Vanilla Gelato, Topped with Whipped Cream, Caramel and Hot Fudge.
I came away from the event not only sated with doggie bags for lunch the next day, but also with a new appreciation for Pizza Rock and Tony's expertise. When you consider that most pizza places only focus on one or two styles of pizza, to know that Sacramento has a place that not only serves all styles, but does so expertly and correctly to each style, gives any pizza lover an appreciation of how lucky we are.