Back in the 1970s I was living and working in my loft/studio in Manhattan's Chelsea district. There were times when my staff and I would work late into the night and would have to stop work and get some sort of dinner--usually take out.
The problem was that in those days, the Mom & Pop steam table lunch shops would close up after 6pm when all the factory workers went home for the day. They offered a blend of ethnic fare: Chinese, Italian and Spanish, often tastes of each ladled into a single aluminum take-out dish. About 2000 calories of fried chicken, BBQ ribs, fried or saffron rice or pasta, meatball, chicken parmigiana, you name it... all prepared fresh every day. I don't know how we got back to work after those lunches...
You see, there were very few of us photographers back then in the warehouse loft-neighborhood, and even less actually living in our lofts. It was an industrial district (in years to come, it would be known as the Photo District because of the hundreds of photographers that moved into the lofts). During the day our neighbors were silk screeners, printers, fabric cutters, machinists and shoe factory workers. There was even a puppet maker and manufacturer of backgammon and chess boards across the street. I was the first photographer and the first person to ever live in my 11 story building. There were perhaps only 7 people living in lofts on my street at the time. After hours, the streets around my studio were pretty deserted. Walking along on the streets was not a good idea. (Unlike today... it's a bustling, gentrified nightmare).
The problem was, when we worked late, we had to go several long blocks either west or east of our neighborhood to the residential areas in order to find dinner. There were a couple of family style diners, an Arthur Treacher's Fish & Chips, one fast food burger joint (ugh) and a few restaurants that offered take out. But there were also a few pizzerias, and new to the neighborhood was Goldberg's Pizzeria--which quickly became one of my all-time favorite pizza joints. "A Jewish Pizza?" people always would declare.
Now, the special thing about Goldberg's was that their pizza was different from any New York style pie. And although New Yorker's had no idea about its origins, the Goldberg pizza was a deep dish, Chicago style pizza. The dear, departed Larry Goldberg achieved a bit of fame for his "Jewish" pizza concept back then. He was on TV and newspapers did big write-ups on his pizza. Sure, Goldberg offered his attention getting Goldilox pie (with lox), and the Nixon pizza (ketchup and cottage cheese toppings), The Garbage Pizza, the A-Little-of-Everything Pizza and the SMOG (Sausage, Mushrooms, Onions, Green Peppers), but the sausage, mushroom, pepperoni or meatball pizzas were the real stars. In all, he offered only 8 types of pizza on his menu in various sizes. These were amazing pizzas!
In 1970, New York Magazine and its Underground Gourmet column named his New York's Best Pizza over all others they reviewed. The sauce was sweet and the crust was thick and steamy in the middle while holding a decent crust underneath. The crust had a sort of sweet taste on the tongue (as I remember it), much more robust and bread-like than its New York style counterpart. Bits of cheese and misplaced sauce would burn a bit at the edges of the individual aluminum foil pans, but this only added flavor to the crust. Although I don't remember specifically, Goldberg's Pizza was made upside down, as all Chicago style pizzas are made--the toppings are on the bottom, the sauce on top, and lots of oregano finishing it all off. He pressed everything down with a spatula right before baking.
(Click here to read a 1970 LETTERS to the editor section of New York magazine, where readers some readers debate whether a Chicago style pizza should have won the award... and as a bonus, Larry Goldberg himself wrote an interesting letter where he talks about opening his new location on "Third Avenue in the 20s". That's the one that I frequented! ..... And here's another great article I discovered called The Skinny on Fats, referring to Larry's nickname of Fats Goldberg given when he was a younger, heavier 320 pounds before losing 150 pounds on his "controlled cheating" diet which he wrote about in his diet books.)
Every so often I think of Goldberg's Pizza and late nights at my studio. I remember the high backed booths (great for a private date) and the walls decorated with copies of Chicago newspapers. I also remember the various sized aluminum pans nailed up on the wall for all to see... it made ordering the size you wanted very easy. I even ordered a heart shaped pie once.
Well, reaching back into my fond memories, I tried to remember the flavors, the texture of the crust, the taste of the sauce... and I decided I'd try to make my own recreation of a Goldberg's Pizza. The trouble is, Larry Goldberg always talked about his "secret ingredient" but never put it in writing. There were theories and a lot of talk about some detecting a taste of rye flour in the crust. I have no memory of rye... but I think I had an idea what that special ingredient might be.
The texture was a tad gritty. The crust was sort of stiff and well done on the bottom and sides, but inside was steamy and on the sweet side... it was also a bit more yellow than a normal pizza crust. Kind of like a corn muffin, I thought. (Lightbulb) That's when I got my big idea to try... Adding corn meal to the dough.
But how much... in what proportion? I even went out and bought some cheap, disposable 9 inch aluminum cake pans to bake them in--just like the originals. Ok, so here's what I did:
Ingredients (for 2 - 9 inch, deep dish pizzas)
1-1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1-2/3 cups water (at 115 ℉)
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup (to start) King Arthur's Bread Flour
1 cup Stone Ground Corn Meal (yellow or white, it doesn't really matter)
1 cup King Arthur's Whole Wheat Flour
1-1/2 tablespoons salt
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Our Pizza Sauce (Click for recipe) or one of your own
16 ounces of part-skim mozzarella, shredded (Goldberg used part skim always)
2 tablespoons of dried Oregano
Meat topping of your choice (Goldberg would use, pre-cooked, crumbled sausage, or sliced little meatballs, pepperoni, etc.)
Preheat the Oven and Pizza Stone set on the middle rack to 450℉.
You will need 2 - 9" cake pans oiled on the bottom and sides with Olive Oil (to be authentic I used 2 disposable aluminum pans for this recipe)
You really have to use your own best judgement here. As I learned recently when upgrading my wall ovens, no two ovens are alike. (Read about it here). Use your eyes to examine the pizza as it's baking. Ultimately, you want the bottom crust to brown in the same amount of time as getting the toppings cooked. If you find your crust isn't browning enough, try using a flat cookie sheet (not insulated) next time on top of your pizza stone (and under the deep dish pans in this recipe). Metal transfers heat quicker than a ceramic stone. To solve my problems with the new ovens, I've switched to using a pizza steel instead of a pizza stone. (Read how it solved my problems here). If you need to, adjust the time accordingly. You can use two dark 9" cake pans for this recipe, but you might have to shorten your baking time (and perhaps think about lowering the temp to 425℉). Dark pans brown much faster than light colored ones do.
In the end, I think I re-created a decent representation of the Goldberg's Pizza. Sure, I can tinker with the sauce a bit (and I probably will, the next time... I think a tad sweeter, the sauce made only with crushed tomatoes). And I will try some rye next time, though I really don't think that was his secret ingredient. Perhaps you'll want to try your own SMOG or NIXON or even throw some lox on top to make a Goldilox. It's up to you to do Larry Goldberg proud.
Bless you, Larry. You gave a lot of people full, satisfied bellies and great memories....
--Jerry Finzi, Pizzaiolo
My finished Re-Creation of Goldberg's Pizza.... crunch in the crust, steamy inside.