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.
1/10/2018 05:44:18 pm
You brought back some wonderful memories! Larry was a friend of my friend, Susan Wood, and I met him several times at her parties. My husband and I who lived in the 20’s had more of Larry’s pizza than I would admit to. What I’d give for one now!
5/18/2019 09:16:38 am
A favorite of mine between 1975 and 2001 when the unceremoniously disappeared. I must have made 100 visits. It's possible that the missing ingredient is simply cornmeal, but I think it's more complicated than that. I've tried cornmeal, rye flour, semolina, vinegar, etc... I've come close with some of these, but the memory continues to fade.
11/18/2019 07:05:43 pm
I enjoyed your article and Goldbergs was my favorite.. I managed to frequent all locations 3rd ave was near my sister near gramercy park, york ave near one of my best college friends and 2nd ave only two blocks from my 54th st apartment. I would send staff to pick up lunch from the 2nd ave location (the last location to close) often. I can say over the 12 years i lived in NYC before they closed hundreds would best describe how often i ate goldbergs. Best were the father son dinners when my mom would visit her dad in florida. BUT GOLDBERGS WAS FAR FAR FAR FROM CHICAGO STYLE PIZZA no butter in the dough or flaky crusts like Chicago pizza utilizes. Now an amateur chef but one that has won many awards, been featured on the food network, and chopped. I own 3 different pizza ovens and my pizzas have been eaten by a number of the top pizzaiolos in NY. Of all the pies i have created..figuring out goldbergs has been high on my list (and surprisingly so many others) i can say it took longer then any other pizza i have copied to gert EXACT... but i have. For me Goldbergs was only plain or meatball and nothing else. And getting the topping to match is also difficult but i have done it!!! I can say CORNMEAL nor Rye flour was the secret ingredient, and fortunately i spent enough time at the 2nd ave location to pick up some thoughts on what would help me figure out how to make the perfect Goldbergs Pizza. I can't eat enough of them and happily each time i make it my home smells like goldbergs did, and thoughts of my dad creep into my head.
4/20/2021 09:28:35 am
4/30/2021 01:18:13 pm
I had Goldbergs on speed dial and would regularly order a pie before I'd drive home from a job in NJ so I could pick it up on my way to Brooklyn. The timing was perfect as it took so long to make those pizzas! What was funny was sometimes I start to eat them while driving if I got stuck in traffic in the BQE. I managed to do it many times and not get it all over me. But what I can remember now almost more than the taste was the smell! And something I noticed was that he used a lot more Oregano and Basil than most places.
5/5/2021 11:03:47 am
10/10/2021 09:37:24 am
This was really lovely to find. Goldberg was my great uncle. I never had the chance to visit his pizzeria in NYC, but he had a place in Kansas City when I was a kid that we'd go to. He was a fascinating guy - we somehow inherited an insane sofa in the shape a giant baseball glove from him - and I'm always happy to hear about his New York days from people who lived there and got to eat his pizza)!
1/22/2022 06:59:23 pm
As i was teaching my 8 yr old granddaughter how to make homemade pizza with homemade dough Goldburgs Pizza came back to me. I was introduced to Goldbergs in 1980 by my then supervisor. Went back at least once s month and always enjoyed the smog. Thanks for having a site so I could enjoy a wonderful time and pizza.
8/7/2022 01:45:39 pm
I remember going to Goldberg’s pizza back in the late 70’s when I was attending Baruch College..I remember he made a heart shaped pizza for Valentine’s Day…
12/10/2022 05:32:59 pm
I always loved goldberg's pizza and whent frequently while working in Manhatten. I now make it in my Nija; my secret is not esotoric flour or spices but simply pressing the cheese into the (store bought) pizza dough, cooking in a tim pan at 425 for about 8 minutes. The soft delicious dough is made by the addition of the cheese. Try it and ENJOY!!!
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