Pizza With Caramelized Onions, Honeyed Figs, Fontina, Mozzarella & Prosciutto
*Recipe follows story
Happy Birthday, Daddy.
In honor of your day, and your history with pizza, I couldn’t imagine making or eating anything else on this 21st day of August. You’re obsessed with prosciutto, so of course that made the toppings cut. You live for a fresh mozzarella; don’t worry - I wouldn’t use anything else. And every time I talk to you, all you do is yammer about the one fig a week you’ve gotten from your new tree …
So, there are also figs on tonights pizza.
In my family, there’s been a long history of pizza.
My dad worked at pizzerias, once owned a pizzeria and then became a truck driver for a company that distributed Italian specialties to various pizzerias throughout the tri-state area.
Today, on my dad’s 67th birthday we talked pizza and family.
We went through a rough timeline, and I learned that there’s no wonder I’m obsessed with food and pizza.
1968/69 - Villa Maria Pizzeria & Restaurant on Eastchester Road in the Bronx.
1971/72 - Tony’s Pizza next to Rockaway Playland
End of 1972/Early 1973 - Mom and Dad met
1973 - Sbarro’s at the Massapequa Mall
1974 - They got hitched and moved to Copaigue Long Island!
1975 - Thomas was born!
1975/76 - Pizza Playhouse in Babylon Village
1977 - Louie was born!
1979 - Mom, Dad and mookies move back to Brooklyn and Dad worked for Vasaturo Brothers Specialty foods
1980 - I was born, and my mom told me that when the nurse (who happened to be eating a slice of pizza) came into her room to see how she was doing; my mom insists I stared at the nurses pizza and reached for it. Somehow, not surprising. Not surprising at all.
1980’s/90’s - Dad continued to drive and worked weekends at Papa Leone’s Pizza in Manhattan Beach. He also continued to make pizza at a local bakery, The Bread Box (where my mom later worked) and sold it at a neighborhood flea market on the weekends.
2000’s - Still trucking - but finally retired to Murrells Inlet, South Carolina - with my mom and brothers - where they feast on homemade pizzas and still hustle.
In the gaps of time, not working with pizza, my dad worked with my grandpa - who was an iron worker and owned his own wrought iron/fencing company on Dean Street in Brooklyn. And all the while, no matter where he worked or what he did in his spare time (dancing at Arthur Murray Studios in Brooklyn), he was making pizzas for our birthday parties, Super Bowl Sunday or slinging dough at the request of family when they visited.
I don’t know a better man.
I don’t know a funnier man.
I don’t know anyone as full of heart as my father.
I don’t know anyone who worked and tried so hard and never complained.
When I ask him how he’s doing - he replies: I feel like a lion.
When I call on my walks home from the subway at night - he picks up the phone and says: How’s the love of my life?
When we hang up: Who loves you baby?
Everyday, not just today, I thank him for my love of Elvis, Frank Sinatra, doo-wop, oldies and Italian pop music.
Everyday, not just today, I wish we could see each other more often.
Everyday, not just today, I thank him for believing in dreams.
I often wish his pizza dreams came true because I know, in his heart, he still wished he had his Pizza Playhouse out in Babylon Village. And I always let him know it’s never too late for his dreams to come true.
I love you.
Happy Birthday, daddy.
3 c. all purpose flour
1 packet self rising yeast
1/2 tsp. salt
2 T. olive oil
1 c. water (120-130 degrees)
-Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees
-Place 1 c. flour in a food processor/mixer with dough attachment, sprinkle with yeast and salt
-Add water and olive and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes
-Add remaining flour and mix for additional 6-8 minutes on low speed
-Remove from bowl mixer and let rest in an oiled bowl for 10 minutes
-Stretch dough into a 9x12 square baking sheet
-Brich with olive oil and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown
-Remove from oven and put aside
1 large onion (thinly sliced)
6 figs (sliced into rounds)
4 oz. fontina (grated)
4 oz. mozzrella (fresh sliced)
4 oz. prosciutto (torn into pieces or long strips
1 T. olive oil + 1 tsp.
1 T. butter
1 1/2 tsp. honey
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
-Heat a large skillet with 1 T. olive oil and 1 T. butter
-Add onions and cook over medium high flame for 15 minutes, add salt and pepper, and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes until onions are a deep golden brown and put aside
-Toss sliced figs with remaining olive oil, salt and honey
-Sprinkle cheese on pizza and put back in the oven and allow to cook until cheese melts - approximately 6-8 minutes
-Top pizza with caramelized onions, prosciutto and figs
-Bake for an additional 7-9 minutes, until figs lightly brown
-Remove from the oven and drizzle with a little bit more olive oil
-Slice and serve