Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Trenton Tomato Pie

A recent article in Epicurious on Trenton tomato pie brought back old memories and inspired me to make a pizza. Trenton tomato pie has several characteristics: very thin, crispy crust; cheese on the bottom; crushed tomatoes. It comes from the Chambersburg district of Trenton, a.k.a. the Burg. Chambersburg was for many years the home of Roebling Steel, the company that built the Brooklyn Bridge. Roebling Steel closed many years ago but the Italian neighborhood that grew up around it still lives on. The neighborhood is now known for its many wonderful Italian restaurants and bakeries; food lovers up and down the Eastern Seaboard know about the Burg. The neighborhood has a very specific geography---you can see as you drive down the street when you have entered the Burg. The Trenton tomato pie is similarly specific to its locale. As I recall, not all restaurants in the Burg make the tomato pie, instead offering a traditional New York style crispy-crust. And a trip of just a few miles to the wonderful restaurants of Lawrenceville will provide you with mostly New York style.

The Epicurious article talks about De Lorenzo's pizza. I never went there, but I was pleased to find out that they relocated to Robbinsville, a few miles away. I did visit Joe's Tomato Pie several times. The blog Mack Trucks of Wisdom (great name!) describes Joe's here. Like many restaurants in the Burg, it was on the main floor of a row house. Even though it had a large dining room that was perpetually busy, it still gave the feel of eating in someone's dining room. And the pizza was delicious.

I made my own pizza dough from the Epicurious recipe. Nothing magical here: flour, salt, yeast, water. I let it rest overnight in the refrigerator, then started stretching. I was mildly hopeful at this early stage that I would end up with something round. But my dough skills let me down and I ended up with the odd shapes that always result.

I did make a little progress on technique. I stretched a little, then rotated, concentrating almost exclusively on the edge. When I came to a thick spot on the edge, I stretched more. The result wasn't as thin as a tomato pie should be, but it wasn't bad for my low skill level.

I spread some mozzarella and started to work on the tomatoes. At this point, I realized that I had bought crushed tomatoes, not whole. Oh, well, another blow to authenticity.

Here are the pizzas ready for the oven....

and here are the pies out of the oven. The may not be particularly authentic or artistically pleasing, but they did taste good. My dough was very yeasty after that night in the fridge. I liked it, but in my experience Trenton pies and New Jersey pizzas generally aren't so yeasty. This is a very simple pie, but pizza is simple, good food.

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