Thinking inside the pizza box

There’s a time for take-away pizza. And when you find a good operation, you’d better treasure it. I did the other night. It was late, and raining, and I rang my local pizzeria, Il Caffe di Napoli on Westland Row, who have started delivering. It didn’t look good at first: Where do you live? And you want just one pizza? Let me just check… I had sat through most of an ad break and changed my mind on my order three times before he came back to me. Our driver has gone home. Oh. But where did you say you lived? Is that near? Oh yes, very. Okay I’ll take your number and see if I can find someone to bring it to you. Eh, okay.

I was getting hungrier and more despondant by the minute. But then whaddayaknow, the phone rang, the order was taken, and by the next ad break a car was outside my place and a cheery Italian waitress stepping out of the passenger seat with my dinner in a box. And omigod was it worth holding out for. Chewy thin base smeared with sweet tomato goodness, topped with artichokes, olives, mushrooms, slivers of roast ham and a still-soft fried egg on top. A splash of olive oil I had fortuitously dropped some chopped chilli into, and I was made up. (Other contenders had featured the likes of spicy pancetta with spinach, olives and ricotta; or Italian sausage with mushrooms and oregano. Next time.)

Not long before, at the Irish Food Writers’ Guild belated Christmas party in Chapter One, the talk of the table for no short stint of time was the new pizzeria on North Strand. Don Mimi’s will be familiar to many Dublin Southsiders who may have enjoyed its previous incarnations in Dun Laoghaire and Deansgrange. Now it’s the lucky turn of Northsiders to enjoy the kind of pizza base that commands prime time foodie conversation in one of the country’s finest fine dining restaurants.

If you’re not lucky enough to have a Don Mimi or Caffe di Napoli within delivery distance, you have a couple of choices. One is to stock up on some excellent bases from the brilliant Artisan Pizza Company. I usually pick these up at the Dublin Food Co-op where Luca and Aisling from La Bella Pizella also transform them into several tasty vegetarian creations at The Co-op Cafe, such as the Timi with roast red peppers, artichoke and capers. These handy bases can be a great back-up for party fodder; just line up the topping choices and you can allocate various guests to take shifts at the oven. Think of it like a weather-friendly barbecue alternative.

Of course the other option is to make the bases yourself. This is easier than you might think, as most of the time spent doing it is spent waiting for the dough to do its own solo work. See my previous posting for a little pizza inspiration from Day Eighteen at Dublin Cookery School  (incidentally, they’ve a Breads & Pizza class coming up on which they’re offering two places for the price of one – and which I’d heartily recommend).

But perversely, for such a crowd-pleaser of a foodstuff, pizza can be surprisingly divisive. I once suggested bringing some of those brilliant pizza bases to my sister’s place for an easy supper. It turns out that cooking pizza at home for a family of six is something of a logistical nightmare, everyone having very different ideas on what constitutes the perfect topping combination. And life is complicated enough without instigating pizza wars willy nilly.

No, it seems that there really is a time for take-away pizzas. Thank god for that eh? And thank god for the good take-away pizzas out there, working hard to keep our lives Domino’s vacant and Four Star free.

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