A first look at the restaurant that brings New York style pizza with an artisanal twist to LA
Chef Christopher Keyser has put a lot of thought into the New York-style pizza he wants to serve in Los Angeles.
“The crispness, crack, and texture of the dough itself make New York-style pizza a New York pizza,” says Keyser, who grew up in New York and cooked under Marc Vetri in Philadelphia with the toppings themselves . It all has to do with the dough style. We look for thin, we look for crispy, and we look for crack with a bit of bread. “
More from Robb Report
At Pasadena’s U Street Pizza, which restaurateurs Marie Petulla and Keyser will be opening next to their popular Italian restaurant Union in April, the formula creates New York-style pizza with artisanal riffs and California toppings. Keyser spent a few weeks dialing into the batter on U Street, baking around 40 to 50 pizzas a day with just cheese and sauce in the restaurant’s PizzaMaster top oven.
The dough is made from a mix of two flours (Organic Skagit and Glacier Peak) from Cairnspring Mills, a supplier in the Skagit Valley in Washington that is also used to bake heavyweights like tartine. The two flours serve different purposes. The organic Skagit flour, which contains less protein than typical flour, makes it “a lot easier to get that crunchy crispness,” says Keyser. The Glacier Peak flour gives the dough “a really wonderful taste of red wheat”. U Street’s dough is fermented for two days, which intensifies the flavor.
“It tastes like pizza, but it also tastes like really nice bread,” says Keyser. “The crust really is the best part.”
Keyser makes pizza sauce with Alta Cucina tomatoes from Northern California. He gets pork from Marin Sun Farms – also on a NorCal basis – and turns it into fennel sausage. U Street’s sausage pizza will feature a mix of bubble peppers that Keyser plans to buy from various California farms, including Weiser Family Farms, JF Farms, and Coleman Family Farms. Keyser also shows his love for California ingredients by finishing certain pizzas with Modesto Fiscalini Cheddar cheese instead of Parmesan
The story goes on
“We do it because I think the cheddar is better than parm,” says Keyser. “I never thought I would say that. But Fiscalini makes a really great 18 month cheddar that is almost parm quality. It even contains the same salt crystals. “
He’ll use the Fiscalini cheddar on his white clam cake, which is inspired by the famous clam pizza at Frank Pepe’s in New Haven, Connecticut. But as with everything on the menu on U Street, Keyser puts his own twist on the mussel cake by using both cream and mozzarella cheese and with chopped mussels, lots of parsley and a lot of “something like a mussel salsa verde.” “Created from garlic, lemon peel and lemon juice.
In addition to round New York-style pizzas, U Street also has square cakes. For Petulla, who has long wanted a pizzeria, it’s all about eating tons of square cakes her father baked. With U Street, she and Keyser are opening a place that reminds them both of their childhood.
“My father is a first-generation Italian from the east coast,” says Petulla. “I grew up with square cakes my father made with bread dough. I think that’s what’s exciting about working with Chris: the crust itself is so reminiscent of home. Chris did it. “
“It’s the same batter, except just more of it,” says Keyser of the square cake.
In addition to pizza, U Street also serves crowd-pleasers such as Caesar salad, pork ragu arancini and mozzarella en Carozza.
“I love New York and the style of food and the old Italian-American history out there,” says Keyser. “In my childhood I ate with red sauce on many joints. I thought it would be pretty cool if you could get this out of here. Meatballs, good pizza, red wine. “
Still, Keyser is always looking for new ways to put a Californian stamp on U Street. He’s working on a pizza that showcases a variety of Petaluma Creamery cheeses. He also knows that people in Los Angeles like spicy food, so he plans to play around with dried chilies on various pizzas. Petulla welcomes experimentation.
“I think this restaurant is going to be a lot of fun,” says Petulla. “Pizza is fun. We all say that. It’s just fun. There is a lot of playfulness associated with this. “
For dessert, guests can cool off with homemade soft serve with flavors such as fior di latte and dark chocolate. There will also be a soft serve with a sorbetto base.
“When fruit turns out really good at the farmers’ market, we use whatever they have,” says Keyser, who is excited to try a variety of California berries at U Street’s soft serve.
Best of Robb Report
Sign up for the Robb Report newsletter. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the latest news.