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What it is: Grilled pizza is one of the rare styles of pie where the pizza itself never needs to be placed inside an oven. This non-traditional method of pizza making involves brushing the crust with heavy coats of oil before placing it on a grate over hot coals. The dough will take several turns (ideally charring parts of it) before toppings — your standard cheeses, meats, and veggies — are added after the last flip, and given time to melt into each other and the crust in classic pizza fashion. It’s super-crunchy, kind of oily, sometimes quite charred, but most importantly, it makes you wonder if ovens are truly necessary to make a great pizza. In this case, the answer is a hard “no.”
Where it came from: The story of grilled pizza as we know it begins (and continues!) in Providence, Rhode Island, at Al Forno — a pizza shop that has turned a mistake into a bona fide regional icon. Owners Johanne Killeen and George Germon were trying to recreate the taste of wood-fired pizza in their own kitchen (that didn’t have a wood fired oven, obviously). They realized that so much of what they loved about this style of pizza was the crunchy, smoky taste that the fire gave the crust — and this could easily be recreated via traditional, open-air grilling. Though the logistics seemed hairy, the end result was anything but. “I think the concept of grilling pizza might scare a lot of people away,” said Laura Meyer, an instructor at the International School of Pizza, and head chef/pizzaiola at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco. “But I think what they found out was that the dough hardens almost immediately, it doesn’t fall through or break apart. And what you get is this really hard, charred, smoky feel that makes it really distinct, and something totally different than what you get with an oven. It’s really unique, and in my opinion, a really cool way to experiment with traditional pizza making.”
Where to get it: While Al Forno’s remains the inventors gold standard of the style, their Providence counterpart Timmy’s Legendary Grilled Pizza is indeed legendary, and a nice alternative to Al Forno’s — if you are looking for one. Despite the “gourmet” affectation, The PizzaGourmet is a little more low-key than Timmy’s or Al Forno, but their grilled pizza is worth a stop on the “Providence grilled pizza tour” you are undoubtedly planning right now.