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When you tell your friends you’re being sent to New York to eat pizza for work, it sounds like a dream job. And actually… it is! After exploring Italy to create our Irresistible pizza range , we wanted to develop the ultimate takeaway-style pizza. We know Co-op customers love authentic pizzas, but fully loaded versions with meaty toppings are really popular too. They might not be as authentic, but they’re still delicious. And we knew New York was the best place to go for inspiration.
Discovering New York’s best pizzerias
When we arrived, we met up with pizza enthusiast Scott Wiener, who runs Scott’s Pizza Tours. He knows absolutely everything about pizza, especially in New York, and took us on an amazing pizzeria tour of the hidden gems and local favourites in Brooklyn, Staten Island and Manhattan.
We visited over 20 pizzerias, and ate a lot of pizza. Chatting to all the different owners, we quickly spotted some common themes. For example, toppings such as Philly cheese steak, barbecue and buffalo chicken were sold everywhere, while simple cheese was one of the most popular pizzas. There were three main styles of pizza: thin New York slices, thicker, doughy Sicilian pizza, and Grandma pizza, which is a hybrid of the two.
Introducing the Grandma pizza
We learned that the Grandma pizza emerged in the 1970s, when Italian-American immigrants set up pizza restaurants. Nonnas would rustle up a quick pizza for lunch, pushing dough – which wasn’t proved, to save time – into an oiled rectangular tray, with the toppings spread right to the edges. The result was a really crispy base, loaded with toppings. Customers saw the owners’ kids eating these pizzas, and asked why they weren’t on the menu – and a new type of pizza was born.
We loved the idea of Grandma pizzas, so when we came back from our trip, we developed our fully loaded, piled-high pizza range. We’ve tried to replicate the dough we saw in New York, with a light, airy texture so you get a really crisp bottom. And of course, the toppings go right to the edges. We’ve created a Manhattan Five Cheese pizza, and a Buffalo Chicken version, which includes the blue cheese sauce we saw all over New York – fiery heat against creamy cheese is a classic combo.
It goes without saying that we had to include a Philly Cheese Steak pizza, and we also made our own Pepperoni and Hot Honey pizza. These were everywhere in Brooklyn. We tried our first at a restaurant called Emmy Squared, in Williamsburg – and heard the story of Mike’s Hot Honey, a sweet, spicy condiment created by Brooklyn native Mike Kurtz. New Yorkers pour it on top of pizza a bit like you might add chilli flakes, adding as little or as much as they like.
For the Co-op version, we’ve created our own hot honey and included a sachet with our Pepperoni pizza. The spicy saltiness of the pizza and the honey work amazingly well together – it’s really good.
Overall, the range has taken a year to perfect, so it’s been a real labour of love. But it’s been a fantastic journey. I hope customers love what we’ve done as much as we’ve enjoyed researching it. See you in the chiller aisle!