Strange Toppings: Rediscovering the Pizza Scene in Sacramento
Pizza is like the wheel: often round and seldom reinvented. Ask any pizza aficionado for their opinion on a pie, and they’ll start in on the qualities of the crust—thickness, crunchiness, chewiness—or the richness of the sauce. Medleys of toppings get discussed more in terms of flavor groups and proportions, but they’re not often the stars of a pie. Most pizza menus set out to accomplish the same few objectives, and the Sacramento pizza scene is no different. Well, maybe only a little different. Read on discover Sacramento’s strangest toppings.
Popular Local Toppings
First things first. There are a handful of ingredients liberally sprinkled through Sacramento’s pizza menus that you just don’t find everywhere. Chief among these: linguiça. Sausage makers imbue this smoked and cured pork link with plenty of garlic and paprika. The recipe arrived in Sacramento from its native Portugal, thanks to the large Portuguese immigrant population that took up residence in Sacramento Valley in the mid-1800s. Linguiça has been on local menus ever since.
One of the simplest ways to drastically alter the flavor of a pie is to use a nontraditional sauce. This happens less often than you might think, but you can still find some creatively slathered crusts. Taste of Tuscany, for instance, offers a bacon-cheeseburger pie that supplants classic tomato sauce with thousand island dressing. Chipotle-like Pieology provides the option to add a layer of pure herb butter to any crust. The chefs at Chicago Fire whip up fresh batches of béchamel sauce daily. This creamy French roux is considered one of the mother sauces, and, at Chicago Fire, it’s imbued with ranch spices before being added to pies.
Cheese seems to be one of the realms in which chefs more eagerly experiment. OneSpeed founder Rick Mahan likes to change up his dairy regularly—it’s rare that his pies have fewer than two cheeses or that a single cheese is shared between more than a couple pizzas. Fresh mozzarella is swapped out in favor of buttermilk-based blue cheese, crescenza, fontina, or even grana padano, one of Italy’s most beloved cheeses.
One Weird Menu to Rule Them All
Aside from the odd handful of cranberries (Hot City Pizza) or sprinkling of pickled fennel (Selland’s Market Cafe), no other menu competes with Pizza Rock for daring strangeness. Chef Tony Gemignani’s joint may favor the chintzier side of rock 'n' roll in decor, but his World Pizza Cup award speaks to the quality of his pies. And he tops them with just about anything he can dream up.
He spreads Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam triple-cream cheese—a repeat American Cheese Society award winner—liberally over his crusts. He happily adds sauces ranging from traditional tomato to agave nectar, Campari–blood orange reduction, sweet-fig preserves, or even Nutella to a crust. He tops it all off with apples, escarole, chorizo, or housemade fried brussels-sprout chips. Admittedly, part of the reason for his use of such a wild variety of toppings comes from the length of the menu. The multi-page list takes some extensive examination before settling on the pie that’s right for you or your group.