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    A Pizza the Action

  • Diners are demanding gourmet, health-conscious pizzas and are willing to pay a premium. Are you ready?

    The pizza at Modmarket uses dough that has nine whole grains. That makes the crust more flavorful when baked at high heat in just two or three minutes, Pigliacampo says.

    “It doesn’t have the whole-wheat bitterness taste,” he says. “We focused on getting that bitterness out without adding sugar or honey,” making the crust good for vegans, too.

    Modmarket uses a half dozen of its own sauces, plus fresh cheeses, local vegetables, and nitrate-free natural meats. The arugula and prosciutto pie uses fresh arugula when it’s in season and the flavorful, thin-cut meat is from La Quercia farm in Iowa.

    The arugula is also in other pies, including the Fig, with goat cheese, gorgonzola, mozzarella, provolone, pepper, and figs.

    A 12-inch pie costs from $6.50 to $9.50, and the calorie count is less than half that of most competitors. The receipt and menu include all of the nutritional data.

    “You don’t need to pile the toppings high to have a great pizza,” Pigliacampo says. “You just need to have very flavorful ingredients.”

    This is part of “the big trend of farm to table,” Reinhart says. “There is more use of locally raised, sustainable meats and vegetables.”

    Prices for these pizzas can be higher because the ingredients are costlier or harder to get. However, as more farmers get in the business “to meet some of the concerns of sustainable resourcing, we will see more of it in the mainstream,” he says.

    At RedBrick Pizza, some vendors “are still educating themselves” on the chain’s requirements for healthful items, says James Minidis, cofounder and president. “We formulate our recipes and pair ourselves with vendors who can provide what we need.”

    Some ingredients are organic, a number are natural, and many have no preservatives.

    This extends to all types of fixings, from pepperoni to dough.

    Crusts can even be made gluten-free with the use of “ancient” grains, such as spelt and amaranth, Reinhart says.

    Modmarket features a gluten-free pizza, as does 60-unit RedBrick Pizza, which worked closely with the Celiac Disease Foundation to develop its baking process.

    “We take all the precautions,” Minidas says. “There’s no cross contamination in preparation, and it’s baked on a raised, separate stone in the oven.”

    The chain’s regular pizza uses dough made with multigrain flour and açai berries. Baked at 1,000 degrees in a brick oven, the crust stays moist inside but has a crunch to it, too.

    RedBrick’s interest in healthful, preservative-free products resulted in pizzas that are lower in sodium, calories, and carbohydrates than a typical pizzeria. The 9-inch pizzas range from 280 to 600 calories and cost from $5 to $7.50.

    Specialty pizzas, such as the Thai pizza with Thai sauce, cilantro, cashews, carrots, red onions, and mozzarella, are $8–$12 for a 12-inch pie and $12–$17 for a 14-incher.

    The idea of turning pizza, which is generally considered culprit food, into a healthy solution is at the heart of Naked Pizza, a chain launched after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, says Brock Fillinger, cofounder and head of operations.

    The operation has 17 units in the U.S. and Dubai.

    As with many other gourmet pizzerias, the delivery and carryout chain’s dough is special. Its blend of 10 “ancestral” grains and seeds is made in dough balls and shipped to the stores so all crusts are consistent.

    The dough has prebiotic agave fiber and probiotics, and the toppings include all-natural, nitrate-free meats, all-natural tomato sauce, premium cheeses, and fresh-cut vegetables.

    “It’s expensive to do,” Fillinger says, “but we’re banking on eventually buying in volume as we add more stores and more people turn to that style of making pizza.”

    Naked Pizza allows customers to build their own pizza in 10-, 12-, and 14-inch sizes, with original and thin-crust pies going for $5–$7 and the toppings $1.50 and more.

    The 12-inch gluten-free pizza is $10.

    Specialty pizzas cost from $13 to $17 and include the hometown Ragin’ Cajun with sausage, chicken, garlic, bell peppers, and onions. The Smokehouse has hickory-smoked barbecue sauce, onions, and chicken.

    Bexley Pizza Plus is also testing smoked items on pizza. The independent pizza shop in suburban Columbus, Ohio, has won numerous awards for its pies.

    Most recently, co-owner Brad Rocco placed fourth in the traditional pizza category—highest among Americans—in the International Pizza Challenge in March. His entry was a spicy pepato pepperoni and mesquite-roasted portabella mushroom pizza.

    The success of the mesquite mushrooms made Rocco consider purchasing a smoker to make the ingredient in bulk, as well as other barbecue items.

    “It opens all kind of possibilities,” he says.

    Top That! Pizza in Tulsa, Oklahoma, teamed up with 3 Guys Smokin’ to introduce three barbecue pizzas in June. The pizzas use local ingredients and 3 Guys’ rubs and sauces.

    Although pizza is certainly Italian-based, it embraces all kinds of ethnic and regional tastes, from Puck’s California cuisine to Asian flavorings.

    Mexican flavors help differentiate Pizza Patrón, which has 100 units. One of those ingredients is chorizo, a red-colored pork sausage made with chili peppers.

    “It’s one of the draws for our customers,” says Andy Gamm, director of brand development for the Dallas-based chain. “One of the challenges is to get it distributed to all locations, because it has been hard to source out an authentic chorizo recipe.”

    The company has limited-time offers featuring the flavors of certain areas of Mexico, such as one honoring La Nortena. “The ingredients are typical of taquerias of that area, which feature barbacoa, cilantro, onion, and tomatoes,” Gamm says.

    “It’s what makes us unique,” he says.