By Nicholas Harary
The readers of my stories now understand that I am a bit obsessive: the restaurant, the Giants, proper gift-giving, most recently fitness and finally, pizza.
My workout challenge time aside, there have been very few weeks when I didn’t eat, at least, a few slices. This fall, I decided to take my home pizza preparation to the next level. Like any diligent consumer, I researched the best pizza-oven builders. Not just in New Jersey or in the United States, for that matter. No, I decided to go all-in on this obsession. I invested in my own monument to pizza making, my very own, wood-fired, Tuscan-built, brick oven for pizza.
While it was being built in Refattari Reggello, just outside of Chianti Classico, I had my mason build an enclosure on my back patio. We would need some serious bricks to hold in the heat. For three months I waited for its arrival, eager to get going on the pizza making. Yet when it finally did arrive, the pizzas just didn’t start popping out of the oven. No, like many great pieces of cooking equipment, this oven had to be seasoned.
For five days, I had to keep the wood fire cooking for five hours each day. The key to the seasoning was to raise the temperature 50 degrees per hour. As it became a full-time job of running back and forth from home to the restaurant to check on my new baby, Melissa rolled her eyes more than once. I told her, “Honey, just wait until you taste the pizza.”
Luckily, the preparation of the oven and the end of our workout challenge ended the same week. Nothing was holding us back for a proper allowance of pizza, at least once a week.
However, the seasoning wasn’t complete, really, it was only halfway done. You see, several pizza-loving friends in Italy told me that a real pizza oven did not start hitting its stride until 100 pizzas had been cooked within it. So, anxious to get to No. 100, I’ve been inviting friends and family every Sunday and Monday for pizza. I think they’ve been pretty good, too, as almost everyone has been lobbying for an invite for the 100th, to see if there really is a difference.
I know the kids will be there; they’re as crazy about it as me. Nicholas considers himself a master cheese-man, while Juliana has become an artist with basil. It’s great stuff; love to see the obsessions being carried on…
Although the invite list for the 100th pizza is still up in the air, I definitely know which wine we’ll drink. The wine, just like my oven, is direct from Tuscany, from the sunny hillsides near Bolgheri, in the southern part of the appellation. The Pervale cuvee from the estate of Urlari, is a spectacular Super Tuscan, based on sangiovese and cabernet sauvignon, ripe, round and rich, perfect with anything cooked outdoors but especially with pizza.
Unlike negotiations with the pizza oven guys, (which totally tanked; these guys can name their price), I was able to work a really good price on this wine. This Tuscan masterpiece regularly sells for $50 a bottle. For Nicholas Wines customers, I am offering it for $27 a bottle.
The vineyard is located in Riparbella, just 12 miles north of Bolgheri in an area of Tuscany known as the Etruscan coast. Ideally situated between 720 and 800 feet above sea level, Urlari overlooks the Mediterranean Sea and the rolling interior hills of Tuscany. This deep ruby red wine is intense and complex with notes of red and small black fruit as well as cassis, chocolate and spicy vanilla oak. It’s well-structured and has a long, well-defined finish.
Nicholas Harary is the owner and executive chef at Restaurant Nicholas in Middletown.
In 2011, Restaurant Nicholas launched its Nicholas Wines program. Each month, Nicholas Harary selects one to two wines to sell in the online store (www.restaurantnicholas.com). Chef Harary’s long-lasting, personal relationships with winemakers and his commitment to storing wine at 56 degrees from Day One equates to unique access, value and quality for Nicholas Wines customers. Wines can be ordered by the bottle and/or case and shipped or picked up at the restaurant.