Sunday, July 17, 2011

Casey's Pizza - Margherita Pizza & Pepperoni Pizza

One of the great things about getting food from a market stall is that you get to be up close and personal with the chef, and you get to witness his or her personality reflected in the food firsthand. The first time I tried Casey's Pizza was a few weeks ago, when I grabbed a pie to go. While it was cooking I chatted with Casey, and he gave me tips for making dough at home. He was rather engaging and interesting, and my pizza was phenomenal, even after bringing it home. Needless to say I was itching to try another one fresh off the grill. Finally I got that chance, and I may have just found one of my new favorite places in the city.

Casey's Pizza is the obsession of Casey Crynes, a former East Coaster with a love of New York Style pizza. He is building out what will be San Francisco's first mobile pizza truck, which he hopes to roll-out in the next month or two. Until that goes live you can find him primarily at his Thursday night pop-up at Vinyl or at the Wednesday Upper Haight Farmers Market, where he cooks up his pies on a fiery hot pizza stone set atop a small Weber grill outfitted with a propane burner that has to be seen to be believed. Though often flanked by his younger twin brothers and assistant Chelsea, it's Casey who is spreading dough, pouring sauce and chatting up customers who marvel at the pizza cooked on a grill. (Yes, you will get the urge to try this at home!)

When I strolled on up to the stand I was eager to finally get to taste Casey's piping hot and watch the steam rise against the windy, cool San Francisco air. What I found when I got to the stand, however, was my family sitting on a tree bench and already munching on pizza. A box was thrust into my hands, and I opened it to reveal an already cold Margherita Pizza. It still looked great, with clumps of white cheese blanketing a rich red sauce and topped with bright green basil, but I wanted fresh! Bowled over by my hunger and my never-ending "eyes bigger than my stomach" problem, I marched back to the tent and ordered up another pizza, this one for myself, and then went back to snack on the Margherita while I waited. Casey's pizzas are made up fresh when you order and then are cooked one at time on the small grill. They also serve ready-made slices which they make in between whole pie orders, but if you happen to queue up behind a group of people who each order individual pizzas, it's going to be a bit of a wait.

Even cooled in the brisk Haight wind, Casey's Pizza is pretty damn good. And no, it wasn't just my hunger talking! It brings me back to my childhood home of Boston, where the pizza is thin and floppy, the crust crispy and slightly chewy. The cheese is creamy, due to the combination of both sliced fresh and smoked mozzarella (about an 80-20 split), and the sauce is tangy and thin. It's just marvelous! In just a few bites my slice was gone, but my hunger wasn't satiated and my taste buds cried out for more.

It took about twenty minutes, but the wait was worth it when I finally got my very own pepperoni pizza. It was piping hot and freshly charred coming right off of the grill. One bite and it's evident that Casey has spent some time honing his craft, getting his dough to be perfect. He explained to me that the secret behind his dough is not only the flour, but also the cold-fermenting process, where it's left to rise overnight. Toppings aside it's the crust that makes Casey's stand out for me. Though I have been recommended by even Casey himself to try Delfina, I had yet to find pizza here in the city that can recreate the thin, slightly crispy, slightly chewy base that I love until now. Casey's crust is what really wins it for me because it's the crust that differentiates between a fantastic pizza and one that is just okay.

My pizza, cooked on the pizza stone at a temperature around 800 degrees for only a few minutes, was exactly how I imagined it would be, but slightly better due to the high quality ingredients. The thinly-sliced pepperoni got crispy around the edges, but wasn't greasy at all. The cheese melted in gobs and the crust had a nice blackness in scattered spots. The tomato sauce is more on the salty side, with no hints of added sugar. The basil was wonderfully wilted and aromatic. My pizza was so good that it might have ruined my usual pizza haunt (which Casey disapproved of, by the way), though I would love to eat them side by side. I am hooked! Though the pizzas are not small and not for one, I think between the Margherita and this one, I probably ate the equivalent of a whole pie. Even when I was full, the taste kept me reaching for more.

If you are a fan of New York style pizza than I highly recommend trying one of Casey's pies, and for pizza fans in general, you'll want to get this now before he rolls out the truck and the Weber disappears. One bite will make you wonder if his pizza is better than anything else you can find in the city. If you're lucky Casey will even tell you how you can make better dough at home.


I had the chance to catch up with Casey and chat all things pizza, food trucks, cooking and anything else that came to his mind. Check back soon to learn more about the man behind the pie!

Margherita Pizza Rating: 4.5/5
Pepperoni Pizza Rating: 4.5/5 (ratings guide)

Casey's Pizza (@caseyspizza) $13 for one Margherita Pizza, $15.00 for one Pepperoni Pizza, $4 for any slice


Does reading this make you want to try this vendor? Tell them that you saw them at I Left My Cart in San Francisco and support San Francisco street cuisine!

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