The Best Grilled Pizzas

Quick round of food trivia:

1. Where is the birthplace of pizza?

2. Where is the birthplace of grilled pizza?

While many of you might think the answers are one in the same, it might surprise you to find that they’re not. Although pizza originated in Naples,Italy, its grilled cousin was invented on a completely different continent. In fact, its birthplace is in the capital city of the smallest state in America.

In 1980, Johanna Killeen and George Germon introduced the culinary world to the grilled pizza by accident. At their Providence, Rhode Island restaurant Al Forno, the chefs attempted to reproduce the thin-crusted pizzas they enjoyed in Italy. One thing led to another, which led to the grill, which ultimately led to a crisp and smoky crust heated by direct fire.

Killeen and Germon’s discovery was revolutionary, transforming pizza from something that came in a delivery box into a culinary canvas for creativity and gourmet flavor. With grill season in full swing, pizzas are a refreshing alternative to the typical burger and hot dog menu. Using store bought pizza dough or thin crusts, fire up the grilland place the pizza base over the heat, then add your toppings. From basic red sauce to fig jam to nutella, the sky’s the limit. You can use the suggestions below for inspiration, but remember that sometimes the best discoveries are found by accident.

**Tips and Tricks**

1. Whether it is a car, a film or a book, you can never go wrong with a classic. The same rule applies for pizza. Using the Italian flag as a guide, begin by slathering spoonfuls of red sauce on the pizza. Top with slices of fresh mozzarella and shreds of julienned basil, and you have a pie worthy of serving to former Italian Queen Margherita, the recipient of and inspiration for the first pizza.

2. Go gourmet. Grilling a pizza elevates the traditional take-out item from ordinary to extraordinary, but why not kick it up another notch with impressive flavors? Instead of pizza sauce, fruit jams make a luscious topping. Instead of mozzarella cheese, swap in other cheeses, such as goat or bleu. Instead of pepperoni, slice up some prosciutto or pancetta. Possible combinations include fig jam, goat cheese, caramelized onions, prosciutto and arugula, or apricot jam, Fontina cheese, sliced pears and smoked ham.

3. Be inspired by the method. When it comes to the grill, most of us think barbecue. Rather than ignoring the theme completely, be inspired to use barbecue sauce as the base. Slice up some red onions and green pepper and scatter on the pie. Chop up some leftover chicken or pork, sprinkle on some cheddar cheese, and then you have an entrée that puts other barbecue fare to shame.

4. Raid the pantry. If it tastes good between two slices of bread, then it is likely that it will taste delicious on top of pizza dough. Empty your pantry and use up those vegetables from last week’s shopping trip. Think of the crust as the base of a salad or the basis of an oversized, open-faced sandwich. Use your favorite condiments or salad dressings as the sauce then pile on the toppings. Antipasti pizza, anyone?

5. Make it sweet. Who says the grill is only for dinner? There are no hard and fast rules that say pizzas must only be savory. Nutella with marshmallows becomes an open-faced s’more. Pineapple salad, strawberries and blueberries under a drizzle of honey combine for a warmed fruit pizza. The sight and smells of chocolate sauce, bananas, peanut butter and cashews will make holding off until dessert even more difficult.

Bethany Imondi, a rising senior studying Government and English at Georgetown University, is a native Rhode Islander who is still waiting for the day Al Forno takes reservations so she can try their pizzas and order dessert at the beginning of the meal. Read more…

Originally posted on Thursday, June 14th, 2012

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