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October 4th, 2013

This week we have a conversation between Michael Ruhlman, author of The Book of Schmaltz, and celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern about cooking with fat, the Sterns join us with their take on the best regional American pizza, Bon Appétit’s Adam Rapoport teaches us a simplified duck confit recipe, and travel and food writer Anya Von Bremzen talks about her new memoir, Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking.

Jane and Michael Stern's Roadfood

For over 40 years the Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company has been serving up a focused menu of pizza pot pies, grinders, and salads on N. Clark Street. The star of the menu is the pizza pot pie, which is constructed by filling a ceramic bowl with an abundant amount of cheese and homemade sauce (which is more akin to spaghetti than pizza sauce), topping it with triple-raised Sicilian dough, and then baking the entire bowl in the oven. The focused menu is rounded out by various oven-baked grinders and heaping salads.

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Pizza at the Colony Grill is ultra thin-crusted and it is brittle. Regardless of the ingredients on top, each slice can be lifted by its broad end from the circumference of the pie and nothing will droop. There is real character to this crust, and at the outermost edge, a luscious crunch unlike any other pizza you will eat.

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While there are many connoisseurs of pizza who will fight us on this point, we do not believe that Modern Apizza of New Haven serves the best pizza on earth. In our book, it is only the second best on earth, after Pepe’s of New Haven … except on those days when Pepe’s has no clams for its white clam pizza, in which case we will gladly go to eat white clam pizza pie at Modern. Let us say it plainly: Modern Apizza is a fantastic four-star pizza parlor, and if you eat here rather than on Wooster Street, it’s about like winning only $100 million rather than $125 million in the Power Ball.

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“Sally” was Sal Consiglio, the nephew of Frank Pepe; and in 1938, about a dozen years after Frank Pepe’s opened New Haven’s first pizzeria, Sal broke away and started his own just down Wooster Street. Sal himself is gone, but his wife Flora still runs the old pizza parlor. So Sally’s and Pepe’s are still in the same extended family. There are some aficionados who love one much more than the other; but in truth, each has its charms, and both make superb pizza.

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At Pepe's, the greatest (and original) of the pizzerias on New Haven’s Wooster Street, you walk into a room with an open kitchen in back where white-aproned pizza men enact a ritual originated by Frank Pepe more than seventy years ago: bombs of dough are flattened on a marble table, clouds of spice are strewn in an instant, and long wooden bakers' peels are used to inject pizzas deep into the coal-fired oven. It is a hypnotic scene, untouched by time or fashion.

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Coletta's is an old-style Italian-American restaurant that supplements a menu of spaghetti, lasagne and parmigianas with barbecue pizza and barbecue salad. Although it looks rundown from the outside, it is a very friendly, welcoming place, well-loved by large numbers of regulars.

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