It’s not that we’re proud of this fact, but likely the most creative we got all weekend was deciding what toppings we wanted on our pizza. We are not trying to downplay the degree of creativity that can go into creating a well-topped pizza. In fact, perusing the menu at Gruppo, a pizzeria in the East Village, we were in awe at some of the complex and unusual combinations of flavors and textures packed on to a thin, crisp crust. Andouille sausage, shitake mushrooms, roasted garlic and basil can live together under a shield of fresh mozzarella. We could go spicy or tangy. Heavy or light. We were free to get as crazy as we wanted. There was no stifling us. And why would we just stop with the pizza? Pairing wines with our newly created masterpieces was where the real fun began.
Few matches are as great as pizza and wine. The degree of flexibility you have in playing with flavors and textures on both sides of the equation offer endless possibilities. While it’s hard to narrow down the list of our favorites, here are a few combinations that we think are worth trying:
“The Big Pineapple” (from Gruppo) with: Rioja (Spain)
The “Big Pineapple” is basically a Hawaiian-style pizza loaded with pineapple, smoked bacon, fresh tomatoes and basil. The most prominent flavors that come through are the delicious smoky and salty notes from the bacon. If anybody knows pork, it’s the Spanish, and the Rioja is a great match. This lighter red wine won’t overpower the pizza and the subtle notes of earth and cherries pair perfectly with the bacon.
Goat cheese and Veggies with Sancerre, (France)
This pie is a combination of goat cheese, roasted red peppers, eggplant and roasted garlic on a thin crust. Perhaps, not much of a pizza in the traditional sense, this combination of flavors works so well together you may not go back. The tangy acidity in the goat cheese pairs beautifully with Sancerre, a Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley. This wine has great acidity to stand up to the goat cheese and a slight herbaceous character that accents the vegetables.
White Pizza with Prosecco, (Italy)
When you start with ricotta, fresh mozzarella and basil you’re already off to a good start. It’s rich, creamy and indulgent. The only downfall is after a few bites it can be too much. Enter Prosecco. This is the perfect pairing because its crisp acidity and tiny bubbles cut through the richness and refresh the palate.
Meat Lovers with Syrah
Sometimes two types of Italian sausage just isn’t enough. That’s when you add the pepperoni. For this combo we’re going to need a wine that can stand up to the spice of the sausage and pepperoni but not too heavy to slow us down. We love Syrah with this pizza because the smoky, peppery notes in this wine work well with the meat and the black fruit notes add a nice contrast.
As we pour over our spreadsheets on this Monday morning, among the sea of black suits and TPS reports, at least we’ll know we nourished our creative spirit.
What are your most creative combinations?
Gruppo Thin Crust Pizza, 186 Avenue B, between 11th and 12th St.