In the Kitchen
Fall and winter pizzas: The Pizza Chef
This time of year, I find that, much like the weather, many of my regulars’ preferences change. While there are a set of pizzas that are always in the Top 5 most-ordered pizzas each week, others are more popular depending on the season.
Consider featuring certain specialty and combination pizzas to tie in with the time of year.
With Canadian Thanksgiving right around the corner, what kind of combination pizzas might be a good fit? I’ve seen some tasty-looking turkey, stuffing and cranberry pizzas, where gravy, instead of marinara, is used for a sauce base. You should consider your market, for instance, in Winnipeg, Kubasa, farmer sausage, garlic coil sausage and perogies are popular items found on dinner tables, especially around this time of year. I created a perogi pizza for our menu back in fall 2008 and featured it for three months. It was quite bold at the time. But customers loved it! And we have several specialty pizzas with a locally sourced farmer sausage that are quite popular.
For Halloween you could bring on the horrific “candy corn” novelty pizza, by all means, but I’m betting most of us independent pizzeria owners would rather serve something delicious. I like to use colours of the season, or holiday: black olives and orange peppers, or a buffalo-style chicken with Cheddar cheese seems fitting for a spooky month theme. A well-meaning friend suggested I create a “blood-and-gore” pizza, but I haven’t yet felt inspired to do so. I guess it could be very popular, or it could just “look” super gross, and only 10-year-old boys will order it. Also to note, there have been some interesting pizzas with prepared and seasoned pumpkin and/or squash, as a topping, that may be well received at this time of year.
During the fall and winter months, I’ve noticed that our heavier topped pizzas are more in demand. When I create new specialty pizzas, typically ones that I call “stick-to-your-ribs” style pizzas, they are well received in these seasons. I think it has to do with our innate desire to make sure we’re prepared for cooler temperatures and eat heartier meals. Not necessarily because we’re all planning on hibernating, but rather because we expect the additional calories are needed to maintain our stamina and health in the colder months. I’ve also noticed that anything with some heat, like a spicy sauce, or specialty pizzas with hot banana or jalapeno peppers, or a hot salami or capicolla are welcomed pizzas during these seasons.
Maybe you’re thinking of spicing things up on your menu but wondering where to start. Personally, I like incorporating our existing ingredients in different ways, combining sauces and toppings to create something new. Often I’ll bring in a new ingredient and use it in a few different specialty creations for a trial period. That way I can still keep our inventory items in line, while gauging how popular a new ingredient might be, and whether it deserves a permanent spot on the menu.
Don’t forget to show some love to your vegetarian clientele! Things like zucchini, corn, different styles of mushrooms and tomatoes are usually available in abundance and when you season them with olive oil and herbs and roast them up before topping, they’re quite satisfying. Paired up with a feta, or goat cheese, they’re sure to please!
Here are some suggestions for your fall and winter pizza menu that are popular on mine:
Country Fire: Olive Oil & Herbs sauce, buffalo chicken breast, jalapeno peppers, (local) farmer sausage, minced garlic, onions and mozzarella cheese.
Sweet’n’Spicy Divine Swine – International Polynesian Inspired Pizza: Marinara, dry cured pepperoni, pineapple, barbecue pulled pork with a splash of hot sauce, mozzarella and medium sharp Cheddar cheeses.
Sriracha-ZZA aka The Rooster Pizza – International Mandarin Inspired Pizza: Olive oil and herbs sauce, sriracha chicken breast, hot banana peppers, baby corn, minced garlic with Monterey Jack and mozzarella cheeses.
The Couch Potato: Olive Oil & Herbs sauce, Garlic’n’Chive Havarti and mozzarella cheeses, teriyaki fried onions, seasoned beef, strip bacon, seasoned fries and drizzled with ranch dressing.
Cucina’s Choice marinara, Capicolla ham, oven roasted red peppers, all beef Italian meatballs & strip bacon with mozzarella & medium sharp cheddar cheese.
Spicy Beast: Guaranteed to make you sweat! Marinara with a splash of hot sauce, Cajun chicken, jalapeno peppers, hot banana peppers, spicy sausage, hot and spicy beef, with extra Cheddar and mozzarella cheeses.
Buffalo Chicken Club: Marinara, Cajun chicken fingers, strip bacon, Roma tomatoes with Cheddar and mozzarella cheeses.
Farm Boy: Marinara, chicken fingers, strip bacon, caramelized onions, extra cheese blend of mozzarella and Garlic’n’Chive Havarti, topped with crispy fried onions.
Sweet and Spicy Farmer: Olive Oil & Herbs sauce, Monterey Jack and mozzarella cheeses, local farmer sausage, pineapple, jalapenos and honey drizzle.
I hope these creations inspire you to expand your menu over the next few months. There’s nothing quite like bringing on a new specialty pizza that your customers rave about.
Diana Cline is an award-winning pizza chef, a partner with Diana’s Cucina & Lounge in Winnipeg. In addition to creating award-winning recipes, Diana is a consultant to other pizzeria owner/operators in menu development, creating operational systems and marketing to help operators grow their business strategically. Contact her at email@example.com.