Reinventing the pizza
Pizza Meter's founder is taking his 10 years of experience and opening a new ecological restaurant.
Alex Gordon has some very definitive ideas about pizza dough: If it has not rested for a day or two before being served, and if it has not been kneaded for a long time, it grates on the throat like bad fast food.
Gordon is one of the founders of the Pizza Meter chain, which had 25 branches until it closed shop in 2005 - primarily due to a lack of shareholder equity, and not for lack of business, Gordon says. Real estate developer Dror Ramati bought the chain, and it now has 12 outlets across the country, all of them franchises. Gordon, who has been kneading dough and concocting recipes for more than 10 years, now serves as a consultant for the chain.
Pizza, he says, has become the "Israeli dish of 2008." In this hot market, where pizza can come with eggplant cream and mozzarella slices (at Iceberg Volcano in the Tel Aviv port) and people wait in line to buy pizza by the kilo (at Tony Vespa in Tel Aviv), Gordon sought a way to innovate, to create a unique product.
He is incorporating his answer into a new restaurant opening on Ibn Gvirol Street in Tel Aviv. The shop will serve ecological pizza, created from a delicate yeast-based dough prepared using the "slow food" method. Every day, a piece of dough is saved and used as a starter to make the next day's batch of dough. Gordon also will use a recipe he developed over the years at Pizza Meter.
At the new shop, designed by architect Leticia Blachowitz, the emphasis is on recycled materials. The kitchen is built from recycled metal, all of the packing is made from recycled paper, and the place is lit with energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs. Gordon says many of the utensils will be reusable, and plastic will not be anywhere in sight.
"We wanted to use organic vegetables, but they're expensive and we're also aware of the debate over the waste of land involved in organic farming," says Gordon. "If we want the pizza to sell for a reasonable price, we cannot use only organic ingredients. We will make sure to use vegetables and herbs fresh from the market."
Gordon says the prices are considered reasonable, "but five years ago, selling a meter of pizza for 70 shekels was a novelty, and it wasn't easy to bring this into the market. We were pioneers; we had to explain to the Israeli public that the sweet potato topping on the pizza was first stir-fried in sauce, and that we were topping the pizza with an entire meal."
Gordon, 52, a native of Argentina who immigrated to Israel in 1974, travels frequently to Italy and Spain.
"When an Italian housewife buys a ball of ready-made dough, she knows when it was prepared, kneaded and repackaged," he says. "If the dough ball is two days old, it costs double; if it is four days old, it will cost more because it took four days of care."
Anyone who buys ready-made dough is familiar with the issue of leavening time. Israeli consumers still lack awareness of the matter: Dough prepared quickly "will sit heavily" once eaten, Gordon says. "The idea is not to prepare a ball of dough and immediately place it in the oven, but to handle the dough for several days. That way when eating it, there is no annoying sense of heaviness."
The new store will also use this method to prepare pizza from chick-pea dough, rice dough, whole-wheat flour dough, spelt flour dough and gluten-free dough.
The first store is set to open in less than two weeks. It will start its day at 9 A.M., which corresponds well with the growing trend in Tel Aviv kindergartens to serve pizza for breakfast, and in place of candy and cake for birthdays. The shop also will take orders a day in advance.
In another two months, Gordon plans to open branches in Ramat Hasharon and Jerusalem.