Monday, March 4, 2013

Classic Southern New England: Pizza Strips from Crugnale Bakery

Pizza strips from Crugnale Bakery
If you're from anywhere near the cities of Providence or Fall River or New Bedford, you've likely grown up with pizza strips. If you're anywhere too far away, even as far north as Boston, they're as likely as foreign to you as that weird maggot cheese from Sardinia. But no matter where you're from, these things are delightfully tasty, and for me a vivid flashback of Sunday afternoons at the age of nine spent down the boat yard with my folks and my baby brother. It's a "life is good" sort of memory. 
So imagine my surprise and squeals of glee as I trudged into work on a Monday morning, only to discover two Crugnale Bakery boxes full of pizza strips. One of my all star coworkers, who with just the other day I had shared an extensive discussion on the specialities of Providence cuisine, had gone the extra mile, and on her lengthy commute from Rhodie to Boston, had brought these two square parcels of gastronomic gold and classic, unique New England cuisine.
A box full of flavor
Alright already. What are these things? Well in the regions I've just described, you'd often see them in any number of places. Some grocery stores stock them from local bakeries, many Italian bakeries have a version, and their availability even extends as far as your corner Cumberland Farms or gas station. The square or rectangular pieces of pizza are comprised of a thick, airy, Sicilian style dough, and a brick red aromatic sauce. There is no cheese, because that's not what this pizza is about. It's a cold piece of carb-o-luscious bread, and a sauce that's thick with tomatoes, almost akin to tomato paste, much sweeter than your average pizza sauce, and flavored with oregano, various other spices, and garlic and olive oil.  That's all. Fabulous pizza dough and zesty, dense sauce. 
A unique dough and a unique sauce:
Uniquely Southern New England
I've had many versions, but this is the first time in years that I've had Crugnale pizza. I think the first time, one of my cousins had brought it to a pool party. Let me tell you, they make the best version of pizza strips that I've ever had. Every element is in balance, and that thick sauce has just the right "slightly soaked" effect on the top of the thick dough. In fact, it's the shininess of the actual doughy surface that is smeared with the sauce that gets me every time. The perfect oily, sweet and salty surface. I love it. 
I hope you too are lucky enough to have such thoughtful coworkers. But if not, you owe it to yourself to venture down to Providence and get yourself something that you're really only going to be able to get in one specific area of this place we call Earth. Get yourself to one of Crugnale's locations, purchase a box of the pizza strips, and then head to a beach party or a barbecue or your local fight club meeting. They'll be a hit at any of the above. 

Crugnale Bakery

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