Like most of the country, Josh Marcus loves pizza. So much so that he's dedicated Thursday nights to flipping dough and topping it with exotic ingredients at his Surfside delicatessen, Josh's Deli. The ingredients at hand are goat, eel and pig's feet. And the dough is a special combination of bread flour and Italian 00.
"I'm not trying to compete with Lucali, which I think is the best pizza in the city, or any other pizza for that matter," says Marcus. "It's more about making really great bread and using that as a vehicle for other great flavors. It's only called pizza cause it's round and made in an oven."
Pizza night began four weeks ago and will continue as part of Josh's Deli winter dinner service that runs through to April/May -- when the weather and humidity rises making it nearly impossible for dough to do the same successfully.
"Every year I do a different dinner theme to challenge myself and be able to creatively do whatever I want." This year, that happens to be pizza. But like the rest of his unconventional delicatessen, the pizza made totally from scratch, the opposite of kosher and the opposite of ordinary.
Marcus decided on Thursday for the simple fact that he's not open on Sunday evenings, which is what usually springs to mind for pizza night. Although in Surfside, things are slightly different. "No one leaves their house Sundays. The streets are like a ghost town."
Eighteen buckaroos will get you your choice of one of Marcus' six creations and your choice of soup or salad. The soup varies depending on what Marcus has made fresh for the day (in our case it was a chicken and rice with edamame bean) and the salad is the traditional deli salad he's been tossing since opening in 2012. "My first job I the kitchen was the salad station, so I feel I make a good salad." Indeed, every bit of green is wet with Marcus' housemade Italian dressing.
As for the pies, Marcus makes 40 balls of dough every Thursday. Whatever remains will be used for bagels in the weekend days to follow. The dough itself mixed bread flour with 00 Italian, which gives the pizza a sturdier base to support the ingredients so that when you pick up a slice, it doesn't collapse. "I like the structure of this dough cause it holds up to toppings and has different mouth feel than Neapolitan style," he explains. "I'm not just being different for sake of being different but being different for a purpose."
Different means you'll find ingredients like bone marrow, maitake mushrooms and ricotta cheese on a pie. Equally unorthodox is the crab pizza with artichokes, spinach and ricotta. "It's basically like a spinach dip on top of a pizza." For something un-kosher, the chorizo and lamb pizza with kalamata olives is also the only pie that Josh is saucing up for the time being. "My sauce is unique in that I used smoked tomatoes. I also use fennel pollen which is a great ingredient."
We opted for Marcus' most bizarre pies, which include the pig trotter. "So I take pigs feet and cure them in salt, sugar and spices for two days before braising and searing them." At which point, he pulls the skin off, chops it, and turns it into a chicharron. Marcus also makes a gremolata using breadcrumbs, lemon zest, herbs and the meat from the feet, which he chops up and mixes together. Bubbles of mozzarella act as the binding agent, as does a gribiche sauce (French mayonnaise style herb sauce with egg, capers and anchovies).
At first sight, you might think the goat pie stands for goat cheese and you'd be partially right. But there's also actual braised goat meat on it. "Goat has a very distinct flavor that could become too intense for people if eaten alone but because eaten with bread, I find it perfect perfect accompaniment for a pizza." Marcus also adds capers and a Middle Eastern spice with sumac in it.
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But perhaps the most interesting pizza Marcus is making is the barbecue eel pie, which is a play on Hawaiian if you will (sans the ham). Instead, he uses eel, mozzarella, pineapple, and xo sauce, a spicy seafood condiment made with dried scallops and shrimp from Hong Kong. "Xo sauce is very intense on its own but in bread when spread out it's just awesome." The pizza hits notes in your mouth you're simply not used to having. "It's super umami and going to be on the menu for a while."
Follow Carla on Twitter @ohcarlucha