Monday, September 5, 2016

Feature Story: Norma's Pizza, Manheim PA (Roots Country Market)

Disclaimer: This is not an objective review. After three visits to Norma's Pizza, I'm both a fan and a friend. My wife and I got to visit Norma on her Saturday "day off" when she was preparing dough for her regular Tuesday sale day (Roots Market is open only on Tuesdays).
Boardwalk pizza
Although Roots the Market was closed, there was a huge Arts & Crafts Fair being held on the grounds over the long Labor Day weekend. The arts fair was kind of fun, but it was our 90 minutes with Norma that made the 3-hour round trip worthwhile.
Snipping the basil
In previous visits, I had sampled (and loved) her "Boardwalk" style pizza, which also later doubled as her "New York" style pizza that won her the Caputo Cup and great acclaim. Just as wonderful, though, was her Detroit style pie, a thick but airy crust baked in a deep square pan with its cheese, topped with tomato sauce only after it comes out of the oven, then cut into just 4 rare and wonderful rectangles. See all the pics and review HERE.
Detroit pizza from prior visit
We didn't give Norma much advance notice that we would be at the Craft Fair, but she graciously offered to have us enter the empty market so that she could make some pizza for us. The dough was a day or two short of its ideal rise time, we learned. 
Mrs. PQ slicing the first pie
First, she made her signature boardwalk pie, and topped it with a special variety of spicy cup pepperoni. Beyond its perfect (yes, literally perfect) crust that was crisp, yet airy with great hole structure, Norma does not use mozzarella like many pizzaioli. I won't reveal her cheese(s), but her selection works great on this classic pie. We ate way too much, knowing full well that another pizza was on its way.
Brilliant crust, crisp and airy
Recently, she acquired and cleaned up some vintage deep-dish pizza pans, and she's been experimenting with a Sicilian pizza. This one is big enough for 9 slices (instead of 4 for the Detroit), and there is a different hydration in the dough. She bakes it with just the cheese, then removes it from the oven, added some cured meat and tomato sauce, then returns it to the oven for a finishing bake. Like the Boardwalk pie, she finishes it with snips of fresh basil.
Sicilian pie, before slicing
The Sicilian was a bit more dense than her Detroit pie, but it sported a similar cheesy-crunchy cornicione. She added one more kind of cheese to this pie, and the blend of cheeses, sauce, Calabrian chili oil, salami, and basil was just singing on the palate. Another brilliant pizza by Norma.
A peek under the hood
All of that and she sent home the leftovers slices with us, as well as 2 frozen doughs which she sells so that you can attempt this level of greatness at home. A perfect day with a wonderfully gracious host and pizza maker.
A great pizza day
Since her Caputo Cup fame, Norma often faces more pizza demand than she can meet on any given Tuesday, especially for those who want a whole pie. Part of the problem is that this "Best NY Pizza in the World" is also value-priced at just $2 per slice. Given the demand for this world-class pie and the quality of her ingredients (not to mention the 5 days each week she works just to sell pies for 12 hours every Tuesday), I'd recommend a price increase if I was her accountant!

It is truly a treat and a privilege to chat with Norma and eat that astonishing pizza. Put it on your bucket list.

Norma's Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

6 comments:

  1. I'm so jealous. Norma has had my pizza, but I've not yet had the chance to try her's. That round pie may be the most beautiful NY pizza i'v ever laid eyes on!

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    1. Destination pizza, make the trip! Twice I took a vacation day just to get that pizza on a Tuesday. :-)

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  2. When I was lucky enough to visit last year I got to try a hybrid with some Ischia culture mixed in. It was outstanding pizza.

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    1. Norma's scientific approach to the dough surely brings some great results.

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  3. This was a great review of Norma's pizza! She really embodies the spirit of pizza and your review captured some of her magic. Thank you very much! pizza on earth, Albert Grande

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  4. Hi Albert, Norma would be a special gem even if she was flipping burgers. But her pie is other worldly. Great to see good people doing good things.

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