Sunday, November 22, 2015

Review: Pete's Pizza - Columbus Farmers Market Pizza, Part Two

The Columbus Farmer's Market, just a little bit south of Trenton, is a dinosaur; an old style hybrid of junk shops, flea market, and farm market. On a sunny Saturday in November, I targeted Kate & Al's Pizza, located within the market. You can learn more about the market and see my review of Kate & Al's HERE.

A slice at Kate and Al's. Click any pic to enlarge.

A slice at Pete's Pizza

The indoor stores are arranged in a large U shape. Kate & Al's Pizza Pies anchors the Southern end. I happened to enter at the North side and saw Pete's Pizza, buzzing with customers. I went first to Kate & Al's, then returned to Pete's to sample a slice there.

Pete's, like Kate & Al's, sells rectangular pizza, baked in pan, whole or by the slice. In fact, both places seem to have a single origin. One web reviewer reports that this style of pizza has been served at Columbus Market for more than fifty years. Apparently Pete's Pizza preceded - and led to - Kate & Al's:
Pete came from Hungary and wanted to start a business. A pizza restaurant seemed the only thing he could afford, but he did not know how to make pizza. So, he just started experimenting and kept notes on everything he did. He said, “The secret to great pie is to experiment, keep notes and develop a feel for the dough and the sauce. A recipe only gets you so far. To make outstanding pizza you need passion.”   
Pete was a perfectionist and a very friendly guy. He started selling pizzas at Columbus Market in the 1950s and later sold the business to a relative who re-named it Kate & Al’s. Pete taught several customers that were active in their churches how to make pizza so they would have something good for the teens. In the 1960s Pete opened up again at the other end of the market.

And I found that the pizza in both places was quite similar, with a few noteworthy differences. On both, the amount of sauce was double or triple you'd find on a Sicilian pizza or a Detroit-style pie. The cheese, however, was less than half of the typical pizza amount. 

The slices at Kate & Al's featured modest amounts of mozzarella. I think there was some mozz on the slice at Pete's, but what stood out was a heavy cover of grated Parmesan (or similar) aged Italian cheese.

Pete's Pizza
The crust at Kate & Al's was a little pale on the bottom, but it had a nice crispness to it and was surprisingly light in the body. The crust at Pete's was darker, crunchier, and sturdier. Both had excellent flavor. Of the two, Pete's was the better crust, but not by a big margin.
Underside of a slice at Pete's

At Kate & Al's, the deep sea of sauce was the star. Vibrantly red, with fresh tomato flavor to match. Like the wonderful deep-dish pie at Louisa's just south of Chicago, this sauce was delightful. The sauce at Pete's was both sweeter and saltier. The salty taste may have come from the heavy dusting of aged cheese. It was terrific, but I preferred the sauce at Kate & Al's.

It's easy to understand why these places are so popular, because this is good old-style pizza that has changed very little over 50 years. Even though Pete's has a better crust, I give a slight nod to the slices at Kate & Al's, due to its lively red sauce. I can't imagine anyone who would enjoy one and not the other.
The busy U-shaped counter at Pete's

The Columbus Market is a step back in time, mostly in a good way, and the pies there are destination pizza - worth the trip. Try both Pete's Pizza and Kate & Al's when you visit.

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

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