As if you didn’t already love pizza enough, chefs are raving about endless wine- and pie-pairing possibilities.
“Some of the most complex wines can be paired with the simplest dishes,” says Executive Chef Christopher Thompson of A16 in San Francisco, known for wood-fired pizzas with wines selected to match by Co-Owner and Wine Director Shelley Lindgren.
“The fast-food effortlessness of a pizza wine exists, however, the right sip with the right pizza is a moment to savor,” says Lindgren.
This year’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants includes several other notable pizza proponents, who offer their advice for home cooks, from a wine-friendly Asian-inspired pizza you can make at home, to topping and wine-pairing tips.
“Pizza can be enjoyed and understood on a variety of levels and it always instills comfort and satisfaction,” says Executive Chef Christopher Thompson. With nine wood-fired pizzas currently on the menu at San Francisco’s A16, Thompson and Co-Owner/Wine Director Shelley Lindgren are the perfect duo to offer topping and wine-pairing tips.
For Thompson’s baby octopus pizza with tomato, garlic, chili flakes, oregano and fresh arugula, Lindgren looks to a Negroamaro from Puglia, which often has “a Medjool date, black olive and salt-brine character” that is lovely with the peppery arugula and sweet tomatoes, but rich enough for the tender yet dense texture of the octopus.
“A classic Margherita pizza embodies simple flavors such as sweet tomato sauce, the richness of fresh mozzarella and herbaceous basil,” says Lindgren. “And when paired with the sun-kissed Sicilian Nero d’Avola, it just works.”
Alternatively, a bianca pizza—with no tomato sauce—slants salty, with layers of cheese, Castelvetrano olives and basil, calling for a weightier red.
“My go-to here is a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from a classic producer, such as Masciarelli’s Marina Cvetic,” says Lindgren. “The bold tannins cut through the richness of the pie, yet the generous fruit adds to the overall pairing, making it a wonderful bite and sip together.”
This fresh sea food-focused restaurant offers several kinds of pizzas, including a popular clam chowder pie.
“We offer pizza because it’s fun to eat,” says Executive Chef Ben Pollinger. “Our bar crowd is here primarily to drink and socialize and may not be here for a full meal, so I offer bar snacks that fit the bill: Easy to share, easy to eat standing up, easy to eat with your hands.”
Oceana’s Wine Director Pedro Gonçalves takes a similar no-nonsense approach when it comes to pairing pizza and wine: “It should not have to be a difficult task, drink what you love the most. Think red, white or rosé or even sparkling. Yes, I said sparkling. How many times have you had a beer or a coke with your pizza?”
When pairing the two, Gonçalves thinks diners should consider the crust, toppings and cheeses before choosing a wine.
“With thick crust pizza, a hearty red like a Chianti riserva should be great with toppings like tomato, basil, peppers, onions and mozzarella,” says Gonçalves. For a thin-crust pizza with chicken, mushrooms, olives or Parmigiano Reggiano, Gonçalves looks to the southern Rhône, like a Châteauneuf-du-Pape, or a Rioja reserva.
“And with any crust that has a maritime influence, such as oysters, clams, anchovies or cured fish, have some Chablis or almost any white from Friuli,” says Gonçalves.
“Pizza is a universal food: Everyone, from kids to adults, knows and loves it,” says Executive Chef Akira Back. “Like much of [our] menu, the Big Eye Tuna Pizza represents my childhood, travels and experience. The dish has become synonymous with Yellowtail in Las Vegas and has become a customer favorite.”
Big Eye Tuna Pizza
4 8-inch flour tortillas
1 ounce extra virgin olive oil
Black pepper, very coarsely ground, to taste
Ponzu mayonnaise (recipe to follow)
6½ ounces red onion, thinly sliced with grain, rinsed
Maldon sea salt, to taste
7½ ounces Big Eye tuna, cleaned, trimmed, thinly sliced against grain
¾ ounce white truffle oil
½ ounce shiso mix microgreens
¼ ounce bulls blood microgreens
Brush tortillas on both sides with extra virgin olive oil and season with black pepper. Toast tortillas until very crispy in either a broiler or on a griddle. Remove to another work surface. Brush generous amounts of ponzu mayonnaise on one side of tortilla and garnish with red onions.
Lay tuna over onions and mayonnaise, making sure to completely cover the tortilla. Season with black pepper and sea salt. Drizzle truffle oil over top of seasoned tuna, evenly seasoning the whole pizza. Sprinkle micro shiso and micro bulls blood over top of the pizza. Make sure greens are evenly distributed. Cut pizza into 8 even slices. Transfer gently onto plate. Serve immediately. Serves 4.
For the ponzu mayonnaise:
5 ounces soy sauce
5 ounces Shiragiku vinegar
½ ounce fresh lemon juice
9 ounces mayonnaise
Combine soy sauce, vinegar and lemon juice, and mix thoroughly. Fold in the mayonnaise and combine well.
Sommelier Yukiko Kawasaki recommends pairing the tuna pizza with Cloudy Bay’s 2012 Sauvignon Blanc. “The nice lemongrass aroma goes well with the micro shiso,” says Kawasaki. “Cloudy Bay’s mid-dryness won’t kill the beauty of the flavor of the tuna and truffle oil, unlike a big, oaky Chardonnay.”