Sullivan Street Bakery in New York, Jim Lahey has been making some of the best breads in the city for years. Less well known are the bakery’s astonishing pizzas: long, rectangular slabs of dough with simple toppings such as sliced potato and crushed tomato. (He does have a traditional pizza restaurant Co. where he serves terrific, round pies with an array of toppings.) Recently, Lahey has been amping up his offerings with such ingredients as cheese, cured meat, olives, and fermented chiles—sometimes all on one pie, leading to one of the best pizzas in America right now. Here's how its made.
Sullivan Street bakery delivers to restaurants—and fans—all around New York. In 2000, it moved from SoHo to Hell’s Kitchen on the West Side of Manhattan.
Photographer: Ayumi Sakamoto
It's a bakery, so Sullivan Street specializes in bread (obviously), which is always baked separately from the pizza. Here, the crew loads unbaked loaves into the giant oven. Depending on the size of the bread, the oven can fit around 60 loaves at a time.
Sora Yara waits to put the day’s last batch of bread in the oven. He’s been baking for hours.
Be it bread or pizza, the bakers shape each mound of dough by hand. They’re so expert at it, they can usually gauge weight discrepancies by holding them in their palms. When in doubt, there’s a scale for confirmation.
Fun fact: The bakery uses approximately 25,000 pounds of white flour and about 2,000 pounds of whole wheat flour per week. That equates to roughly 7,000 to 9,000 loaves and 25 huge pizzas a day.
Jim Lahey, 50, founded Sullivan Street back in 1994 after returning from San Gimignano in Tuscany, where he taught himself to bake.
Ingredients readied for the capicola pizza: green olives, olive oil, fennel, house-made fermented chiles, capicola, and mascarpone. The capicola came from pigs Lahey raised on his property upstate.
The dough is ready to go after rising overnight for at least 4 hours. A key step is to dust the board with some—not too much—flour.
Pastry chef Madelyn Osten readies the capicola to top the pizza with Lahey, who doesn’t believe in putting an overload of toppings on his pies.
Mascarpone is first piped onto the roughly 13-inch by 18-inch dough, with 15 precise dollops per pie. Castelvetrano olives are then set carefully on the mounds. Slices of raw fennel are a finishing touch; in the 550-degree oven, they'll becomes ultra-tender and slightly crispy—but, this being 2016, not before
Late summer tomatoes and Italian prune plum tomatoes—meticulously sourced from Manhattan's Union Square Greenmarket—mean it’s almost (or already) fall.
The casual café at the front of Sullivan Street Bakery stocks an array of tantalizing breads, including the hugely popular, tangy, doughy Pugliese and the bakery's OG pizza, the pomodoro, adorned only with a layer of hand-milled tomatoes.
Photographer: Ayumi Sakamoto
The finished capicola pizza. It’s ready to be cut into wedges—or, even better, torn with your hands into good-sized pieces. Right about now, you might need a beer, too.