The subject of grilled pizza no doubt raises lots of important questions in you, the first of which is why? Why try to improve on a foodstuff that you have repeatedly and happily baked indoors since at least the early days of Chef Boyardee? Because no one wants to turn on the oven when it’s already baking outdoors, that’s why. Besides, think of the novelty. Raise the hood on a few charred chicken breasts or slabs of brisket and your guests will ho-hum it to the picnic table, but spin a pie out of the pit and, well, you’ll be the hit of the socially-distant garden party.
Full disclosure: I had reservations myself, especially about the dough, which I recklessly assumed would slip through the grating, dragging all manner of vegetables with it, necessitating a meal redirect and perhaps even a 911 call. But that was before we checked in with pizzaioli Michael Vigliotti, the mastermind behind Avelino Pizza Truck at Macari Vineyards on the North Fork and the Neapolitan pies at Vulcano 081 in Rockville Centre. Vigliotti is a busy guy. When we caught up with him, he was, together with Frank Antonetti, putting the finishing touches on a place he’s opening this summer next to the latter’s Rust & Gold in Huntington that’s tentatively called the 1653 Pizza Company (after the year the town was founded). Vigliotti has made pizza in coal-fired ovens, wood- ones, indoors and out. He could probably make one on the sidewalk in August if you asked him. Relax, he said.
Pizza dough (enough for a 13-inch round)
Basic pesto sauce (basil, garlic, pine nuts)
Cherry tomatoes (oven roasted with olive oil and garlic)
1. Make your own pizza dough or buy from a local purveyor. (Many supermarkets and pizzerias sell dough directly to the public. Note: If dough has been refrigerated, remove from fridge one hour before grilling. Meanwhile, oven roast cherry tomatoes with olive oil and garlic.
2. Preheat grill to 450 degrees. Stretch dough by hand into roughly a 13-inch round.
3. When grill is hot, place dough round directly on grating, cover and grill for about 4 minutes, periodically checking the bottom with tongs to see if it has properly browned.
4. With a spatula or your hands, flip the dough over and place on the cooler side of the grill for another 4 minutes, then remove.
5. Top with shredded mozzarella and tomatoes, and return to grill.
6. Remove pizza from grill when cheese is melted and bubbly, about 3-4 minutes.
7. Top with drops of pesto and fresh basil, and serve.