New York’s Newest Pizza Creation? Wait for Dessert

By Arthur Bovino
March 1, 2018

Chocolate pizza. No, not a hard chocolate disc or round of pizza dough slathered with syrup or spread with melted chocolate, but a dough made with chocolate, that rises and bakes similarly to a conventional New York City pie. It’s the newest creation of Sofia Pizza Shoppe, the pizzeria that last year, introduced New Yorkers to the $38 dollar, 12-hour risen pizza creation, the Doughdici.

In the annals of dessert pizza, the modern classic has to be the Nutella pie. Typically made at Neapolitan pizzerias and topped with bananas or strawberries, Nutella pizza still thrills tourists and the less jaded. Grimaldi’sRizzo’s, Adoro Lei, SottocasaSan Matteo Pizza, Antika, Olio e PiúKesté, GnoccoSong E NapuleLuzzo’s, and Sorbillo are a handful of New York spots all serving pies topped with the palm oil-hazelnut spread.

“You can say, ‘It’s boring, it’s been done,’ but cheeseburgers have been done and I’ll still eat a cheeseburger any moment of any day, okay?” Scott Wiener of Scott’s Pizza Tours counters. “Nutella on warm, freshly-baked dough tastes phenomenal and if you don’t agree then that’s your problem! All I’m saying is Nutella pizza tastes good.”

But for most pizza obsessives, Nutella pizza is nothing they haven’t seen in pizza or calzone form. This isn’t to say you can’t find any good desserts at pizza restaurants. It just isn’t a menu category that usually inspires innovation. “If I never eat another boring-ass, Nutella-slathered pizza crust sprinkled with powdered sugar, it would still be too soon,” said Slice blog founder and Margot’s bar pizza pop-up owner Adam Kuban when asked for his take on dessert pizza.

Well, it turns out that during the months-long break Sofia’s co-owner Thomas DeGrezia took from waking up early to set the Doughdici’s 12-hour rise in motion may have afforded him a chance to recharge his creative juices because when it comes to this newest creation, the guy has nailed it.

“If I never eat another boring-ass, Nutella-slathered pizza crust sprinkled with powdered sugar, it would still be too soon.” — Adam Kuban

During a recent preview at the Sutton Place spot he co-owns with Matthew Porter, Tom dusted the chocolate dough with flour and stretched it out on the same marble surface he and his pie guys use to make the quality pies they’ve become known for among obsessives like pizza blogger Jason Feirman and Scott Wiener of Scott’s Pizza Tours, who are both in attendance. It moves, pulls, thins, and feels like your typical New York pizza dough. It’s just dark brown and exudes the deep musky sweetness of… chocolate. And when the dough hits the deck of the Marsal Pizza Oven, that smell is amplified, filling the pizzeria with a scent you’d expect at a bakery, sweet shop, or open house where the realtor strategically places cookies in the oven before you arrive.

The chocolate pizza dough moves, pulls, thins, and feels like your typical New York pizza dough.

“This is just me trying to have fun again,” Tom explains when asked where the idea came from. “I mean, that’s really what the Doughdici was, a matter of having fun. Nobody expected it to turn into what it turned into.”

The inspiration for chocolate pizza came from aspiring to do something completely different from the Doughdici and wanting to do something creative for dessert at Sofia Wine Bar, which just celebrated nine years, and which Tom also owns. “We’re nut-free at the wine bar and the pizzeria, so there won’t ever be any form of nuts on the pizzas. That was the reason why it was like, well we don’t even have the option to do Nutella, so what else could we do?”

If adding Nutella to a savory dough was tired, why not incorporate conventional dessert ingredients into the dough? Go all out?

Why not translate its savory components into sweet counterparts? A chocolate dough. Melted dark or white chocolate as the “sauce.” Sautéed strawberries, bananas, or poached peaches as the toppings. And could mozzarella also carry sweet components too? Late one night after a long day, Degrezia said he decided to just go for it.

“No one’s reinvented dessert pizza, ever,” Degrezia claims. “They just make pizza dough and throw Nutella on it, and sometimes use strawberries or bananas. Let’s reinvent the dough. Dessert pizza should be its own thing. It shouldn’t be just pizza with something sweet on it.”

The crust is super thin and crisp — a few paper plates thick.

After some experimentation he settled on a dough made with a mix of Italian cocoa and melted Baker’s chocolate. “Basically, I treated the cocoa like flour,” Tom explains. “The melted chocolate I treated like the olive oil in the traditional dough, and I adjusted the percentages of flour and olive oil to compensate for the cocoa and chocolate so that the ratios stays the same in the recipe.”

In his research, Tom said he hadn’t come across any recipes for chocolate pizza dough. Most searches result in chocolate “pizzas” made with chocolate cookie dough, straight-up chocolate (no dough), or a savory crust layered with melted chocolate. In The Great Book of Chocolate: The Chocolate Lover’s Guide with Recipes, published in 2004, David Lebovitz does include a recipe for chocolate pizza dough that he says is “for the true (probably crazy) chocolate lover.” His calls for freshly ground black pepper, Cayenne, and a cornmeal dusting to prevent sticking, practices that in any case, Degrezia eschews.

“No one’s reinvented dessert pizza, ever,” Degrezia claims. “They just make pizza dough and throw Nutella on it, and sometimes use strawberries or bananas. Let’s reinvent the dough. Dessert pizza should be its own thing. It shouldn’t be just pizza with something sweet on it.”

Regardless, the dish seems unheard of in pizzerias at large. Jason Feirman has written more than 200 pizza reviews since launching his site I Dream of Pizza in 2008, and if there’s a pizza trend that’s been out there, chances are Kuban has seen or written about it. Neither had heard of chocolate pizza, or seen it done before at a pizzeria. “Chocolate dough is a new take to be sure,” Adam Kuban added. “I’d actually be curious about that. Otherwise I hate dessert pizza.”

‘When I found out that Sofia Pizza Shoppe was going to be rolling out dessert pizza, I wasn’t skeptical at all,” Jason said. “I’ve really enjoyed all of their prior experiments — including the Doughdici.”

But you would be forgiven your skepticism at the idea of a chocolate pizza. It could be a total gimmick. Only it isn’t.

Chocolate pizza will start being served in April as a dessert at Sofia Wine Bar.

The chocolate pizza comes out a few minutes earlier than a classic pie would because the cocoa and Baker’s chocolate make the dough more susceptible to burning. Except for the fact that you feel like you’re staring at something in real life that’s been inverted on Instagram, it looks like a classic New York City slice. The crust is super thin and crisp — a few paper plates thick — and the cornicione is slightly raised and airy with a mild chew that bites just like a classic isosceles. It just tastes and smells like… chocolate. The dough has that earthiness of freshly baked chocolate that you want to breath in, but isn’t sweet. There’s no sugar added to the dough other than what may be in the cocoa. Instead, the sweetness comes from the light scattering of chips that melt in the oven and mingle with a thin layer of about 10 slices of the same mozzarella used on the savory pies. A pre-bake drizzle of Mike’s Hot Honey adds a hint of pepperiness, while dollops of ricotta and a scattering of confectioners’ sugar are vaguely reminiscent of a cannoli. No cannoli was ever this composed after a first bite.

“While I’m not sure that these pies will turn out to be the next cronut or rainbow bagel, I do believe they set a new precedent for how great dessert pizza can be,” said Jason Feirman.

The chocolate pizza comes out a few minutes earlier than a classic pie would.

Would this be the kind of pie you’d want to get a reheat of sitting in a display? No. Would any pizza fiend want a dessert slice over a conventional one? It probably wouldn’t scratch the itch. But as a dessert goes, it turns out that chocolate pizza is pretty killer.

You would be forgiven your skepticism at the idea of a chocolate pizza. It could be a total gimmick. Only it isn’t.

For now, the plan is for the chocolate pizza to start being served during the first week of April as a dessert at Sofia Wine Bar after the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas. They plan to offer a list of toppings guests can choose four or five from to customize their pies. Degrezia doesn’t have plans to offer it at the pizzeria. He does have the itch to try it as a semi-savory pie, a chocolate crust topped with pulled chocolate pork. It may sound crazy, but if the chocolate ribs served as an appetizer at the preview party are any indication, it very well may work.

Does Degrezia worry that this may open things up to dessert pizzas made with doughs flavored with mint, strawberry, or caramel? It may be a little too early to call him the Dominique Ansel of the pizza world, but he isn’t quite closing the door either.

“Listen, if it’s not good people aren’t going to buy it,” Degrezia counters. “For me, chocolate is the obsession right now when it comes to dessert pizza. But I mean, Thin Mints work. So who knows? If somebody does a strawberry dough that’s really good? Man, why not?”

Sofia Wine Bar
242 E 50th St #A,
New York, NY 10022
Phone: (212) 888-8660
sofiawinebar.com
Subway: E, F, M (53rd St)

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