Have you heard of “immersion learning?” Popularized by Tim Ferriss, it’s a style of learning something new. Not only do you put your heart and soul into something, but you live it, breathe it, preach it, and practice it, all day, every day. Some people might refer to this as obsessive, but I prefer the immersion nomenclature.
I used this technique during my 45 Days of Pizza project. Besides making pizza at home, I would go to different places and study how they made pizza. Today, I want to tell you about one of those places.
I’m not sure who first told me about Providence Pizza in Grandview, but I was not expecting to find a pizza shop in a converted Long John Silver’s restaurant. My wife and I must have looked like a couple of geeks when we walked in — checking out the pizza ovens, the menu, watching the employees making the pizzas. Yeah, we were those people.
After we placed our order, we followed the advice that I give people when visiting a new place: Sit at the bar. I wanted to be close to the action, watching the staff as they masterfully stretched and tossed the pizza dough. It reminded me of a well-choreographed ballet. A plié here, a grand jeté there, and then gently placing the dough on the pizza peel. I was mesmerized at the ease with which these employees were handling the dough. I could tell that I had a long way to go in my own personal pizza-making journey.
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When the pizza arrived, we went back into geek mode again, examining all aspects of the specimen in front of us: Nice char on the bottom, great browning and rise on the crust. The cheese was melted and blended with the rest of the ingredients. Everything looked great and tasted even better. It was delicious. I think we ordered what they call the Federal Hill, which is a combination of pepperoni, Italian sausage, sliced meatballs, salami, mozzarella, and the house red sauce.
Honestly, which pizza we ordered wasn’t really the point. It was the symphony of ingredients that were striking such a harmonious chord. The toppings, the cheese and the crust all combined to make this such a pleasing “concert” of a pizza. That is what made this a pizza to write about.
And then, almost as if we had planned it, my wife and I look at each other and say “Oh, that crust is so good.” It actually had standout flavor of its own.
A man approached us. “Hi, I’m Luke Salvatore, one of the owners. I noticed you were really checking out our pizza,” he said, smiling.
You see, while we were observing their pizza making, he was observing us, as we were clearly enjoying ourselves and their food. “Yeah, we were admiring how easily and quickly you guys stretch the pizza dough. I’m trying to learn the ins and outs of pizza myself,” I said, feeling a bit embarrassed.
We chatted for a while. He told us about how he and his brother, Aaron, came to Kansas City from Providence, R.I. After they were here a while, they missed their pizza from back home so much that they decided to open their own shop. They make New York and Sicilian-style pizza, but then decided to make Neapolitan as well. To do that, they got a Cadillac-level, copper wood-fired pizza oven — a Le Panyol — which is lit after 4 p.m.
We remarked again about the crust. “Yeah, that’s a big thing to us,” said Luke, as he pointed to their tagline at the top of their menu: “No Crust Left Behind.” We laugh.
“OK, now I get it,” I said. One of the unique details of their dough is using a sourdough starter.
“We think that really makes a difference in the outcome,” said Luke. Agreed!
So where can you go to experience this great little pizza shop? It’s just 2.5 miles south of the Grandview Triangle. (Yes, I know it’s renamed Three Trails Crossing, but if I said that, would you know where I meant? Yeah, I didn’t think so.)
Providence Pizza is at 12925 U.S. 71, just off the Main street exit. It’s the only place that I can think of locally where you can get all three styles of pizza: New York, Sicilian and Neapolitan wood-fired. They’re open 6 days a week. Closed on Sundays, which is typical of many family-run businesses.
And just in case you’re wondering, Providence Pizza passes the “leftover test” (it tastes good cold the next day for breakfast). If you’ve read my column on leftovers, you’ll know that you can heat it up and #putaneggonit.
Hopefully, I’ve inspired you to make the short trek to Providence Pizza. Even if you are not obsessed with pizza like I am (or interested in immersion learning), I know that as a Kansas Citian, we all need to get our pizza fix once in a while. Bon appétit.
Craig Jones is a live-fire cooking expert, the Grill Mayor for Food Network (2012), and owner of Savory Addictions Gourmet Nuts. He’s also a certified KCBS barbecue judge, a student of pizza crafting and an enthusiastic supporter of the greater Kansas City food scene.