There are few foods in this world more universally loved than pizza. To young and old alike, pizza is a part of our American culinary fabric no matter how “Italian” its roots may be. We’ve got a healthy variety of pizza styles in this town, but one’s opinion on which style of pie is “best” is certainly open for discussion. I enjoy all types of pies—from Neapolitan, deep dish, thin crust, thick crust, New York, or Chicago. If it’s made with care and attention to detail, I wholly support whatever style a pizzeria deems appropriate for their establishment. Could we use a few more pizza joints in Central Arkansas? Of course. Pizza is a wondrous canvas for creation and there’s a whole host of things going on in the world that have not yet reached Little Rock. But if you’d like to know where the best is in Little Rock right now, here they be.
1. The Z’apreme at ZAZA: Anyone who appreciates good pizza in Little Rock has likely been blessed with the opportunity to sit in the hallowed halls of this Height’s staple. ZAZA is consistently packed with pizza-loving patrons, with waits sometimes edging on 45 minutes for a pie at peak hours. No matter what amount of time you are painstakingly forced to wait for your pie to exit the restaurant’s towering centerpiece, the massive inferno of blazing wood, it will absolutely be worth it. It’s likely that each patron has a pie that they consistently gravitate to, and perhaps it’s unfair for me to single out just one as the best offered, but for my entire time in Little Rock I have been fixated and impressed, again and again, with the Z’apreme. But let’s start with the foundation of any respectable pie—the crust. ZAZA nails it every time. Those not accustomed to this style of pie may be a little surprised by the dark, fire-kissed blisters around the crusts periphery. While too much char can overwhelm the flavors of the pie, the right amount adds the perfect crisp and a subtle bitter note to the dough. The crust is always soft, pliable, but able to support the variety of toppings gracing the surface of the pie. I’m particularly enthralled with the Z’apreme due to its depth of flavors, textures, and quality ingredients. It’s topped with mozzarella, parmesan shavings, mushrooms, pepperoni, and onions. I’m always pleased to get a bite with the dark, briny kalamata olives. But the pièce de résistance is their housemade fennel sausage. I’ve added sausage to a number of other pies (the Green and White makes a particularly good substitute), but none come close to the balance of flavor found on the lovely Z’apreme.
You read here in February that Capital Hotel pastry chef Tandra Watkins was a semifinalist for a James Beard Award. Now, Watkins has been nominated by Food & Wine Magazine as a finalist in the People's Best New Pastry Chef competition. You can vote for the person you want to see as the winner this week only, April 1-8, here.
A press release from the hotel said the award includes "50 chefs from three regions, all talented relative-newcomers who have run their own restaurant pastry kitchens for up to five years." Watkins is the only Arkansas nominee.
Watkins has been pastry chef at the hotel since 2007 and is known for her "TandyCakes" wedding cakes as well as the desserts served at Ashley's and the Capital Hotel Bar. Her bio on the Food & Wine voting site lists her "quintessential dessert" as a Lemon vacherin, vanilla parfait with crisp meringue and lemon sorbet.
The James Beard Foundation has announced its 2013 semifinalists in its Restaurant and Chef Awards, and Ashley's Restaurant pastry chef Tandra Watkins is one of 20 semifinalists in the pastry category.
Finalists will be named March 18 and livestreamed on Eater. Winners will be announced at the James Beard Foundation Awards on May 6 at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall in New York City.
Read about the Capital Hotel chef here. (Link updated at request of Capital Hotel.)
This is the most insane and hilarious way an old thread has popped back up…
Goof - send me your email to email@example.com
Daniel - better than Cordell's? If so I'd love the recipe.
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