Pizza Rules

Sienna Mercato’s Mezzo Strives for the Perfect Pizza with Local Ingredients

By Lauren Wells / Photography By Michael Fornataro | April 01, 2015
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Mezzo's Margherita and Pistachio Pizzas
TOP PIZZA: Standard by definition but certainly not by taste, the Margherita harmonizes California canned tomatoes, house-made mozzarella, and basil. Parents of young children, take note: this natural palate-pleaser is suitable for even the pickiest eaters. BOTTOM PIZZA: Mezzo’s Pistachio Pizza is not for the faint of heart. Rich and filling, but not too heavy, it starts with a saucy mixture of toasted pistachios and olive oil, followed by porchetta — a type of rolled-pork belly — which is lightly cured and seasoned with fennel pollen. It’s all topped off with a fresh arugula salad.

There’s something to be said about an eatery that butchers whole animals just a few feet away from the dining room. For Matthew Porco, chef and owner at Sienna Mercato’s Mezzo, having accessibility to local meats has made all the difference.

The charcuterie-centered establishment, located on the second floor of its Penn Avenue space, sources from a farm in Cheswick and offers a vast range of house-cured meats, available à la carte or as pizza toppings. Porco’s personal favorite? The salumi, which blends nicely with any combination of the restaurant’s homegrown cheeses. “We make all of our own cheese. It’s nice to be able to make fresh mozzarella straight from the curd and to offer that on a pizza.”

At Mezzo, chefs use a brick oven to wood-fire a slightly thicker pie, something he says the restaurants’ regulars have come to expect. “We’re not a thin crust pizza. We cook ours at a lower temperature for a longer time to achieve a thicker crust.” A 48-hour rise and a “slow fermentation” process allows the yeast to slowly feed on the surrounding sugars, giving this dough its distinct depth of flavor.

Surely, Mezzo’s pies top the charts — but Porco believes it’s tradition that fuels our passion for pizza. “The foods you’re passionate about in life are the foods you grew up on — and I think every human being grew up eating pizza.”

WHAT TO ORDER

If you give a foodie an artisan pizza, he might need a drink to go with it. In addition to an impressive selection of wines, sparklers, and digestifs, Mezzo’s beer menu boasts brews as local as East End and as distant as Rome. Porco’s advice: order what you like, and worry less about pairing rules. “If you’re passionate about what you drink, I wouldn’t deviate from that. Anything goes here.”

PRO TIPS FOR AT-HOME PIZZA

  • “Rotate your pie. Ovens sometimes have dead spots, or they get too hot in certain corners.”
  • “Dice your cheese with a knife. The melt is different than if you were to use shredded cheese, which has a tendency to melt too quickly. The bigger the cheese cubes, the longer it’ll take to melt; the smaller the cheese, the quicker it’ll melt.”
  • “Use really good tomatoes. Never chince on tomatoes.”

INTEGRAL INGREDIENT

“California canned tomatoes are always a really great, versatile product to have on-hand.”

“Do I think the perfect pizza exists? Yeah, I do. It might take a lifetime to find it, to strive for it. But it’s out there.” — Matthew Porco, Mezzo


Sienna Mercato, 942 Penn Ave., Downtown. 412.281.2810.

Article from Edible Allegheny at http://edibleallegheny.ediblecommunities.com/eat/sienna-mercato-s-mezzo-strives-perfect-pizza-local-ingredients
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