Took OldestSon out to dinner tonight pre-birthday. We went to Bottom's Up Pizza in Richmond. Bottom's Up is the place that is consistently voted the "Best pizza in Richmond" and has won the State Fair competition several years running. They are VERY GOOD at what they do.
The restaurant itself has an industrial feel to it, and the decor is a mixture of modern, art deco, and brick warehouse. Somehow it all works. It is a very pleasant place to eat, but is not fancy. This was my second trip there, and the food was just how I remembered it. They make a nice pizza with a light crust, and toppings are under the cheese.
Last February when we went there, I was searching for ways to improve my pizza recipes. Eating there was an eye-opener. A lot of the changes that I made to my recipes this year were done with an eye towards being as good as Bottom's Up. Chasing this target has made my food much better.
There are still things that I do differently than they do, but understanding the 'why' has made me much more confident in my product. Important to note are these:
My sauce has a bolder, more complex flavor. I use roasted garlic, lots of herbs and spices, and aged balsamic vinegar in my sauce. Most people like it, but a few do not. Bottom's Up has a much milder tomato sauce, has no garlic (might have garlic powder but it was not prominent), and is more of a straight tomato-basil construct. I have been toying with the idea of making a milder red sauce, and I think that having that option might improve marketability.
My dough has more developed gluten and a higher protein content, which makes the dough more hearty. My dough cooks up like a hearty Italian bread with an open structure. Bottom's Up uses a lower protein content flour. Their dough cooks up with a finer crumb, almost like a focaccia bread. We age our doughs differently as well. They age theirs 12 hours from prep to service. Mine is aged much longer to allow for a more complex flavor to develop, almost like a sourdough in flavor and texture.
Bottom's Up Pizza is well worth the trip. If you are ever in Richmond, VA and want a nice casual meal and some outstanding pizza, GO THERE. You will not regret it. I have eaten there twice, and both times learned something important about the way that they do things. They use quality ingredients, prepared with care. Their end-product is consistent, and consistently good (my experience tracks with some locals I know who eat there regularly).
Ten months ago I ate there and changed most of my recipes as a result. I had placed them at the top of my list of places whose food I wanted to equal. Their food made me want to make mine better, and I had already experienced success with my old recipes.
Today, I made myself a mini pizza for lunch to cement the flavor profile in my head before eating at Bottom's Up again. So, tonight I got to make a close comparison to my goal. I am happy to say that I think I have achieved what I set out to do. I am still going to tweak things. There are always ways to improve the product or broaden the appeal. I do think we have a winner here. In the meantime, if you want a great pizza (and assuming I am not the one cooking it), go to Bottom's Up!
FTC Note: I paid cash for my meal, and left a nice tip for the very pleasant girl (Leah) who was our server. If the food had sucked, I would have written that instead.