Recipe: A New York City Chef’s French Bread Pizza Puts Stouffer’s to Shame
Matt Rojas shares the recipe for his take on the American classic
According to the familiar red box that can be found in the freezer sections of supermarkets across America, the “groovy genius” that is Stouffer’s French bread pizza was “inspired by a late night post-disco visit to a food truck.”
As Stouffer’s FBP first hit freezers in 1974, we can assume that post-disco trip took place sometime in the early ’70s. And, though Cleveland-based Stouffer’s doesn’t specify, we’re guessing the food truck that inspired the standard after-school snack was located in Upstate New York and Robert “Hot Truck Bob” Petrillose was working the window.
A life-long resident of Ithaca until his retirement in 2000, he spent 40 years selling made-to-order subs to Cornell students seven nights a week from 10:00 p.m. until as late as 5:00 in the morning. One of those sandwiches, the Poor Man’s Pizza (aka a “PMP”), was a simple combination of sauce, fresh cheese and toppings served on Ithaca Bakery’s French bread. A hot sub, the PMP is credited as being the first FBP and likely was the inspiration for Stouffer’s signature frozen version.
Petrillose, the PMP and its New York were also all factors in chef Matt Rojas, a veteran of Eleven Madison Park, opting to put six French bread pizzas on the menu at recently opened ONE19 Wine Bar + Food on New York City’s Lower East Side. Made with pepperoni chile spread and Fontina cheese, ONE19’s first FBP was appropriately dubbed the Petrillose.
“I grew up in a small town in Arizona and there was only one pizza place. They would do French bread pizza and it was always great,” Rojas tells InsideHook. “It’s a memory of my childhood. I just remember how fun it was. I thought it’d be interesting to bring it back because no one’s really doing it. I haven’t really seen it anywhere. It’s a very versatile kind of base and a good vessel to play around with. You can do a lot with it.”
Baked on a pizza stone at 400 degrees in a convection oven, ONE19’s elevated FBPs are made with bread sourced from Italian sandwich shop Parisi Bakery that is capable of cooking to a fine crisp and doesn’t get soggy when it’s loaded down with ingredients like the pepperoni chile spread that tops the Petrillose and pays tribute to Rojas’s roots.
“The pizza place in my hometown made a calzone they would stuff it with a ton of pepperoni, longhorn cheddar and a bunch of hatch green chiles with onion and garlic,” he says. “It was just this gooey, greasy, delicious mess calzone-pizza mash. I still remember how good it tasted. So, when I was creating this French bread pizza, I threw that spin on it. It’s a sauté of several ingredients with ground pepperoni rather than just sliced pepperoni. When we put it on top of the pizza and bake it at a high temperature, the top gets really caramelized and charred on the edges. It’s a great topping.”
Sounds like a new spin on an established culinary classic, the type of innovation Petrillose likely would have appreciated.
“French bread pizza isn’t from New York City but it’s from New York. It’s a local thing and it’s American,” Rojas says. “It’s kind of what New York is all about: combining old-school tradition with new ideas and wherever you’re from and melting it all together. It’s comfort. It can be a snack. It can be a meal. But it’s always a treat. It’s a pretty basic dish, but I think it is definitely fun to play around with in the kitchen.
Now use this recipe and go play around in yours …
Matt Rojas’s Pepperoni “Petrillose” French Bread Pizza
Ingredients for the pepperoni spread (1 pint)
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3/4 tsp dried oregano
- 0.5 lb pepperoni, minced
- 1 20oz can of green chili
- 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
Ingredients for the French bread pizza
- 1 7 – 8″ Semolina baguette, halved lengthwise
- 4 tbsp marinara sauce – about 2 tbsp each pizza
- 1 or 2 oz grated Fontina (enough to cover the pizza)
- 4 tbsp pepperoni spread – about 2 tbsp each pizza or to taste
Instructions for the spread
- Sauté the garlic and onions in oil over medium heat, stirring frequently until golden brown.
- Stir in the oregano and cook for one minute, then add pepperoni, stir, and cook for five minutes.
- Add jalapenos and green chili and cook for one minute.
- Let cool completely.
Assembling the pizza
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- On each half baguette, layer marinara sauce and grated fontina.
- Put dollops of pepperoni spread on the cheese and spread it over with the bottom of a spoon.
- Bake for 8 minutes. Yields two pizzas.
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