FEED ME! Great people watching, even better pizza
JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Virgil wrote about them in his epic Latin poem, The Aenid. Naples’ Antica Port’Alba has been serving them since 1738. In 2011, the U.S. Congress declared a slice of one to be an adequate serving of vegetables.
It’s pizza time! Or at least Pizzeria Caldera time, as it would take this entire paper to cover all of the valley’s pizzas.
I once thought Il Villaggio Osteria’s Guido Sarducci pie was the best pizza in town. Hands down. Mascarpone, button mushrooms, house-made sausage, caramelized onions and wild arugula all on Osteria’s crispy, rich, baked-on-a-stone-hearth crust made from flour imported from Naples, Italy. Even its name is awesome: Guido Sarducci. (FYI, Father Guido Sarducci was a fictional, chain-smoking priest working in the United States as a gossip columnist and rock critic for a Vatican newspaper. Comedian Don Novello made the character famous.)
But then I tried Pizzeria Caldera’s Bisonte and Cipolle pies. Now I must rethink the order of my Jackson Hole pizza universe.
Let’s start with the Bisonte ($16 for a 12-inch pie). Ingredients include: tomato sauce, mozzarella, house-made bison sausage, yellow peppers, red onions and fresh sage. If you think that sounds like one of the best pizza combinations ever – a happy assemblage of Jackson-inspired ingredients that might never be bested – you would be right.
At least until you try Caldera’s Cipolle ($16 for a 12-inch pie) with caramelized onions, mozzarella, green apples, pancetta, feta and fresh sage. It’s a main course and a dessert all in one.
Underlying the toppings is simplicity. “Dough is nothing but flour, water, yeast and salt,” says Chris Hansen, co-owner of Pizzeria Caldera with wife Miga Rossetti. “Or it should be nothing more than flour, water, yeast and salt. Some people add oil or sugar.”
Made throughout the day, the dough, after being dressed with its toppings, is baked in a gas-fired, stone-hearth oven for three minutes. When it comes out, it’s like true Napolitana-style pizza: crispy on the bottom and with just a bit of chewiness in the center.
Caldera doesn’t make its own gluten-free dough, but the pizzeria spent considerable time and effort tracking down the best pre-made gluten-free dough out there. The pizzeria settled on Venice Bakery in El Segundo, Calif.
“The texture and flavor are close to the profile of our own crust,” Hansen said. And, unlike many pre-made gluten-free crusts – including Udi’s and French Meadow Bakery, which Caldera used until this past spring – Venice Bakery’s are 12 inches, which means that the gluten intolerant get just as much Bisonte and Cipolle yumminess as the gluten tolerant.
Whether you go gluten-free or full-gluten, you should try for a seat on Caldera’s deck. Overlooking the Town Square, its 20-some seats offer some of the best people watching around.
Since few things go better with pizza than beer, Caldera has a selection available in bottles and has a couple of Snake River Brewing options available on tap. Its wine list, both by the glass and the bottle, is well priced and more diverse than expected.
Pizzeria Caldera is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Serving slices from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and full-size pizzas all day long. The lunch special is one of the best in town, including two slices and salad or soup for $8. From 4 to 6 p.m. daily the happy hour special is a slice and a beer for $5. 201-1472; 20 W. Broadway; pizzeriacaldera.com