Starting Wed. May 22, Anthony Falco, who describes himself as an “international pizza consultant,” will serve up pan pizza-inspired “buttercrust” ‘za for two days at Uptown Social. Falco spent years at the famed Brooklyn pizzeria Roberta’s but has spent the last few years traveling the world advising others on their pizzeria concepts. City Paper chatted with Falco about what he’s been up to and what to expect at his King Street pop-up:
City Paper: You’ve been gone from Roberta’s for a few years now, how has the international pizza consulting business been treating you?
Anthony Falco: It’s been pretty amazing. If it sounds like a dream job, it is. After spending years doing one specific style of pizza, it’s been amazing to do different styles of pizza, and it’s been extremely challenging to try to execute them all around the world.
CP: You are involved with Brazilian Pizzerias, Braz Elettrica. Seems like a cool and unexpected place to do pizza. How’d that come about?
AF: Sao Paulo actually calls itself “The Pizza Capital of the World.” With six million of its residents, almost half of the total city, being descendants from Italian immigrants. There are 4,000+ pizzerias. So it’s about as unexpected as NYC or Naples when it comes to pizza. I had worked with the Braz group doing a pop-up with Roberta’s many years ago. They approached me a few years ago with a concept that would be fast casual in service, and Brooklyn-meets-Sao Paulo in pizza style. It’s been absolutely amazing to work with them. We are getting ready to open our fifth location, they are truly amazing.
CP: Any new concepts you’re working on you can tell us about?
AF: I’ve got upcoming projects in Chicago, Kuwait, Denver, Las Vegas, and Buenos Aires. And some other exciting things in the media area.
CP: We don’t really have a regional style, but Charleston has had a bit of a pizza renaissance in the last year or so. Have you had a chance to eat at any of Charleston’s other pizzerias?
AF: I actually have not eaten too much pizza in Charleston. I tend not to eat at other pizzerias in the town I’m about to help open a concept in. I look to the town’s other restaurants and its producers for inspiration and to get a feel for the city, and boy does Charleston have some great food to explore! I loved the Kwei Fei pop-up, I think Little Jack’s tavern burger is mind blowing, and pretty much everything I had at The Ordinary was fantastic. I did visit Dough Boyz pizza truck and it was excellent wood-fired pizza.
CP: You’ve been all over the world helping craft new pizza concepts, how did you end up with Charleston’s Uptown Social and what inspired their bar pies?
AF: Keith Benjamin, one of the partners at Uptown Social, really loves a place in New Jersey called Star Tavern. Their specialty is thin and crispy bar pies. He sent me there for inspiration and I really liked the vibe of the place, but I wanted to do something a little more refined. I started experimenting at home then I started testing them at pop-ups in Toronto and Los Angeles, people really loved them! Now thin n’ crispy is something I’m known for, and honestly it’s one of my absolute favorite styles of pizza.
CP: Your pop-up at Uptown Social is about buttercrust pizza. Chicago’s Lou Malnati’s is famous for their buttercrust and it’s often cited as the prime example of the Chicago deep dish style. Is the buttercrust you’re serving at the pop-up a tribute in any way to Malnati’s or other Chicago icons and how have you added your own take on it?
AF: Absolutely not, I think that’s just a coincidence. I really think Chicago style pizza is a complete anomaly, most “regional styles” have roots to Italy or Sicily and represent different Italian or Sicilian-American immigrants adapting their home pizzas to the ingredients and taste of customers found in America. All my pizzas are very heavily focused on the dough, I use sourdough starter and high quality flours always. You can take any of my dough balls, throw it in the oven and have a nice piece of bread. I have no idea what would happen if you tried that with Lou Malnati’s. This pizza is inspired by the Sicilian pizzas my great grandmother made, and Pizza Hut pan pizza, the sublime and the profane, together they become one.
CP: What regional styles are you into right now?
AF: Everything but Chicago style.
CP: Are there any pizza sins or does the saying “all pizza is good pizza” hold some truth?
AF: Nah man, most pizza is not very good at all. The pizza world is awash with sin, but the good news is here, and it’s high quality ingredients with technique driven toppings and dough, that’s still fun and familiar to eat. There is great movement right now in this direction, I see it with home pizza makers and independent pizzerias all over the world. I’m traveling the world spreading this gospel and absolving pizza lovers of their sins.
CP: When you’re done being the international pizza man by day, what are you getting for dinner?
AF: Definitely tacos. I just did a pop-up in Mexico City, and if I wasn’t making pizza, I was eating tacos. It was amazing.