Where have you bean all my life: The story of Anodyne pizza
This fall marked the first time in 15 years that Lacee Perry didn't report to her job at MPS' Fernwood Montessori, where she worked as a speech pathologist.
Instead, she's been reporting to the newly renovated kitchen space at Anodyne Coffee in Bay View, where she's taken on the role of full-time pizza chef.
She served her first wood-fired pizzas to a crowded café of interested patrons last week Tuesday. And she says she's looking forward to seeing where the new venture takes her.
Perry, who co-owns Anodyne Coffee Roasters with husband Matt McClutchy, says that the notion of serving pizza at the coffee shop isn't as crazy as it might sound.
"I think when you get good coffee in front of you, you begin to make a transition and start to notice the nuances. You start to be able to tell the differences between coffees. And that's when it takes you over the edge. And when you start working the espresso machine, there's a moment when you realize how many things you can do with milk and coffee.
"This kind of pizza is similar," she goes on. "It's that same sort of epiphany. You've been eating pizza your whole life; but the minute you taste something that's using the raw tomato sauce and the crust is pillowy and crunchy at the same time."
And Anodyne isn't the first coffee roaster to have this idea. Spots like Caffe Calabria in San Diego and Via Tribunali in Seattle are great examples of coffee roasters who have caught the Neopolitan pizza bug and put it into action at their cafes.
Perry says she first discovered her love for pizza when she and McClutchy were traveling.
"Years back we had gone a couple of times and traveled through Italy," she tells me. "And we really loved the pizza, of all the things. It was different and completely wonderful.
So, when the couple returned home, it sought out spots like Il Ritrovo in Sheboygan and Pizza Brutta, a Neopolitan pizza restaurant in Madison. And soon, pizza became a hobby.
The two installed a Forno Bravo brick oven in their backyard, and Perry began to experiment with dough and toppings.
"There were some disastrous moments in the beginning," she says. "The oven is really sensitive to flour, and we didn't know that. So, we used too much flour and the bottom of the oven turned completely black… 800 degrees and lots of flour don't mix. Plus, what works one day doesn't necessarily work the next. So, part of the fun is paying attention."
As time wore on, the couple's hobby grew into something more.
"After the kids would go to bed," she goes on, "Instead of playing cards or doing other normal things, we'd have all sorts of conversations about pizza and dough."
And eventually, the conversation turned to how to make pizza work in the coffee shop.
"When we moved the roaster out of the Bay View location, we moved things around, but it never really had a great feel," she says. "And we decide that it would be the perfect spot for a pizza oven."
The brick oven that now adorns the eastern portion of the Bay View coffee shop was imported from Naples, Italy.
"It was made by Stefano Ferrara, who has made quite the reputation for himself by making these ovens," Perry says. "It's really top-notch. It uses wood and it's mobile, so we could fit it through the doors and didn't have to move any walls."
They ordered the oven last spring and it arrived in early fall, just after completion of the kitchen renovation, which included the addition of sinks, workspace and refrigeration as well as a fork mixer, which has two tines that mix the dough gently, in a similar fashion to hand kneading.
"The dough is always kind of like a fussy baby," says Perry. "And the dough we're using took a lot of trial and error. We wanted a dough that was as hydrated as possible, so that it gets the crisp outside and the nice big holes and chewy texture on the inside."
To achieve the results she was looking for, Perry says she uses Italian double-0 flour, which is softer than hard wheat flour, and leaves the dough to ferment slowly in the refrigerator for up to two days before shaping it for the pizzas.
Twelve-inch pizzas are priced between $8.50 and $12. Offerings include classic Margherita, as well as roasted beet and goat cheese, and fire-roasted cremini with herbs. Potatoes, sopressata and prosciutto also make it into the mix.
"We also have super delicious, hot Calabrian peppers, which we add to pizzas from time to time," Perry notes.
In addition to coffee, beer and wine are now served at the café, along with beverages like San Pelligrino. So, there are plenty of options for swilling with the pizza.
"This neighborhood is so wonderful," Perry says. "They've been good to us, our family and our kids. So, to be able to serve them a warm delicious pizza, that's really satisfying."
Anodyne currently serves pizza from 4 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. In the future, Perry says, they plan to extend their offerings to seven days a week, along with lunch service.
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