Author Notes: There has never been a more one-of-a-kind pizza like the bar pizza. For the most part they are never good, many times they are awful, but that has never stopped anybody from ordering one. Patrons order them because they are drinking. Combine it with hunger and it makes these pizzas far better then they would ever be if a shot of better judgement was in hand. Without exception a bar pizza reigns over the pink pickled eggs languishing in the murky liquid of the large glass jar back by the whisky. Bar pizzas are also infinitely better then the microwavable cups of Spaghetti-Os or the burritos ensconced in a cardboard tortilla. Even so, that doesn't make them good.
Here is the catch, in Indiana this food exists and maintains a life all its own because in Indiana if a bar sells liquor by the drink it has to be able to serve food to a minimum of 25 people at all times. On top of that many bars(mostly working class bars) don't have room for a kitchen much less the money for one. To get around this law most bar fly type establishments bring in a microwave, a toaster oven labeled as a pizza oven, or a snack rack where pork rinds rule. Sporks and disposable tableware abide, as do paper towels used as napkins. It is less then the bare minimum and ordering anything while the bartender is busy is likely to make him/her hate you.
In the moment though, when hunger and alcohol meet, a bar pizza is the best pizza ever. It doesn't happen often but it does happen enough that people continue to order them. If all things aline, it hits the sweet spot—that meaty place on the bat that makes hitting a home run feel effortless. In food speak it is the moment when something is at its best, it is perfectly ripe for eating, and waiting longer is to watch perfection in its decline.
Here is the problem, why would I want to make one of these awful pizzas at home? If I do make them at home it doesn't mean I am drinking at home, well not often anyway. It means I have kids, kids that want pizza—all the time. I make a great pizza dough. I make great pizza but then there are those nights where I don't want too. It is readily apparent to me why I need to perfect this pizza. Make it a dinner everyone requests on any given night.
The point is, this is a great pizza to have in your back pocket and I never would have thought much about it until I read an article at Serious Eats. At that moment I knew I was going to start making bar pizzas, I was diving in deep and going for it, and I did. Like lots of recipes though, and maybe even more so, this one takes practice. Myself, I always make a recipe three times before I give up on it and in this case it took all three times. It's okay, there is nothing wrong with eating your mistakes when it comes to food.
Besides it is not a lot of work and here is why. My kids love spaghetti and there is rarely a day I don't have a homemade tomato sauce of some kind in the fridge. Bacon, ham, salami, or even pepperoni are always in the deli drawer. I almost always have some sort of mozzarella too, either fresh or grated. I have taken too keeping tortillas in the freezer for quesadillas, so adding tortillas as pizza crusts to the list of uses is a plus. . Even so, if you had none of these specific ingredients you have something, say eggs, ham, and gruyere. If not you won't make this pizza anyway.
But as I said, I am looking for the sweet spot, with practice I found it, and ever since making bar pizzas is like effortlessly hitting one out of the park.
1. When it is time to sauce the tortilla put a dollop of sauce in the middle of the tortilla and using the back of the spoon spiral your way to the outer edge. If this were a regular pizza I would tell you to stop short of the edge by about 1/2-inch but with this kind of pizza take the ingredients to the edge. It keeps the tortilla from being charred beyond recognition.
2. I have used all kinds of pans to make this pizza, stainless steel, enamel, cast iron and a comal (pictured). I like the camol best but I also know not everyone has a comal. I made these in a 12-inch cast iron skillet for a long time before I started using the comal. I use a comal simply for ease of access to the tortilla. I makes the pizza easier to assemble.
3. Turn on the broiler before taking anything out of the fridge or putting a pan on the stove. It needs time to get hot.
4. Keep all the ingredients at pans edge. These go fast and you have to be ready with the ingredients.
5. It is important to brown the the tortilla deeply before turning it. If it isn’t brown enough the pizza will lack the crunch that makes it so good.
6. Place the top oven rack 7 to 8 inches from the broiler. This prevents the pizza from cooking to fast and keeps the edges from burning.
teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
traditional 10-inch flour tortilla
tablespoons pizza sauce, homemade ot otherwise
mozzarella cheese, both fresh and grated
Fresno pepper, thinly sliced
flat leaf parsley, minced
- Place the top rack approximately 7 to 8-inches from the broiler. Heat the broiler.
- Organize all you ingredients and place them within arms reach from the stove.
- Place a 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add olive oil and swirl the pan to coat the entire bottom surface. The oil should be very hot. Place the tortilla into the pan and brown it deeply. Turn the tortilla.
- Leave the tortilla in the pan while you sauce it. Place a healthy dollop of pizza sauce into the middle of the tortilla. Using a spoon spiral the sauce outward. If you don't have enough sauce dollop on a small amount and continue spreading.
- Sprinkle the pizza with grated mozzarella, spread out the pepperoni evenly, and top with torn pieces of fresh mozzarella.
- Place the skillet into the oven. Turn on the oven light and keep and eye on the pizza. It will melt quickly and begin to brown just as fast. When it is bubbling and brown, using an oven mit, remove it from the oven. Tilt the pan at about a 45 degree angle and using the tongs, pinch the very edge closest to the cutting board and gently slide the pizza out and onto the board. Sprinkle with parsley and pepper, slice and serve.