Since there seems to be an almost limitless number of pizza places around, it only stands to reason that each establishment will do its best to stand out. Hence, creative topping ideas — like Hawaiian, vegetarian, and meat lovers — have really started to gain traction in recent years. Giovanni Scappin, the chef instructor at the CIA’s Colavita Center for Italian Food and Wine, is not surprised by this at all. “It’s the quality of ingredients that makes any pizza good, so if it’s done the right way, it could work,” he says of these unorthodox blends. “You want to put apple, walnut, blue cheese — a great combination in salad — on top of a pizza? I love it, why not?”
The Valley is certainly no stranger to unique pizza concoctions. Here we highlight some of the more interesting inventions we’ve come across, and tell you where to go to sink your teeth into them.
Pizza from Mars
Angelina’s Restaurant & Pizzeria,â€¨ Cold Spring
This wildly popular pie was born from Farfalle ala Mascarpone, one of the restaurant’s top-selling pasta dishes. The kitchen loads the same ingredients from that plate — Mascarpone cheese, spinach, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, and truffle oil — atop a white pizza. The result? The restaurant’s top selling pie. Owner Kamel Jamal claims the key ingredient is the cheese, which lends a sweet flavor, but it is the truffle oil that holds the whole thing together. And where did the crazy name come from? “It sounds cheesy,” says Jamal, “but it’s because those ingredients are out of this world.”
Pizza Village, â€¨Hopewell Jct.
This hopping Hopewell eatery retained the tried-and-true chicken fajita pizza recipe from its old menu when the restaurant changed hands five years ago. The pie is really quite simple. It begins life as a regular cheese pizza, then sour cream is mixed right into the cheese. “It sounds weird, I know,” says owner Anthony Scanga. “But it’s good.” Next comes shredded lettuce, tomatoes, and black olives topped off with salsa and diced chicken breast. Scanga is pleased with the decision to keep it on the menu, since it has proven to be one of the joint’s most popular pizzas.
The Vegetazione Spelt pizza from Baba Louie’s in Hudson
Vegetazione â€¨Bravo Spelt
Baba Louie’s, â€¨Hudson
Columbia County rejoiced when this Berkshire company crossed the border and set up shop in Hudson, and health-conscious diners were thrilled to see the Bravo Spelt come along with it. The pie is laden with veggies — broccoli, artichoke, roasted red peppers, Kalamata olives, spinach, and chêvre — and dressed with tomato sauce, tarragon, tofu, and soy mozzarella. Even the wood-fired crust is a little different, being made with ground spelt berries (which are a great source of fiber and protein) in lieu of regular wheat flour.
Mexican â€¨Beef Taco
Savona’s Plaza Pizza, â€¨Kingston
It’s surprising that more restaurants haven’t thought to combine two of America’s favorite foods: tacos and pizza. Generous portions of all the major elements of a classic taco make an appearance: taco meat and sauce, salsa, onions, olives, shredded lettuce, and — naturally — delicious dollops of sour cream. This cozy, family-owned business has been around since the ’70s, and delivers to points as far away as Rosendale if you’d rather not collect the pie yourself.
From Pizza Barn in Accord: White Pizza (top right) is topped with Romano, mozzarella, and ricotta cheese, fresh chopped organic garlic, and extra virgin olive oil. Loaded Potato Pizza (bottom left) has organic potatoes, Applegate Farms bacon, organic onions, and cheddar cheese drizzled with buttermilk ranch dressing
Pizza Barn, â€¨Accord
It’s not often that the words “pizza” and “barn” are associated together, but this Ulster County establishment makes it work. Guests who step inside the converted barn building to order the loaded potato pizza are treated to large slices bearing bits of bacon, red onion, cheddar cheese, and potatoes — all drizzled with ranch dressing. There is no tomato sauce, but with the abundance of all the other ingredients, it isn’t missed.
Park Falafel and Pizza, â€¨Hudson
These bite-sized bean balls are packed with flavor and nutrients, so it seems only natural that eventually they would roll their way onto a pizza. “People at first said, ‘Falafel pizza, what’s that?’ says Justin Goldman, general manager of Park Falafel and Pizza. “But once they tried it, it became something we’re well known for.” The process for making this pizza is as follows: The falafel are baked, soaked in house-made hot sauce, placed on a 20-inch pizza crust, baked a second time, and finally covered in garlic alfredo sauce. And for the health-savvy, the restaurant also has a vegan option.
Santa Fe â€¨Chicken
Brio’s Restaurant & Pizzeria, Phoenicia
Mike Ricciardella has owned this Main Street eatery since he opened it in 1973 at the age of 19. He added Santa Fe chicken to his gourmet pizza menu about 10 years ago. “We have a big influence of Mexican food in our restaurant,” he says. “The Santa Fe is one of our staples now.” It’s not hard to see why when one hears the laundry list of ingredients: chicken, black beans, cilantro, jalapeño, onions, cheddar cheese, sour cream, and guacamole. Ole!
The Cheese Steak Pizza from Frank’s Pizza in Newburgh
Frank’s Pizza, â€¨Newburgh
When we hear the words “cheese steak,” we automatically think of juicy shaved rib-eye, peppers, onions, and loads of cheese. Frank’s Pizza takes the aforementioned ingredients, piles them atop mozzarella cheese, and slathers it all in provolone for a delightful, Philly-inspired pizza. Yum.
Try another version of cheese steak pizza at Colandrea Pizza King in Middletown.