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Dish 

Wednesday, May 1 1996
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The Skinny on Thin Crusts
If you'd abandoned all hope of finding proper thin-crust pizza in this city of bloated, soggy pies, take heart. Over at Zinzino in the Marina, chef Andrea Rappaport is turning out crispy pizzas -- "the more definitely Italian" kind.

Dish, whose own pizza crusts (based on a recipe from The Greens Cookbook) have never achieved a sublime state of crispiness, appealed to Rappaport for wisdom, which turned out to be surprisingly simple. "What works for us is a light, airy dough," she says, "and so we use a higher yeast content. We also let the dough rise longer -- from eight hours to a day."

Rappaport uses ordinary instant yeast and bread flour, whose higher gluten content makes the dough more elastic and easier to stretch thin. "When I was in Florence recently, I watched pizza-makers roll the dough out to paper thinness with rolling pins," she says, but at Zinzino they stretch the dough by hand. "The hand-stretching leaves more air in the dough, and air is what allows the crust to bubble. That's where you get your charring, and flavor."

One special tool at Rappaport's disposal is a wood-burning oven, imported from Italy. It burns at a temperature of 625 to 650 degrees Fahrenheit -- considerably hotter than a home oven. That extra heat helps crisp the pizzas, but it's also more difficult to manage. "The heat factor varies," Rappaport says. "There are no gauges. It's just you and the wood. Sometimes a pie will come out too dark on the bottom and not dark enough on top."

Another risk of making thin-crust pizza is that a hole will open in the dough. Such flawed pies never end up on customers' tables, but it's "pretty rare they will get thrown in the trash," according to Rappaport. (Chronicle food editor Michael Bauer had reported seeing "at least six [pizzas] go into the trash when they didn't meet the cook's standard" on one of his visits.) Instead, "the staff eats most of them. The only ones that get thrown away are the ones that have ash on them and are inedible."

Zinzino offers pizza for takeout, but Rappaport doesn't particularly recommend it. "Our pizzas are made to be eaten immediately," she says. "Takeout isn't truly representative of what we're serving. It doesn't take very long before toppings start to seep into the crust and make it soggy. We don't overload our pies, and in the restaurant we serve them on special plates that help keep them warm and crisp. You can't really maintain ideal conditions in a takeout box."

If you want takeout, call Domino's. If you want a real thin-crust pizza, make the trip to Zinzino.

By Paul Reidinger

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Paul Reidinger

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