My Citizens, in a strange twist of fate, your Beloved Leader – the always serendipitous TFD! – had been planning to share this recipe of a unique, micro-regional pizza style (that is a personal favorite of mine) when I read this article in NPR yesterday.
It details how the Mississippi river has been flooding for 42 days now, and it has specifically and dramatically impacted the Quad Cities area – the very micro-region that is the home of this unique and delicious pizza style! So, this recipe is dedicated to the Citizens of the region, with the hopes that the waters recede quickly and with minimal damage!
The Quad Cities is a region of five cities in the U.S. states of Iowa and Illinois: Davenport and Bettendorf in southeastern Iowa, and Rock Island, Moline, and East Moline in northwestern Illinois. These cities are the center of the Quad Cities metropolitan area, which as of 2013 had a population estimate of 383,781.
Quad City-style pizza is a unique pizza style that centers solely around the Quad Cities region. The crust has a nutty taste, the tomato sauce is sometimes spicy, the toppings are UNDER the cheese, and the pizza is cut into strips. It dates back to 1955 and one specific restaurant before spreading throughout the Quad Cities area.
Quad City-style pizza dough contains a “spice jam”, which is heavy on malt, which lends a toasted, nutty flavor. The pizzas are hand-tossed to be stretched into an even quarter-inch thin crust with a slight lip ringing the edge. The sauce contains both red chili flakes and ground cayenne, and the smooth, thin tomato spread is more spicy than sweet. The sausage is typically a thick blanket of lean, fennel-flecked Italian sausage sometimes ground twice and spread from edge to edge.
The pizzas are cooked using a special gas oven with an average cooking time of about 12 minutes. The pizza is cut into strips, as opposed to being cut in slices. An average 16-inch pizza has about 14 strips, and a 10-inch pizza has about 10 strips. The slices should look like this:
The first business to bring “quad city” style pizza to the public was Frank’s Pizza in 1955.
Tony Maniscalco Senior was friends with the Serra Family and they had approached Tony Sr. about his unique recipe as they wanted to start a restaurant in Minnesota. Tony obliged and after the Minnesota location failed, the Serra’s came back to Tony Sr. and asked if they could open up in the Quad Cities. Since Tony Sr. did not have any restaurants in the Silvis/East Moline area at the time, it was decided that they would open a location in 1955 which still stands to this day – Frank’s Club Napoli Pizza in Silvis, IL.
Also, contrary to popular belief, Harris Pizza (the current torchbearer of this type of pizza) was not the original “Quad Cities Style Pizza”. Leonard Harris and his wife Mary owned a small package liquor store in Rock Island, IL. Patrons often requested food and Leonard saw this as an opportunity to expand his business. In 1960, an employee of Tony Sr. named Dick Kennedy who also happened to be a good friend of Leonard had helped the Harris Family develop the base recipe for Harris’ that they still use to this day.
In addition to the brick and mortar locations, Tony Sr. also made a name for himself in the grocery store’s freezer section. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Tony had started delivering par-baked/half-baked pizzas to the local A&P grocery stores. These were the first frozen pizzas in the Quad Cities at the time. In 1968, Tony Sr.’s pizza businesses and the recipes were sold to the family of Mama Bosso’s, who to this day still make pizzas you can purchase in the freezer section of local Quad Cities grocers such as Hy-vee.
After that sale, Tony Sr. decided to venture into the home improvement business, but the restaurant industry still called his name. He would go on to open two additional locations in the 1970s – one in East Moline and one in the Wells Fargo Bowling Alley (where Clint’s used to be on the Avenue of the Cities in Moline). Tony finally got out of the restaurant business in the late 1970s when these locations were sold. He continued to work in home improvement until his untimely passing on July 6th, 1994.
Citizens, my version of this classic pizza follows the strict traditions established by Tony Sr. – I do however tweak the recipe to include smoky Turkish pepper flakes known as urfa biber – you can buy it here. I also call for a bit of smoked paprika in the crust, but I detail the changes I have made to the original recipe if you want to use that. You will also need the trademark ingredient in this pizza – malt syrup. You can buy it here.
This makes an amazing pizza, my Citizens – please be sure and follow the recipe exactly (including the unique method of cutting) and you’ll have a meal worthy of song and legend! You should also read my detailed instructions on how to make a perfect pizza at home here.
Battle on – the Generalissimo