My favorite topping combo has always been Italian fennel sausage and onion. At some point, I became enamored of Mike’s Hot Honey and tried adding that to my “signature” pizza. For a long time, THAT combo was showing up on Slice‘s My Pie Monday as my “Famous Original A.” It has since evolved into the much simpler pie you see above.
But then I decided I wanted to do a more mid-century American pizza flavor, so I started loading on sausage, green peppers, onions, sometimes mushrooms, AND Mike’s Hot Honey. After I started working at Paulie Gee’s, I started making that for staff pies before service and calling it the FOA (sauce, Romano, mozzarella, sausage, onion, mushroom, MHH). But then I realized it was TOO MUCH. All that stuff didn’t seem to work well together. I wasn’t getting the flavor I wanted. It was muddled.
And then one night, after one of my colleagues mentioned that her favorite pie there was the very simple Brian DeParma (sauce and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano), I tried it for the first time. I’d stayed away from it because it just seemed so spartan, and I long ago tired of some of the more minimal pizzas out there (I’m looking at you, Margherita and Marinara).
But “the Brian” was revelatory for me. It brought back so many taste-memories of Pizza Night at the Kuban household when I was a kid. That’s because we used to make those crazy-ass Chef Boyardee pizza-kit pizzas, and those were simply sauce and a generous shake of that oft-derided Kraft Parmesan cheese. Yeah, we’d embellish ours with mozzarella as often as not, but that sharp, salty Parmesan always shone through.
The Brian is basically a version of that but with really good sauce and cheese. Add some sausage and onion, and BOOM, that’s my Pizza Soul right there. (I’ve since started adding Romano for some extra saltiness.)
I wish I could find where Chris Bianco mentioned this—or maybe I only heard this anecdote from Ed Levine—but I seem to recall Bianco saying about one of his pies, either the Wiseguy or the Rosa, that to understand that pizza was to understand him. That’s how I feel about the current iteration of the Famous Original A.