Roland Konicke, a transplanted New Yorker, worked in and around local farmers markets for years. He missed the Big Apple’s pizzas, and set out to let Californians taste the difference, using local, organic ingredients. Even the meat products, from Santa Cruz’s El Salchichero, are from local pasture-raised animals.
Konicke sells his Uncle Ro’s take & bake pizzas at Santa Cruz farmers markets. Shoppers can snack on a warm slice, or take one home to bake. Local ingredients lead to seasonal combinations, and August’s Padrón pepper pies made the local top-ten list.
Temporarily mobility-impaired, (oh, I miss the farmers market), I followed a hint that someone had spied the pies at Whole Foods in Santa Cruz. Right next to the store’s in-house creations were four varieties of Uncle Ro’s ($10.99).
Konicke insists on imported cheese. Those unaccustomed to Old World varieties will be surprised at the depth and strength of flavors achieved by these centuries-old recipes.
A case in point is Uncie Ro’s N.Y. Four Cheese Pizza (actually five if you include the Parmesan). Each cheese, from the well known mozzarella and Provolone, to Romano and Grana Padano added a distinct feature; creaminess, substance, saltiness and earthiness. The grainy Padano, a Protected Designation of Origin product from the Pianura Padana valley, is one of the oldest hard cheeses with a flavor typically milder than Parmesan.
The Mediterranean pizza had marvelously tangy and robust flavors. It was topped with small, halved cherry tomatoes, salty kalamata olives, red onions and pieces of feta.
The Spinach Ricotta pizza, with the same cheeses as the 4-cheese, included firm pieces of rich ricotta and slices of sweet, herb-topped tomatoes.
I’ve found the best way to reheat slices, should you actually have any, is in a dry, covered skillet over medium heat. The toppings warm while the crust crisps. | KP
Uncle Ro’s Take and Bake, 2901-b Research Park Dr., Santa Cruz, 419-8191. Find him at Santa Cruz farmers markets including Sundays on the Westside..