Where Y’Eat: For a New Look at Wheat, Start With Pizza

Feb 9, 2017

The wood-burning oven at the Uptown eatery Pizza Domenica turns out pizzas that are thin-crusted, char-marked and round. These days though, the same oven is also producing bigger, thicker, square-shaped pizzas.

They spread a terrain of sauce and cheese and darkened ridges across the length of a baking pan. They look distinctive. But the shape is just the tip of the slice for what makes these pizzas different.

The dough is made using organic, fresh-milled flour, produced on a stone mill that keeps spinning away in Broadmoor. That’s just three miles from the Pizza Domenica oven where it’s baked into big, beautiful, rustic pizza pies. The flour arrives at the restaurant fresh, fragrant and often still warm from the mill, and that is very different indeed.

That stone mill that makes it is part of Bellegarde Bakery, an artisan baker in New Orleans. It’s also the cornerstone for the bakery’s ongoing campaign for wheat and other grains.

Wheat, you’ve probably heard, has become a big issue. It’s in the crosshairs for some diet and nutrition plans. Simply passing the bread basket can feel like a game of hot potato depending on who eats what around your table. But Bellegarde Bakery has been advocating for a different look at wheat, and specifically the quality and source of this staple crop.

When it’s turned into flour for our bread and pasta and countless other recipes, what we usually get is a white nonperishable flour  - that’s the convention, a commodity shipped and stacked and stored with all the care given to sand bags.

The flour that Bellegarde Bakery now produces is different, though it’s wrong to call it new. In fact, it’s ancient. The stone mill here uses electricity, but otherwise follows the same principles used by mills powered by animals or flowing water.  That stone breaks the grain and mashes together all its fats, acids, proteins and minerals into the flour. The resulting is velvety, a little sticky and a stark contrast to the industry standard.

This fresh-milled flour is also perishable, and it’s much more expensive. 

But lately, more New Orleans chefs have been embracing it’s potential to change the flavor, texture and even fragrance of their dishes. Mostly, they use it blended with other flours, but the difference is still clear in the finished product. In this way, fresh flour has become a new ingredient in their culinary arsenal, and for New Orleans chefs there’s a small-scale local producer making it in their own backyard. 

Pizza Domenica is one of the restaurants where this is making a big impact.  The chefs here have been folding more fresh-milled flour into their menu, and the marquee example is that new square pizza. You might know the style as Sicilian pizza or Roman pizza.

Toppings are minimal — marinara and shaved garlic; sausage with broccoli and pecorino; gooey burrata cheese with basil and red sauce. The crust is the star, and it keeps giving flavor the more you chew, as air pockets within release little aromatic gusts. To borrow a term from the wine makers, this crust has finish. And in the effort to forge a new path for wheat, that’s a pretty strong start.

Pizza Domenica

4933 Magazine St., 504-301-4908