Sunday, December 5, 2021

All Hail the Pep Cup (Review)

Some say the circle is the divine shape, but lovers of pizza know that the square is the true test of the pizzaiolo’s skill. I love pizza. Who doesn’t love pizza? But do we have opinions about it? Sure? Are they subjective? Yes. Who is this guy anyway? Also, fuck pizza, right? But shit, I will never stop eating it. 

Those thick, square slices (also known as Sicilian) can be topped with any number of options, but they’re best when teeming with pep cups—tiny, sliced, cured meats that, when exposed to high temperatures, flex concave, like seedlings yearning for the light. Unlike the thin bland pepperoni slices that typically top a pizza, they’re salty and spicy, full of garlic and umami, not to mention thicker and chewier than ordinary pepperoni. Little orbs of unctuous goodness. Little flying saucers of gold.


The Triangle happens to have two of the best pep cup slices in North Carolina (imo). Coronato and DiFara Pizza each swagger like two heavyweights in the ring for Sicilian pie dominance.


Coronato is crust-to-crust, wall-to-wall pep cups, all completely inverted as they should be, with a little bit of crispy char for flavor and texture balance. For DiFara, some pep cups are braised (mmm...braised cured meats) into the cheese and sauce, yielding a different meaty mouthfeel altogether, some charred inconsistently. A hot slice of Difara is swimming in a soupy delicious sauce, whereas Coronato covers their pie in generous grated Parm.


The way each restaurant sets up and handles their pie dough influences the final product. The piemakers at Difara press each piece into the mold prior to baking while the makers at Coronato set up the dough, chill it, and then slightly deflate it using their fingers prior to topping. 


The result is that DiFara is more like pizza, and Coronato is more like focaccia. It depends what you like, but one would have to say that DiFara is the more “authentic” (shit, I hate that word) pie.


And you wouldn’t think sauce would be the difference-maker, but the cooked San Marzano sauce at DiFara, surprisingly black-peppery, almost obscures the cheese. The shreds of basil scissored onto the pie that gives a slight hint of herbaceousness, cutting the lactose intensity of the browned mozz. 


Both pies go into very well seasoned (olive-oiled) pans, which yield the best fried toast crust you could ever imagine, cooked to perfection in a high temperature oven in a thick pan.

Like a momma choosing their favorite child, it’s hard to pick just one, but for my money, DiFara outlasts Coronato. The dough to sauce texture is superior, and the sauce is better— it doesn’t matter how many cups you load on there (and trust me, Coronato will go down swinging). 

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