Two weeks into the annual late summer drills in Latrobe, and to date all of the major plotlines revolve around the youth movement with your black and your gold.
To wit: Will Martavis Bryant be the second coming of Plaxico Burress as they are both tall with hard-to-spell names? Does massive 6-foot 7, 352-pound Daniel McCullers have the greatest nickname ever (Ton-DMC)? Will Notre Dame product Stephon Tuitt help bolster a defensive line that's recently generated as much pressure as Kramer's shower head? And exactly how do you pronounce Shazier anyway? SHAY-zeer or Sha-ZEER? (Or Latrobe for that matter: La-TROBE or LAY-trobe? The debate rages).
Personally, Munch has his eye on another rookie: a local kid named Michael Makoski.
With a suspect 40-time and a narrow frame, the ex-Greater Latrobe high hockey player is unlikely to be Big Ben's new blind side bodyguard, but, he is the Michael in Michael's Wood Fired Pizzeria, a new option to grab grub before or after watching the "big men on blades of grass" as a certain man-in-black might say.
Opened about seven weeks ago, Mr. Makoski took over a vacant roofing supply business space on the shoulder of Route 30 and converted it into a comfortable little restaurant with an imported brick oven just a mile-and-a-half west of the entrance to Saint Vincent College.
Mr. Makoski learned his trade at the Pizza School of New York, a spinoff of Staten Island institution Goodfellas Pizzeria. He's incorporated some of its award-winning pizzas into his own menu of a baker's dozen pies ($12.95-$16.95) including quintessential classics like the four-cheese Quattro Formaggio, the four-topping Quattro Stagioni, Pizza Bianco and the simple margherita, and others like a Buffalo chicken pizza.
There are also a pair of dessert pizzas ($13.95-16.95): the Nuts Italia made with Nutella and ricotta, sliced strawberries, bananas, chunks of milk chocolate, raspberry sauce and powdered sugar ; and the Hot Apple Pizza A la mode, made with sliced Granny Smith apples, cinnamon and brown sugar crumbs, maraschino cherries, powdered sugar, and ice cream.
After spending a Sunday getting rained on in the environs of Chuck Noll Field (and may the emperor rest in peace), I tried two of the recipes Mr. Makoski brought back from Staten Island: the Smokin' Goodfello, a past best recipe winner at the International Pizza Expo (an annual trade show), and the similarly decorated Pizza alla Vodka.
Wood-fired pizzas are frequently associated with crispy paper-thin crust. Those I tried at Michael's retained the expected crispiness but with a more full-bodied crust from the semolina dough, that while unexpected was not unwelcome. The meats, sourced from Bardine's butchery in nearby Crabtree, stood out on each pizza.
The Smokin' Goodfello hit the spot nicely. The smoked fresh mozzarella and the house roasted red peppers and sausage went well with the house roasted pepper cream sauce.
The housemade sauce on the Pizza alla Vodka was very mild, but the fresh mozzarella, mushrooms and peas, and the more thickly cut prosciutto made up for it.
Not a bad debut. Or, as the gentleman running the camp down the road might put it ...
Obviously, at this juncture, this young man makes an arrow-pointed-up pizza. He's shown excellent topping flexibility with combinations that are thoughtfully non-rhythmic, creating splash pizzas, but he'll need to fight to defend every slice of pepperoni to be a battle-tested vet because crust sharpens crust. The craft beer creates some good hydration opportunities, but the standard is the standard, and we'll unleash hell in December if the IPA selection isn't above the line, and he'll have to go back to the lab with his beer rep.
To be fair, the beer selection (bottles and cans) is perfectly acceptable, although there is room for improvement.
But on the whole, the rookie pizza maker is starting out a good clip above .500, which we know quite well is more than the Steelers have been able to say the past two seasons.
Michael's Wood Fired Pizzeria is at 4433 Route 30 in Latrobe. Call 724-879-4862 or visit michaelswoodfiredpizzeria.com. Dan Gigler: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter @gigs412; Munch: Munch von Munchausen on Facebook, Twitter @ PGMunch