Allan Rosenberg is the force behind Papalinos Pizza, which became one of the Highland's most popular pizza places. In mid-December he opened a second Papalinos in Springhurst, along a wide lane of mall-like storefronts near Tinseltown. Eater recently sat down and talked to Rosenberg about his work history, his take on New York Pizza and how people in the East End are liking his new place.
You grew up in Louisville but went to New York, right?
Allen Rosenberg: Yes. I decided I wanted to cook when I was 18, and moved to New York.
Where did you work?
AR: I did different stints. Daniel Boulud, Jean-Georges. My background was in fine dining when I came back to Louisville.
What did you do then?
AR: When I first got back I was a partner in something called Main Street Lounge. I sold that and went on to be with Anoosh Shariat at Park Place [where Against The Grain is now located]. I'm actually the person that helped Anoosh switch it over from Wellinghurst's. I was with Anoosh for quite a few years, then I opened a place called Danielle's. I did that for a while, then basically after that I was with Anthony [Lamas] at Seviche for a while, that's where I met my wife. She was the general manager.
Then you went to Whole Foods?
AR: After Seviche, I was off for a while. Then I ended up being a Whole Foods chef. It was a great job.
What led to Papalinos?
AR: I'd been playing around with pizza at Whole Foods, while I was also working on curing meat. I thought pizza would make a great vehicle to display the things I was making. I stumbled upon our Baxter location. I had a little bit of money, but I didn't have the money to go into fine dining. I always joke that I opened the original Papalinos for the price of the china I had at Danielle's.
So you've been on the restaurant scene for a while. Seen any changes?
AR: The cooking scene has really exploded here. All these up and coming chefs are opening their own restaurants. It's more than just that the quality level has changed tremendously. It was that even 10-12 years ago you couldn't be as adventurous. You could have fine dining, but if you didn't have a filet, demi-glace, potato and a vegetable, people would get pissed off. Now people are getting more into it.
Whole Foods was where you got into charcuterie?
AR: No, I started playing with house-cured meats at Park Place. Which is funny, since Jay Denham took it over and he now has a cured meat company. Maybe there's something in the building there.
But you continued at Whole Foods?
AR: They were great at Whole Foods, really encouraged you to play around with stuff. So I kept playing around with house-cured meats. Whole Foods made it challenging and interesting, because you can't use any nitrates. But it presented a new challenge, you learn you can cure meats without those things.
What makes you interested in charcuterie?
AR: I get the opportunity to source meats where I want, to flavor the meats how I want, and I just like to do it.
How did you come up with your style of pizza?
AR: I started working on recipes. I tried about 30 before I got the one I wanted. Tomato sauce, same thing. Trying them out, trying them out, until I hit one right. We tasted close to 25 to 30 kinds of tomatoes. I ended up going with a Califoria San Marzano type. I wanted a little bit of body to my sauce, and I wanted a bit firmer, brighter tomato.
What's your take on "New York" style pizza?
AR: It all starts with the dough. There's a certain mix of ingredients that go into it, to give it its texture and flavor. I like dough that has more of a sourdough taste to it. I think that's very New York. Also, New York sauce isn't perfectly smooth. In Chicago, places like that, they use a very smooth sauce, very tart and heavy. New York, it just tends to be a lighter sauce.
AR: Louisville, Chicago, pizza styles like that will use a blended cheese. In my experience you go with the straight whole milk mozzarella. They're not hiding behind the sharpness of a provolone or cheddar. To me, a good slice of New York pizza should have the dough really shine through. The sauce and cheese are kind of secondary.
How is the Springhurst expansion going?
AR: Everything is going great. It was interesting building a charcuterie room—we had to do a little planning in design. Other than that, everything was pretty typical, nothing I haven't encountered before.
Any differences between the Highlands and the East End?
AR: The great thing about Baxter is it's such a diverse crowd. You have everything from 13 year old kids, skateboarders out and about doing whatever, to whatever age people stay alive to. We get a lot of special requests. We have a lot of creative people who work for us, they get bored, so we tell them to be creative. People are not as adventurous out here in the East End.
In what ways?
AR: For some reason, we sell the heck out of sauteed garlic spinach at Baxter. Springhurst, it sells OK. Artichoke hearts sell great at Baxter, Springhurst just OK. But I sell a lot of charcuterie boards, which I didn't think I would. And we sell a lot of burrata, which I was concerned about, but that sells pretty good. In the East End, I think the women are more adventurous in than the men are.
· Papalinos Pizza [Official Site]
· All Eater Papalinos Coverage [~ELOU~]