I’m pretty sure we’re at the cusp of a condiment revolution. Over the past six months, I’ve received at least a dozen samples of new sauces and sprinkles from both existing and fledgling companies. Not all of them are made expressly for pizza, but they all have the pizza industry in their crosshairs.
For as far back as any living pizzeria customer can remember, the standard fare at slice shops and sit-down restaurants included oregano, crushed red pepper flakes and Parm. That’s the trifecta. It was all we ever needed to transform someone else’s creation into our own custom version… up until a few years ago.
It started with chili oil. I saw pizzerias from New York to Ann Arbor to San Francisco offering decanters of red pepper flake infused olive oil on their tables. Several companies started bottling it, but the process is simple enough that pizzerias could do it themselves. Then I saw places like Di Fara and Table 87, both located in Brooklyn, offering hot peppers in oil as an option on the table. Pugsley’s in the Bronx has their own house-made pickled hot pepper product, which they’ve just recently begun selling to the public.
A hot sauce company based in New York’s Hudson Valley recently launched a new fermented chili flake product, made from the byproduct of their hot sauce production. It’s totally delicious and a brilliant way to utilize what would otherwise have been wasted.
Several companies are looking to revise the somewhat banal crushed red pepper flakes. I recently tried one brand that’s essentially a super-spicy powdered version of the old standby, suggesting the user apply carefully to avoid over-spicing. A company in Colorado just released a line of flavored crushed red pepper flakes. One has a smoky flavor profile, one is made from Hatch Valley green chilies, one’s a bit sweet, and the fourth is a four-pepper crushed pepper blend. These ain’t your granddaddy’s red pepper flakes — they actually have dimension!
Heat is clearly the dominant flavor profile of the condiment revolution, but it’s not the only one. Sweet condiments like honey, truffle honey, and the crossover hit of the century — hot honey — have
become so common I’m sometimes surprised when I don’t see it at a new pizzeria. Then there’s the powdered Parm-ranch product from a new mother-son team out of California. Very cool stuff (pun
The pandemic has conjured a perfect atmosphere for the condiment revolution. Of all packaged food businesses, spice is on the more shelf-stable end of the spectrum. It used to be impossible to score shelf space at the grocery store but now that’s not such a big deal thanks to online retailers. Now you can sell direct instead of waiting for support from a major grocery chain.
If you’ve been serving your own special seasoning for years, now is the time to look into packaging and selling to your adoring fans. Just remember that a pizza isn’t finished when you hand it to the customer, it’s finished when they take their first bite. People love jazzing up their pizza and you don’t have to relinquish control of your customers’ taste buds by relenting to the stale shakers of yesteryear.
SCOTT WIENER is the founder of Scott’s Pizza Tours in New York City and SliceOutHunger.org Instagram: @scottspizzatours