BROOKLINE - A great pizza is like a great song, with all the parts coming together to form something amazing. So it makes sense that musician Scott Riebling creates some of the best pizzas in greater Boston.
To say Scott is obsessed with pizza is a bit of an understatement. At Stoked Wood Fired Pizza Company in Brookline's Washington Square, his devotion to dough is on full display. It all began about four years ago, when Scott and his business partner, Toirm Miller, decided to build a fully equipped food truck and hit the streets of Boston.
The pizzas were such a smash that opening a restaurant was the next step, so they built a 50-seat spot in Brookline.
"At our heart, we're a neighborhood pizzeria," Toirm said.
He started working in restaurants as a teenager, but most recently, he worked driving a Duck Boat.
"I did a ten year run at Boston duck tours. I was a duck boat captain, which was a really fun job, a very unique job. I like to equate it to doing five Vegas shows a day, while driving a World War II steel vehicle through the streets of Boston, and into the Charles River."
Scott also took an interesting road to Stoked. Most of his life has been in the music business, and he spent years on tour playing bass in the band Letters to Cleo.
"Travelling around the country, there's a lot of time to eat out, and I realized that pizza is really an incredibly variable food," he explained. "I really sort of honed in on what I liked, and when I got back from the road I started experimenting and it actually turned into a bit of an obsession."
Now, that obsession is feeding the flames at Stoked, where the pies are a mash-up of Scott's favorite styles of pizza.
"It's a hybrid of a Neapolitan style pizza - which is a wood-fired pizza, with a New York, New Haven coal-fired pizza, which is cooked a little bit slower and a little bit more well-done, so you get a crispier, more charred pizza."
Making something even as seemingly simple as a cheese pizza requires a mastery of technique, timing, and touch. From stretching the dough, to the order of assembly, Scott likes to get everything just right.
"We're gonna put cheese down first, which is a little bit unusual. The reason why we do that is because it sort of acts as a little wall and it doesn't let that moisture from the sauce get down into the crust."
Then there is the timing.
"It goes in the oven for about two and a half minutes," Scott said. "I'm gonna look for some charring, because the spots of dark char actually give you a ton of flavor."
When it comes to toppings at Stoked, basic is better.
"Instead of trying to go for a lot of fancy, unusual toppings, I wanted to just do the basics, but do them as well as I possibly can," Scott said.
So classics like Sausage and Onion are made with artisan fennel sausage and sweet caramelized onions, and the Pepperoni Pizza it topped with roni that is cut up into small pieces to ensure maximum meat distribution.
For something a little different, there is a Buffalo Spinach and Cauliflower Pizza, the Barbecue Chicken and Bacon Pizza, or the Honey Bacon Bianca Pizza with ricotta, garlic, mozzarella, pecorino, and Mike's Hot Honey.
"You're gonna get that salty, smoky component right away from the bacon," Toirm described. "Then the heat will start to kick in with that sweetness of the hot honey, and the ricotta really just smoothes everything out."
There is more to the menu than just pizza. You can start your meal with meatballs, a salad, or some really good wings. For something sweet, try a hand-spun boozy milkshake like The Toasty Pineapple with aged rum, or the Stoked Rock Shake, a twist on a fast food favorite made with mint syrup and premium vodka.
"I love a Shamrock Shake," Toirm revealed. "When you have that [Stoked Rock] milkshake, you should think of the classic Shamrock Shake, for sure."
Of course, it all comes back to the pizza at Stoked. Even though Scott has traded the stage for the kitchen, the thrill of pleasing the crowd remains the same.
"I think it goes back to being a musician, when you're on stage and you're playing, and you see the reaction of the crowd, and they're getting into it… I'll be back here making pizzas but I'm looking. I'm trying to see people's reactions to it, and if it's a good reaction, I know I'm doing the right thing."
You can find Stoked at 1632 Beacon Street in Brookline, and online at stokedpizzaco.com.
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