Now that everyone is well aware of my obsession with pizza, I get suggestions from people all of the time (which, BTW, I love – so keep them coming). Last week, a friend sent through a deal she found on Daily Candy for a pizza-making class – so of course, I signed up Scott and myself at $75 for 2 people.
The class was located at AOA Bar & Grill down near TriBeCa. I was a little suspicious of the place based on its Yelp reviews (I live by Yelp) – the food got OK reviews; but the service reviews were horrible. The setup was adorable; at 11am with one whiff of the basil we were both more than ready to go.
They gave us aprons and gloves and we got set up at our stations. We got there about 15 minutes early – common courtesy, I think – but we ended up not starting til about 20 minutes after 11. Annoying, but okay.
Soon after we arrived, it became obvious that the pizza class was a ploy to gain customers and improve their reputation – fair enough. It started out fine, with a fun vibe and adequate attention paid to each member of the 30-person class (albeit with a sharp sense of desperation).
We started with a basic pizza dough, which we didn’t actually end up using in the class as it would need time to rise. I did take it home and refrigerate it – which reminds me that I should probably get on with making something of it! They provided us with dough balls that we would use to first make calzones.
The chef teaching the class clearly loves what he does but was also clearly being pressured by his boss – who lingered QUITE a bit – to make it more about us liking the restaurant than learning about pizza. We got off to a good start with the calzones, which we filled with mozzarella, spinach, and, in some cases (though not mine) ham.
They came out pretty well – notice my sweet empanada-style edges – and luckily the people around us were friendly & lovely as we had lots of time to sit and talk while everyone’s calzones went in the oven. Next, we started on the pizza. We all got dough balls, buckets of pre-made sauce, cubed or sliced mozzarella, and basil to cut and arrange as we chose.
Heeeere’s where things got bad. Once the lunch crowd started to arrive, we were all but ignored by our instructor, who was apparently the only one there able to make pizzas. He was forced to leave us in the middle of OUR pizza prep to make pizzas for the customers, while our dough dried out and those who had prepped to be put in the oven became soggy with sauce.
Promises of making our own sauce AND making focaccia were soon completely forgotten, as the class ran well over the 2 hours it was scheduled for. It got to the point where we just wanted to make our pizzas and get out; even worse, some people who must have had other plans DID leave before finishing.
The final product, once we actually got to put ours in the oven, was pretty excellent. The crust crisped up nicely; mine was really thin – which is really my own fault for being horrible at rolling out dough. Scott’s prior pizza-making experience shone through in his perfectly puffed crust (not to mention his flawless pizza-tossing) – not fair! I really did enjoy their sauce, though it would have been nice to make my own.
Someone mentioned this was only the fourth time they’d done this class – could have fooled me, as I thought it was the first time. There are a few things they could do to easily improve this class, namely sign up less people (30 is way too many for their space and tiny oven), have a clear agenda of what you’re making and keep it moving, and not interrupt the class to serve other customers (perhaps a second pizza chef?).
A lot of the other couples there (it was indeed mostly couples, or at least pairs of friends) didn’t seem to mind as the bar was open and they were free to do their 30-something socializing, but for younger, hungrier folks like us – we didn’t enjoy the wait! Given some time to work out these kinks, I’d recommend taking the class – or maybe one like it somewhere else.
AOA Bar & Grill
33 6th Avenue, New York, NY 10013