Luke’s Craft Pizza doesn’t just represent the current state of pizza in Charleston: One pizza expert suggests the new westside shop could well represent the genre’s future.
“As for the future of pizza, you’re going to see more passionate people opening pizzerias, rather than just passing them down through the family,” says Scott Wiener, founder of Scott’s Pizza Tours and author of “Viva La Pizza!: The Art of the Pizza Box.”
Since 2009, Wiener has led or organized tours of iconic New York City pizzerias for more than 40,000 people. But he briefly contemplated opening a pizza shop in which the menu would showcase styles and cooking methods from different historical eras. Eventually, he decided that much passion might not make sense to the average guest, so he stuck with guiding.
I recently bought a ticket to join Wiener on a bus tour of Staten Island, which he made sound like a Galapagos of pies, where pizza evolved without regard to the trends and immigration patterns that swept through the rest of the city. Every slice was terrific, but the borough is so preservation-oriented that even at Goodfellas – a new-wave, wood-fired oven joint that came up with vodka pizza – the plastic fork that Mayor Bill de Blasio used to eat pizza (and outrage his constituents) is sealed in a plastic bag and hung on the wall.
By contrast, Wiener says the rest of the pizza world is edging away from conservatism. The current focus is on upgrading basic ingredients. “You’ll see that going as far as the salt and the flour,” he says. “People will be milling their own flour soon: It’s already starting at a couple of places in New York and Portland.”
Since EVO alum Luke Davis is Luke’s Craft Pizza’s only full-time employee, he likely doesn’t have much free time for milling projects. He’s already struggling to keep up with demand for his dough, which is allowed to rise for one day before being stretched and baked to order: Customers who arrive near closing time are apt to be greeted with a “sold out” sign.
Still, his dedication to ingredient quality was apparent from a summery pie topped with speck, jalapeno slice and first-of-the-season South Carolina peaches, which seeped sweet juice into the gently-puffed supporting crust. It’s far too early to declare Luke’s Craft Pizza the best pizza in Charleston, but it’s unquestionably a contender.
Maybe it’s the salt and flour, as Wiener suggests, that account for the pizza tasting not just fresh, but lively. (Weiner discounts most theories that turn on water quality, although he allows that oven control is at least as important as flour sourcing.) And maybe it really is a taste of American pizza ahead. In any case, it deserves to have a long local run.