Until Saturday, my favorite pizza was any pizza we could either bake, bring home or get delivered that I could reheat in the toaster oven the next day for exactly seven minutes with the pizza about 1 1/2" from the heating coil. This allowed the crust to get some nice blistered spots and for some of the cheese to get a little brown on top. I say that this was my favorite until Saturday, because Saturday, The Beloved and I went to Rebel Pie in Timmonsville, SC. Yes, we drove over two hours to get there. And if you live 2 hours from Timmonsville, you should, too.
Rebel Pie is the brain child of Alan Cooke, whom I have come to know over the past couple of years on The Hinternet as a hilarious, talented, genuine guy who used to run a well-respected bakery in Florence and has reinvented himself--to the praise of all and sundry in and around the Florence-Timmonsville area--as a Purveyor of Extraordinarily Good Neapolitan-Style Brick Oven Pizza. According to our friends at Wikipedia, Neapolitan-style pizza should be thin: check. The dough should only contain 4 ingredients: check. It should be made with water buffalo mozzarella. Since that doesn't happen in the US, Alan uses fresh cow's milk mozzarella--no plastic cheese at Rebel Pie. So: check. It should be hand-stretched--no machines or rolling pins: check. It should be baked no more than 90 seconds in a ridiculously hot oven: check. The resulting pizzas should be crispy, tender and fragrant: check, check and check.
Alan told us that some of the local patrons were a bit unsure of the blistered crust, so to keep the customers satisfied--and you got to keep the customers satisfied--he bakes in a slightly cooler oven for about 3 minutes. We told him that we were More Than Happy to have blistered pizza and to Bring It On. So he did.
We ordered two pies, one pepperoni and one De Chevre, and 2 side salads (organic mixed greens, thankyouverymuch). The pepperoni is made with Alan's own pizza sauce (not too sweet, not too salty, a little herbal, very tomato-y), sliced mozzarella and enough pepperoni so you know it's a pepperoni pizza but not so much that it looked like a tiled roof. The De Chevre is made with Alan's thick and luscious bechamel sauce, sauteed baby portobello mushrooms, caramelized onions and a generous all-over dolloping of local fresh goat cheese from nearby Lone Palmetto Farms.
Both pies were excellent. Nothing beats a thin pizza with a deliciously blistered crust--
there's even the perfect touch of blistering on the bottom of the pie, and that slight bitter edge contrasts beautifully with the mellow cheese and tangy sauces. The pepperoni pie--one of my favorite toppings from as far back as I can remember--was delightful. Crisp, light, not too filling, a little salt and zing from the pepperoni but no so much that I had to drink Lake Superior after dinner. The De Chevre was mellow-sweet with a bit of tang from the goat cheese. A lovely combination that wins extra points from me for utilizing local ingredients. The only change I might make, and it's a small one, is to grate the fresh mozzarella in batches throughout service as opposed to slicing it. Since baking is so fast, thicker slices don't always have a chance to melt all the way through. I think grating would ensure a more consistently oozy-cheesy experience.
I finally had the distinct pleasure of meeting Alan's lovely wife, whom he lovingly refers to as Smokin' Hot. She is gracious and funny and embarrassed by her nickname, but hey, if the shoe fits...! Also working that evening was SH's brother Billy who laments the fact that he doesn't have a nickname yet. Be careful what you wish for, Billy. The crew is rounded out by two of the cutest and most conscientious servers around. I shan't spoil the surprise. Go meet them.
If you are ever in the Florence/Timmonsville area, it is well worth your time to Stop In for dinner. Rebel Pie has only been open for a month, and the way they are going, they will be around for a long, long time. As of now, they only serve dinner and a limited pizza menu (4 classic ($10) and 5 signature pies ($12), but they have plans to open for lunch and expand their offerings in the near future.
Now, I'm'a take off my Reviewer hat (which doesn't really fit very well, anyway. It squished my glasses into the sides of my head in an Uncomfortable Fashion) and just say that, when I took a bite of my De Chevre pizza, I welled up. Not because I bit my tongue, but because I am just so happy for my friend Alan and his family that he is doing so well doing something that he loves. It's the definition of The American Dream, and I will always drive to see it in action. Always.