Pizza has come a long way since its 19th century beginnings in Naples, Italy, the birthplace of pizza. Today, pizza is among the most popular foods in the world. In the U.S. alone, there were 75,243 pizza restaurants as of 2017, and pizza is also available in Italian and Mediterranean restaurants, corner pizza stands, fast food eateries, and in the frozen section of food stores in practically every city in North America and Europe.
Pizza is such a universally loved food item that just this month, the Museum of Pizza opened in New York City. Billed as the “world’s first and only immersive art experience celebrating pizza,” it was created for “everyone whose heart burns with a passion for the perfect pie.” ==>
Once considered a food item for poor people in Italy, pizza has become elevated to gourmet status in certain culinary circles.
The term “gourmet pizza” usually refers to a California-style pizza with a thin crust and unusual toppings not usually found in pizzas. The late Ed LaDou was the pizza chef at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago restaurant in Los Angeles, who was credited with inventing and popularizing the gourmet pizza in the 1980s. His gourmet pizzas usually came with exotic toppings such as duck breast, barbecue chicken, shitake mushrooms, hoisin sauce, arugula, capers, artichoke hearts, and sun-dried tomatoes — baked to perfection in either a brick oven or a wood-burning pizza oven. LaDou also developed the first menu for the California Pizza Kitchen.
When it comes to plant-based gourmet pizzas, nothing comes close to the Pizza with Wild Mushroom, Brie, Truffle Crème Fraîche & Arugula that was served at Luna Park Kitchen in the Miracle Mile area of Los Angeles. The flavors of the pizza’s ingredients blended together so splendidly that upon first bite, my eyes literally rolled back as the pleasure reflex set in. This gourmet pizza was pure heaven to experience!
Sadly, Luna Park closed down in 2017, after being a neighborhood favorite for 14 years. Therefore, I’ve had to recreate the pizza in my own kitchen since I haven’t been able to find this quintessential pizza in any other restaurant’s menu.
As part of Underground Health Reporter’s Meatless Monday issue, I’m featuring a recipe that’s as close to Luna Park’s famous Mushroom, Brie, Crème Fraîche and Arugula Pizza as any that I’ve found. Although the recipe includes dairy ingredients like brie and crème fraiche in order to remain faithful to the original Luna Park version, you can make it vegan by replacing the brie with vegan versions (such as Urban Cheesecraft or Druids Grove brie) and making your own non-dairy crème fraiche .
Mushroom, Brie, Truffle Crème Fraîche and Arugula Pizza
one recipe pizza dough
extra virgin olive oil (plain or truffle flavored)
8 oz wild mushrooms or fresh, sliced crimini or baby Portobello mushrooms
6 oz brie (or choose vegan brie – Urban Cheesecraft or Druids Grove brand)
6 oz crème fraîche (or make your own vegan crème fraîche)
1/4 tsp truffle salt
1 oz truffles, chopped finely (I buy truffles in a jar from Italian specialty stores online)
Preheat oven 500ºF
Begin by sautéing the sliced mushrooms in extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with a little salt. Next, mix the crème fraîche, truffle salt and chopped truffles together and set aside.
Shape the dough into 2 rectangular or round-shaped pizzas. Drizzle with a little olive oil, then top with the truffle crème fraiche, and slices of brie. Then, sprinkle the mushrooms on top.
Bake in the bottom rack of pre-heated oven for 4 to 8 minutes (or until bottom of crust is golden brown). When bottom is brown, place the pizza on a higher rack until the toppings are cooked and edges are starting to brown.
Remove from oven and place on cooling rack for about 3 minutes, then sprinkle with arugula and serve immediately.