by Rosalind Brazel
Just like postal workers, “neither snow, nor rain, nor heat” will stop Chris Lally of Outsider Pizza from slinging slices. He’s fearless in the face of any weather condition. It’s sort of a requirement of owning your own pizza cart that is stationed in the windy courtyard of Beacon Hill’s El Centro de la Raza. His strategic setup includes wind shielding and careful clothing selection. It helps him weather the storm, as it were, and focus on the important things: his pies.
It’s taken years of experience and a well-honed culinary education to get Lally to where he is now — a successful business owner with little overhead andthe ability to cook his food.
Lally’s efficiency as a one-man show boils down to systems: He works in small batches to build ingredients that will bring out the best flavor in the pizza. For example, he never grates his cheese but shreds it in ribbons and applies it directly to the dough. Then he uses what he calls the “Jersey Splash” technique of applying sauce instead of the industry standard application of swirling sauce in a circle pattern.
His relationship with pizza began in New Jersey and New York.
“I was a young guy who was so green and so bad,” Lally said. “I worked at a place called Gusto in Greenwich Village and the very first job they gave me was to grill these pizzas and serve them as appetizers. I learned how to tell the nature of the dough by the feel and look of it.”
Later in his career he moved to New Jersey and worked in a farmers market running a pizza stall. He thought he knew everything about making pizza, until his neighbor in the market asked to taste his pizza.
“I noticed that he never asked to eat my pizza again, but he came one day and asked to touch my dough, and the minute he did, I knew he was a master,” said Lally.
The neighbor turned out to be Manny, a man whose family owned a pizzeria in Brooklyn. Lally learned everything he could from Manny until he felt he had mastered true New York Style pizza. He also spent a short time working in Berkeley, where he learned the California style of pizza, which includes cooking in a true wood oven and adding unique toppings.
All of these experiences have contributed to what is now Outsider Pizza. The low overhead is just part of the draw that made him open his own pizza cart. Outsider pizza also gives him independence. He sets his own hours, chooses his menu, and gets the chance to greet his customers directly.
He offers slices and whole pies in the standards of cheese, pepperoni and a build your own option from a refined list of ingredients. His customized twist is to top each pizza with a freshly grated dusting of nutty, salty pecorino cheese.
Two things are equally as important to him as his pizza. One is community. He grew up in the Beacon Hill area where he now works. Like a prodigal son, he returned from his travels and culinary exploration to the place he calls home with his family in tow. He knows the names and stories of everyone who passes through the courtyard regularly and they know him.
The second thing of importance is the idea of cooking his food. Lally has spent much of his early career plating someone else’s culinary vision. This is his first experience serving up what comes from his head and his heart too.
Lally still dreams of having a brick and mortar. He’s not sure if he would just serve pizza or if he would do more. What he is sure of is that it would be his food in his community.
Featured Photo: Chris Lally displays one of his hot pies at Outside Pizza on Beacon Hill. (Photo: Rosalind Brazel)