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Punch Pizza

Does anyone know how to not get the gloppy middle of the pizza here? Do you get it well done? Do you get it uncut? Thoughts?

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  1. Go to Black Sheep instead. :-)

    1. Some folks really like the wet style. And yes, uncut.I often ask for extra olive oil, making it extra wet. Decidedly, it's not for everyone. But it has its fans.

      1. I've found that Pizza Nea does a decent job with (somewhat) the style of Punch, but with a crispier/sturdier crust.

        1. When I used to go to Punch more often, I'd ask for it well done. Then I risked some serious char, but that was often a better option.

          1. Order a non-gloppy combination of ingredients (i.e., choose dry things, not wet things), and ask for it well done. Problem solved!

            P.S. My husband and I fight over the pieces with "serious char". Those black bubbles are worth their weight in gold!

            1. I vote for the just don't go to Punch option. The gloppy middle, within reason, is part of the D.O.C. experience. Which is not to say that sometimes they don't just F it up and not cook it hard enough, or that the pizzaiolo sometimes isn't doing a good job of managing oven temp, or that the prep person didn't drown it in too much topping.
              I frequent the Punch in Wayzata during the off season when I don't want to do dough and fire my own oven. I find them consistently great, even on the not as great visits, IF true Neo style is your thing. I get that there is a whole "dry and crackery" contingent out there that thinks this is not good.

              If you wanted to be a huge PITA, you could explain what you're looking for and/or ask them to let it hang out in the entry for an extra minute or two, which would cook it harder but without so much extra charring. However, the nature and construction of Punch dough means it's never going to get to that state of crackery that you'd find in other (and IMO, supremely lesser) places pizza.

              6 Replies
              1. re: splatgirl

                Their problem is that they try to cook too many pizzas at once. The wood fired oven, despite it's hot temperature, needs a recovery time between each pizza(s) being cooked. You can't pump out 50 pizzas in an hour and expect the oven to maintain it's temp. I have been to Naples, and not once have I ever received a pizza with a soggy middle. But then on the other hand, in Naples, you don't get your pizza delivered to you in less than 2 minutes. You wait at least 10 minutes (even more during a rush).

                1. re: jeff55432

                  I agree with this. No pizza I ever ate in Italy, even in Naples, had that wet center.

                  Also, it seems like in the early days of Punch, they did seem to get it right.

                  I was at the one in Highland two days ago. I asked for it well done. They brought it to me and said this was as well done as they could make it. It had a wet center. The waitress acted as if that were normal. It was during an off hour, so they weren't rushed. Now I think I should have told them I did not mind it charred.

                  1. re: shoo bee doo

                    ... It was during an off hour,
                    My experience has been that this is when Punch is at it's least good.
                    This is an oven/heat management issue. They're not keeping a large enough active fire in the oven which lets the hearth get too cool.

                    At least one of the other local places that has been mentioned has an oven with a supplementary heat source under the hearth. This makes it easier to get a consistent product regardless of what is going on with fire in the chamber.

                    1. re: splatgirl

                      Heat source under the hearth in a wood-fired oven? That's a new one.

                      The hearth is masonry. In order to keep it up to temperature you need insulation below the masonry to hold the heat in from escaping. I'm not sure what kind of supplementary heat source you could put in a wood-fired oven. I've never heard of it.

                      1. re: Davydd

                        I'm not talking about wood-fired.
                        And yes, I know how a typical wood-fired oven works. I built one.

                        1. re: Davydd

                          It is a coal fired with gas under. I believe it is Black Sheep. Lolas is great, maybe a touch expensive but very good...

                    1. re: AnneInMpls

                      Embrace the soggy middle? Thats like saying embrace overcooked steak or something. It’s not soggy in Italy (based on the three trips at least I have been on there).

                      Also, not sure about the burn point of olive oil but I wonder why they put it on the pizza before its cooked. Maybe I am way off there. The pizza in general is not very flat when cooked (bubbles around edges) so the toppings slip towards the middle which enhances the sogginess. Possibly it’s in design more than ingredients.

                      1. re: brlattim

                        Have you tried Lola? I have only been there once but I thought it was a happy medium between flavorful and crispier without being crackery and flavorless.

                        1. re: splatgirl

                          I must try Lola. Punch is just close by and a friend wanted to go there and she doesn't mind the sloppy center.

                          Black Sheep definitely does a better job.

                          1. re: shoo bee doo

                            Personally, I don't think it's a matter of better or worse. Punch and Black Sheep / Lola are simply different. Some folks don't like the wet middle, others do. Some days I'm in the mood for Punch, other days for Black Sheep. I find both excellent, just different.

                      2. I get the chopped Italian salad instead.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Jordan

                          The salads are pretty good at Punch.

                          1. re: shoo bee doo

                            +1 I can't go there without getting the Italian salad. In fact, sometimes I go there just for that.

                        2. I know in the early days, they got an authenticity award from some organization in Italy. I remember feeling then that they deserved that award. Once they expanded beyond the original location in Highland, I didn't think they deserved that award.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: shoo bee doo

                            I've been to their Highland location and to NE Mpls and on Grand in St. Paul. The Highland location is the sit-down waiter takes your order thing.

                            I prefer the speed of the counter-service at the other locations. I haven't noticed a difference in pizza quality, but I haven't been back to the Highland location in years because of the wait times compared to the other locations.

                            1. re: JimGrinsfelder

                              I kind of think its the expansion and quality control. Good ownership can get a restaurant to expand. Great ownership keeps quality consistent through expansion. I doubt the scruffy lad making the pizzas has the expertise of a oven tender in Italy. Its a shame most people don't take pride in simple jobs done right anymore.

                              1. re: brlattim

                                so you are saying you used to like Punch and now you don't?

                                I do know that a few years ago they switched from making dough in house at every location to centralized production and delivery. I noticed an almost imperceptible change in the finished product. What actually got my attention was that the dough blobs were suddenly getting treated a little differently when they first came out of the proof box.

                                Is far as their product, I actually think Punch has done a better job than any resto I can think of at consistency with expansion, but I can only speak of the last 10 years or so. And that does not account for employee issues. I can always tell in the finished product when the prep or pizzaiolo is inexperienced or slacking.
                                It totally proves the point that the simplest things are the very hardest to get right.

                                1. re: splatgirl

                                  The quality 9 years ago does seem to be different than today. But...thats pretty industry wide I am sure with material and labor cost increases.

                                  I just love when local places compete with the gross national chains so I want these guys to stay good. I definitely can not complain when it is BOGO as well. Although I just did...so shame on me.

                                  1. re: brlattim

                                    You just made an excellent point. Those "gross" national chains are indeed so. They are so full of nasty oils and MSG and corn syrup and other non-tasties that they shouldn't be supported!

                                    The simplicity of a real pizza should render it EASIER to make, one would think!

                          2. Am I the only one that has never found the pizza to be wet/gloppy/etc.?

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: gyc

                              I have had a TINY bit of sogginess in the 1/2" center occasionally.....NBD,

                              1. re: gyc

                                I think it's super subjective, but one description I have heard used on this subject is whether or not the crust/slice will support itself from cornice to tip when you pick it up. Punch slices, IME do not (FWIW, I always get a Toto). Some people would call this too wet, soggy, gloppy,not crispy enough, etc.

                                Also FWIW and construction issues aside, the above depends a lot on how long the pizza sits on the cooling deck before being cut and plated. Boxed for takeout changes things completely and for the worse, always. It's still the best takeout pizza you'll find, IMO, but it's really unfair to critique wetness or crust at that point. I always put takeouts back in a hot oven for a couple of minutes when I get home which helps a lot.

                                1. re: splatgirl

                                  Ask them not to cut it. Makes cooking it a bit more much easier.

                                  1. re: ssioff

                                    You can also ask them to par-bake for take-out, to be finished at home.

                                    1. re: ssioff

                                      How does asking them not to cut it make it easier to cut it? Doesn't the cutting come after the cooking? Or am I missing something?

                                      I often ask them not to cut it, and I don't think it comes any different than when it's cut - other than it being uncut. Some days I just like to tear pieces rather than having pre-cut pieces. But does it make a difference on how it's assembled or baked? Interersting if it does.

                                    2. re: splatgirl

                                      That's my issue. It doesn't hold up when you cut it and try to eat it. The bottom is limp and the toppings slide right off. The flavor is still there (can tell they use better ingredients) but I have to fold the end over the top and eat it more like a taco.

                                      Not a huge deal, but it does keep me from going here more often then I do.

                                  2. Adding on here ... which of the Punch locations is the best? I went to the one on E Hennipin and was disappointed (a little too limp, and I like Neapolitan-style pizza a lot, and don't mind limpiness). Would the Grand Avenue or Highland Park branch offer better quality control?

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: prasantrin

                                      I find the pizza to be very similar in any location. If you like one, you will like them, all. If not... You can mention you like a dryer than normal pizza and they can maybe get it more to your liking.

                                      I am very impressed with Punch's consistent quality. I have eaten at several of their locations numerous times since they opened and can't recall it once being below par.

                                      1. re: prasantrin

                                        I like the Highland Park one the best for both quality and service. Plus, the menu's bigger.

                                        1. re: prasantrin

                                          Thanks! I'll try asking for well-done to get it a little less soggy. And I do love those black blisters, too!

                                          And I'll see if we can get to the Highland Park one. I'm hoping to meet a friend who lives in St. Paul, so maybe that one will be convenient for her.

                                        2. I had some the other night at my friends' place and they reheated it in the oven until the crust was crisp. Very nice.