‘Salad Pizza Wine’ Will Help You Win Friends and Influence People

Reading the new cookbook from Janice Tiefenbach, Stephanie Mercier Voyer, Ryan Gray, and Marley Sniatowsky, Salad Pizza Wine, reminds me of some of the best and most memorable dining experiences I’ve had in the past few years: Folk in Nashville, Young Joni in Minneapolis, Pizzeria Beddia in Philadelphia, Daisies and Giant in Chicago, and Louie in St. Louis. What ties these places together, for me, is that I feel like I’m hanging out with friends when I go there—the music rules, the service is amazing, and the ambiance kicks ass. That, and, of course, the fact that the Italian-inspired food and wine at these places absolutely rule—thus, the book’s simple but evocative name, which celebrates the centerpieces of these casual, memorable meals (and surely many of yours).


Salad Pizza Wine is a colorful, friendly book by friends, about friends, and for friends. A sort of mission statement and bible of beloved Montreal restaurant Elena, this volume completely embodies the feeling of being in a fun, Italian-inspired eatery where wine flows freely and wood-fired pizzas draft by you every minute or two. In the book’s intro, Voyer talks about how Elena (and forefather restaurant Nora Gray) was the result of a bunch of war-torn industry lifers trying to carve out the right vibes in a place of their own. “We had seen and done it all: late nights, drugs, alcohol, yelling and getting into fights. But now that we were older, we felt kind of burnt out,” she writes. “We were ready for a new chapter and we were hoping that new chapter could be Elena.” That definitely lands with me, an ex-cook who used to mainline 8% IPAs from the tap at 11 a.m. before the lunch rush, but who, now, cherishes a pizza night at home with friends more than just about anything. Voyer explains that the foundation of Elena and its food is a humanistic base: The staff is given a healthy work-life balance and subsidized healthcare, and are encouraged to spend their free time doing robust activities (like rock-climbing) rather than staying after work to drink.

$31.65 at Amazon

$31.65 at Amazon

So, do many of the recipes revolve around salad, pizza, and wine? Yes, but the food in this book is ceaselessly inventive and fun, always landing slightly differently than you’d expect. (“Naturally, opening a restaurant that made Neapolitan pizza using Quebec ingredients felt more authentically Italian than making dough with imported 00 flour and bottled water from Naples,” Voyer writes.)


In the salads and vegetables section, the team explains that one of the restaurant’s guiding philosophies comes from the Seinfeld episode “The Opposite,” where George begins to do the opposite of what his instincts are, and starts to find actual success in his life. “Our first baby step in that direction was to put food in our bodies that made us feel alive and vibrant, which is why we wanted the first chapter of our book to be packed with recipes that do just that,” the section’s intro explains. Within, there’s a gorgeous kale Caesar that uses a tahini base instead of mayonnaise and anchovies; it’s the “salad equivalent of getting catfished,” we’re told. The tomato tonnato is a must for fans of tonnato [raises hand], while the grilled peaches with pistachios, peppers, and stracciatella make the perfect summer app. The book’s roasted carrots with carrot marmalade is a unique take on a pretty common dish (spicy-sweet carrots with something creamy), relying on an interesting, somewhat meta sauce alongside roasted hazelnuts and spicy greens to elevate it. 

There are naturally leavened and yeasted Neapolitan pizza dough recipes; both are pretty straightforward. The pizzas themselves, however, are uniformly interesting, usually leaning a bit stranger and more creative than you’d get in a typical pizza cookbook. The Giardino features a ton of herbs and pickled shallots, but also pistachio pesto; the ‘za with mortadella and pistachio also showcases marinated artichokes. Having some kind of “Fun Guy” mushroom pie is probably the most overused bit in all of pizza, but here, a Taleggio fonduta that interpolates onion, bay leaf, clove, and nutmeg distinguishes it from the typical olive oil or mushroom conserva base you’d expect. A lardo-forward pizza finds balance against bitter radicchio and spicy honey. If you don’t come out of this section chomping at the bit to make your own spicy honey, pepperoncini, and stracciatella pie for the gang, you simply need to find better friends who are more down to ride for a pizza party (and, obviously, get a home pizza oven).


What we’ve covered so far doesn’t even constitute half of Salad Pizza Wine. Beyond the titular salad and pizza sections (and, of course, various meditations on wine), we get half a dozen fresh pasta recipes with a ton of fine dining party-level applications like strozzapreti alla gricia with artichokes, corn agnolotti, an absolutely gorgeous raviolo giardino (the photos of this one are worth the price of the book alone), farfalle with fava beans and morels, and many more. There’s timpano (“basically a very elaborate, medieval-looking lasagna”) theory, hoagie sandwiches, and the requisite meatballs. Desserts include mousse di bufala with rhubarb and wildflowers; pistachio cookies; polenta orange cake; and a Concord grape and fennel cake with amaro syrup. Yes, I said amaro syrup. 

TL;DR: Salad Pizza Wine is an innovative take on the dinners-with-friends dishes we all know and love (and some we don’t… yet), including, naturally, super cool ideas for salads, pizzas, and, well, wines. Don’t underestimate this cookbook, however; there’s also a ton of other stuff (amaro syrup! towering timpano!). More than that, though, this book is a treatise on living a good life, on making something real, fun, and tasty with your friends and sharing it with the world. I know that sounds corny, but, honestly, that’s what makes a great restaurant for me. The homies behind Elena have turned that ethos into one of the year’s most fun and colorful cookbooks.

Pick up Salad Pizza Wine on Amazon.

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