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Pie in the sky

It’s the best pizza money can’t buy!

Gravesend resident Dave Sheridan uses the wood-fired oven in his backyard to cook Neapolitan-style pies that neighbors say are the best in town. But Sheridan isn’t running a business; he just makes them for himself — and during invite-only pizza parties.

“I’d love to open my own pizzeria one day, but for now I just host weekend pizza parties,” Sheridan said. “About 10 people usually show up.”

But just because Sheridan’s pizza isn’t earning any dough, that doesn’t mean he takes it any less seriously than a pro pizzaiolo. The Gravesend Neck Road resident uses ingredients imported from Italy, such as juicy San Marzano tomatoes and Caputo flour, which has a protein content that gives dough a crisp exterior and soft interior.

Sheridan also uses fresh mozzarella — not the aged stuff found in the average pizza parlor — another reason some neighbors can’t get enough.

“Dave’s pizza is delicious,” said Christine Onorati, a regular at Sheridan’s parties. “He’s worked hard to perfect his technique.”

A self-described foodie, Sheridan was inspired last year to construct his own oven after hearing that Paulie Gianonne, the owner of Paulie Gee’s pizzeria in Greenpoint, got his start by making pizzas in his backyard.

“He had this amateur pizza operation that I knew I just had to try,” Sheridan said. “I wanted to make pizza like they do in Naples. I don’t know of any other places in the neighborhood that make pizza in that style.”

Sheridan had just lost his job with an Internet company, so he had plenty of time to study the pizzaiolo craft. He did some online research, scraped together $4,000 and invested about a year of his time to pursue his pizza passion by building the oven.

The wood-burning, brick-based oven is unlike most pizza ovens in the area, which are gas-fired and can’t get as hot. Sheridan’s reaches 800 degrees, a temperature that allows pies to achieve a charred, yet chewy crust in less than just two minutes.

Sheridan got his first lesson in pizza-making on the net, but he also got in touch with his inspiration, Gianonne, for tips.

“I basically stalked him and told him that I wanted to learn from him,” Sheridan said.

Gianonne taught him how to stretch dough for an airier crust, and also got Sheridan into experimenting with toppings. Gianonne serves a pie topped with arugula and prosciutto that inspired Sheridan to make a kale and chorizo mix, which gives the pie a peppery kick.

Another standout Sheridan pie is the mortadella with sliced Yukon gold potatoes, which he says is like a deli sandwich and a pizza in one.

“It’s out of this world,” said Onorati.

But his most original concoction may be the pie topped with bacon, cauliflower and a funky béchamel sauce made from Fontina cheese and rendered cauliflower.

“He’s got great pizza, and his dough has a taste that’s comparable with some of my favorite pizzerias in the city,” Gianonne said.

Right now, Sheridan has no plans to open his own pizzeria, but those who want to check out his skills can catch him manning the oven at Paulie Gee’s every couple of weeks, part of his voluntary pizza apprenticeship.

Or, you could just try to become his pal and, one can hope, get invited to his yard some day!

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