Sunday, September 30, 2012

Tommy's Pizza (Columbus, Ohio) clone

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The most useful pizzamaking lesson you'll ever learn.

[This is a good post, but I made a lot of breakthroughs during the summer of 2013. There is a very important update at the end of this post. The update contains a major formula change, which is light years better than the formula I used prior to 8/3/13. But I've shared even more recent breakthroughs in a very thorough, step-by-step list of instructions at Reply #332 of the Tommy's thread on (This link is supposed to take you straight to Reply #332, but it doesn't, so you'll probably need to scroll down quite a bit.)]

This style of pizza has kind of become my specialty because a couple years ago someone on started a thread asking if anyone knew how to make a Tommy's clone. At the time, I had no clue how to clone Tommy's, but I gave it a try anyway. My first attempts were not even close, but I kept trying, using my failures as a learning tool. Two years later, I probably know more about how to make a vintage Tommy's-style pizza than anyone, possibly including the owners of Tommy's.

This post will teach you everything you need to know about how to make a near-perfect clone of the pizza Tommy's produced 20 years ago. (Nowadays Tommy's just isn't the same as it was back then. If you go to Tommy's today, it won't look like the pizzas in my pictures, nor will it be nearly as good as the pizzas in my pictures.)

Whole Tommy's-style pepperoni pizza made at home. (This one didn't actually turn out
quite like a Tommy's pizza, but it was my most photogenic whole pie, so I used it here.)

Side view of a slice, showing separation between the laminates.

After about a hundred attempts at cloning this pizza (if not more), I've finally settled pretty confidently on this dough formula:

100% KAAP flour
56% Water
1% ADY
2% Salt

To make two 11" pizzas (or one 15" pizza), here's an appropriate dough recipe:

18.78 oz KAAP flour
10.52 oz Water
2.35 tsp ADY
2.73 tsp Salt

Special equipment you'll need for this pizza:

All right. So let's make one of these pizzas. The following directions are specifically to make one 11" pizza (although the recipe makes enough dough for two 11" pizzas or one 15" pizza).

Here's how to make the dough:
  1. Measure the appropriate quantity of yeast (2.35 tsp) and put it in your mixer bowl.
  2. Measure the appropriate quantity of 110-degree water (10.52 oz) and pour about 2 oz of it into the mixer bowl.
  3. Stir the yeast water to make sure there are not clusters (or clumps) of yeast.
  4. Measure the appropriate quantity of flour (18.78 oz) and set aside.
  5. Measure the appropriate quantity of salt (2.73 tsp) and add it to the flour.
  6. Use a wire whip or spoon to incorporate salt into the flour.
  7. Check the yeast water. If it is foamy, it means the yeast is alive and hydrated, so move on to the next step. If the yeast water is not foamy, wait 5 minutes and check again. After 5 minutes, go ahead and move on to the next step, even if the yeast water is not foamy. (The yeast is probably fine, but be aware that this may mean your yeast is dead. So if your pizza ends up showing no sign of fermentation, buy some new yeast and try again.)
  8. Add the rest of the water to the mixer bowl.
  9. Add the flour/salt mixture to the mixer bowl.
  10. Place the mixer bowl in its place on the mixer and attach the dough hook.
  11. Mix the dough for about 3 minutes, or until it looks about like the dough in the picture below.

  12. This is how the dough should look when it's finished mixing.

  13. If you've used the amount of ingredients called for in my recipe above, divide the dough into four 7.5-ounce pieces of dough.
  14. If you only intend to make one pizza, put two of the dough pieces in a ziploc bag and refrigerate. If you intend to make two pizzas, skip this step. (IMPORTANT: Each pizza you make will use two pieces of dough.)
  15. Place the pieces of dough that you'll be using on a pan that's comfortably bigger than the space occupied by the pieces of dough, with a couple inches between each dough piece, then cover the dough with a large plastic bowl (inverted).
  16. Let the dough rise at room temperature for about 4 hours.

Once the dough is ready to use, follow these instructions.
  1. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees, with a baking stone on the bottom rack.
  2. After the oven has preheated for about half an hour, place the pieces of dough on your work surface.

  3. Two pieces of dough waiting to become a dough skin.

  4. Use your fists to flatten the two pieces of dough as much as you can.

  5. After smashing the pieces of dough (with my fists) until the dough is flat.

  6. Coat each piece of dough with bench flour and set one of the dough pieces aside.
  7. Roll one piece of dough into roughly a square shape. If the dough sticks to the counter while you roll it, add just enough bench flour to keep it from sticking.
  8. As the dough reaches dimensions of about 10" x 10" (if you are making an 11" pizza), stop adding bench flour and allow the dough to stick to the counter a little as you roll it. (If you keep flouring the dough after this point, you'll never be able to roll it as thin as you need to.)
  9. Once the dough has reached dimensions of at least 14" x 14", dust the top of the dough with bench flour (as pictured below). It's OK to use a little more flour than I used in the pic.

  10. Roll the dough until it's almost as thin as possible, then add bench flour.

  11. Fold the dough in half and dust the top with bench flour.

  12. Fold the dough in half, then add bench flour.

  13. Fold in half the other way, making the dough relatively square, with four layers of dough.

  14. Fold the dough in half the other way. There should now be four layers of dough.

  15. Set this piece of dough aside and grab the other piece of dough.
  16. Repeat Steps 5-9 with the second piece of dough.
  17. When you're finished with all these steps, you should have two flat pieces of dough, each with four laminates.

  18. Both pieces of dough after rolling and folding.

Now catch your breath for a minute and resume the rest of the dough-rolling process.
  1. Stack one piece of dough on top of the other.

  2. One piece of dough on top of the other, before rolling into a dough skin.

  3. Use your fists to press the two pieces of dough together.
  4. Using bench flour when necessary, roll the dough until it is just a hair bigger than your pan.
  5. When the dough is slightly larger than the pan, set the pan atop the dough and use a pizza wheel to cut off the excess dough.

  6. Using a pan as a template to cut the dough to the right skin size.

    Showing how I use a pan as a template to cut the dough skin.

  7. Weigh the dough. (At this point the dough will still be a couple ounces heavier than you ultimately want it. That is, it will probably weigh about 13 oz.)
  8. Roll the dough some more, until it is about an inch bigger than the pan.
  9. Trim and weigh the dough again. Continue this process until the dough is the weight you want. (Put the dough scraps in a bag and immediately into the fridge. If you intend to make another batch of this dough within the next few days, you can add small pieces of this dough to the next batch as it mixes. If you don't plan to make any more Tommy's dough, you can make a pizza out of the scraps at any time over the next few days.)

  10. Dough skin on scale, showing that the skin weighs about 11 oz.

  11. Once you have trimmed your dough to the target weight of 11-11.5 oz, roll the dough just a little bigger than the pan you'll be using (because dough always snaps back to a smaller diameter after you roll it).
  12. If you are satisfied that your dough skin is as big as it needs to be, go ahead and spray the pan with nonstick spray, then place your dough skin on the pan. Note: This dough should not be docked.
  13. Adjust the dough skin with your hands to make it fit the pan.
  14. [Optional] If you don't want to bake the pizza until later in the day, it is OK to refrigerate the skin for up to at least 10 hours. When I do this, I put the skin on the sprayed pan and apply the sauce, to keep the dough from drying out while it sits in the fridge for hours. (Also, when I'm almost ready to bake, I remove the skin from the fridge 15 or 30 minutes before I intend to begin baking.) If you leave the dough skin at room temperature for very long (without refrigerating), the skin will continue to ferment (rise), and the pizza will end up bready, without any layers. If you refrigerate the skin for a couple hours (or longer), the bottom of the crust will likely blister while the pizza bakes.

Now let's top the pizza and bake.
  1. Top the skin with about 5 oz of sauce. Distribute the sauce all the way to the edge of the skin. (I normally would not use anywhere near this much sauce, but I can't taste this particular tomato product unless I use that much. I'll give you a sauce recipe below, and I'll also explain why I use this tomato product.)

  2. Skin with sauce, showing that I use a lot of sauce on this one.

  3. Add about 6.5 oz of provolone or mozzarella cheese. (I'm pretty sure Tommy's uses provolone, but mozzarella works just fine.) Make sure to apply the cheese all the way to the edge of the skin.
  4. Add whatever toppings you want above the cheese.

  5. Dough skin topped with sauce, cheese, chicken, bacon, and jalapenos.

  6. Sprinkle parmesan or romano cheese over the top of the pizza.
  7. Open your oven door and set the pan on the baking stone (on the bottom rack).
  8. Bake.
  9. After about 7 or 8 minutes, start watching the pizza carefully through the oven window because the crust will probably begin to bubble at about this point. Once you start seeing bubbles, quickly use a grill fork to pop the bubbles. Close the oven door as soon as possible.
  10. Once the pizza has been baking for about 10 minutes, use a pot holder or pan grabber to pull the pan out from under the pizza. (If you did not thoroughly preheat your stone, the pizza may not be ready to leave the pan for another few minutes. If the pizza does not easily come off the pan, don't force it. Instead, give it a couple more minutes on the pan before pulling the pan and moving on to the next step.)
  11. Let the pizza finish directly on the stone for another minute or two.
  12. After this time is up, use a metal peel (or cookie sheet) to retrieve the pizza from the oven.

  13. Overhead view of a chicken, bacon, and jalapeno pizza.

  14. Set the pizza on a screen or cooling rack for a minute before cutting.
  15. Cut the pizza. (For an 11" pizza, cut it into rectangles, using four cuts one way and two perpendicular cuts, as pictured.)

  16. Overhead view of a cut pizza. 4 cuts by 2 cuts.

  17. Eat.

And here are some more good pictures of Tommy's style pizzas I've made. Scroll below these pictures to find out how to make sauce for this pizza.

Profile of a pizza just after baking.

Side view of a Tommy's Pizza clone slice with a couple bites out of it,
showing separation between the laminates.

Side view of a slice, showing separation.

This is how I remember the bottom of Tommy's Pizza crust when I was a kid.
If you go to Tommy's today, it won't look like this.

Bottom of a Tommy's Pizza clone slice.

This is my favorite Tommy's Pizza clone pic because I think it shows how crispy
and flaky the bottom of the crust is when you do it right.

This is the one picture that shows I made a pretty damn good clone of Tommy's
Pizza: Lotsa little flakes from the bottom of the crust.

Now for the sauce recipe (which I haven't quite perfected yet):

1 28 oz can of Dei Fratelli crushed tomatoes
1/2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt

Dei Fratelli crushed tomatoes.

I want to make it clear that I don't particularly like Dei Fratelli crushed tomatoes. The only reason I use them is because I think they may be essentially the same product as the crushed tomatoes Tommy's uses for their sauce. Last time I ate at Tommy's, I did a little investigating in their dumpster. In their dumpster I found a box for Star Cross crushed tomatoes (see below). After I mentioned the details of the box on the Tommy's thread at, someone responded by saying Dei Fratelli may be the same product, since both products are packed by the Hirzel Canning Company of Toledo, Ohio.

Having gone through a few cans of Dei Fratelli crushed tomatoes, I feel pretty confident that they are very similar to the Star Cross crushed tomatoes (if they're not the same thing). Like I said, I don't think this tomato product is very good. But it's probably the right thing to use if you really want to clone Tommy's.

Star Cross crushed tomato box 1.

And here's something else I found in the dumpster, which I think is a very important part of cloning Tommy's. Usually it's very difficult to get pepperoni like this without buying an entire case (25 lbs), but PennMac breaks up cases of Ezzo pepperoni and repackages it in 1 lb bags. I'm not sure if the Ezzo pepperoni available from PennMac is GiAntonio or if it's some other Ezzo variety.

I did some dumpster diving at Tommy's and found that they use
Ezzo GiAntonio 38 mm pepperoni.

Tommy's menu indicates that their pizzas are available in sizes of 11", 13", and 15". However, if you order a 15" pizza at Tommy's, the pizza they bring you is only 14". And if you get a small box for your leftovers, the box is 10", not 11". This incorrect menu information is not an accident. It's not because Tommy's recently changed the sizes of their pizzas but haven't had a chance to update the menu. It's not because the pizzas shrink an inch while baking (because the pizzas don't shrink). Although I think their pizzas used to be 11", 13", and 15" once upon a time, their current menu's misrepresentation of sizes is clearly a deliberate attempt by Tommy's ownership to mislead their customers, and I have a big problem with that. You should too.

So next time you think about buying pizza from Tommy's, I invite you to instead try to make it yourself by following my instructions. (Joseppi's and Cappy's also lie about the size of their pizzas, so maybe I'll make an effort to figure out how to clone their pizzas soon, too.)

Update (10/1/12): Just after I finished writing this post, I saw that there was a relatively new post on the Tommy's thread at The new contributor, fatzo, speculated that there may be red wine in Tommy's sauce, and I feel like he(?) just may be right about that, even though I had never thought about anything like that before. Something to think about. (If you read that post, go ahead and read the post right before it, too, also from fatzo.)

Update (10/2/12): This just occurred to me. I think I need to use a bleached all-purpose flour, rather than KAAP, which is unbleached.

I was just looking at some pics of an actual Tommy's pizza, and I realized how much whiter their pizza is than my clone. I was already aware of this, I guess, but apparently I needed to see the pictures again for it to register. So whenever I make another Tommy's clone, I will use a bleached all-purpose flour.

Update (8/5/13): I made some Tommy's style pizzas Saturday for the first time in a long time, for a pizza party. My dough formula was supposed to be kind of a Tommy's/Shakey's hybrid, but I ended up making three nearly-perfect Tommy's clones. Here's the formula I used:

100% Pillsbury AP flour
41.56% Water
1.96% ADY
1.5% Salt
2% Shortening
1.06% Sugar

To make 30 oz of dough, use:

20.26 oz Pillsbury AP flour
8.42 oz Water
3.97 tsp ADY
1.77 tsp Salt
0.41 oz Shortening
1.76 tsp Sugar

I made the dough about 24 hours in advance. Mix time was about 7 minutes (with spiral dough hook). Bulk fermented at room temperature for about 2-1/2 hours. Punched down and refrigerated for about 16 hours. Punched down again after I removed the dough from the fridge, then scaled dough, and allowed to warm at room temperature for an hour or two, then rolled, trimmed, DOCKED, and immediately put the covered dough skins in the refrigerator. Removed each skin 15-30 minutes before baking. Baked each pizza directly on stone at 500 for about 8 minutes. (That is, I didn't use a pan.)

The only thing I can think of that I did differently from the steps in the main part of this post is that I added no bench flour to the dough before folding. Oh yeah, and I docked the dough after the final trim, then baked directly on stone (instead of a pan). I also used Ezzo GiAntonio pepperoni on these pizzas, atop Grande whole milk mozzarella. Changes I plan to make with the next batch: ADY probably needs to drop a little, to about 1.5%; shortening should be increased from 2% to 3%; very small hydration increase.


  1. When it comes to Mason Ohio restaurants, Aponte’s is by far one of the BEST in “Traditional Italian Food”.
    Apont's is best for its traditional Pizza

  2. I've been eating Tommy's pizza for close to 50 years since I was a toddler. It's definitely my favorite. I do like it better than Iacono's. I grew up eating at the one on Lane in UA (not campus) but I do think in recent years the one on 161 seems to be better than Lane. I appreciate your efforts and will definitely try this recipe. Someone I met once who said she "knew" someone who had worked there said they used butter in their crust which is why it was so flaky? She was kind of flaky though I have no idea if she knew what she was talking about. I would think it would have to be cold butter in cubes like they do for biscuits or croissants. Just noticed now a recent post on the referenced thread that someone thought they used barley malt which is interesting. Anyways, thanks again for the info and any new updates will be welcome. Tommy's is our families "special occasion" place so I love this.

    1. There are a couple updates/changes I've wanted to make to this post for a while, but I haven't done it because even though I'm very confident the changes are the right thing to do, I don't want to advise doing things I haven't already tried successfully. One of the changes is to include oil in the dough. Maybe 3% or 4% oil, to make the crust more tender (or less tough). Additionally, I would decrease the hydration quite a bit and not use bench flour between the dough laminates. I would also use Pillsbury bleached AP flour, rather than King Arthur flour.

      I'm skeptical of using pastry methods. That subject came up in the Tommy's thread over at It's just not practical to me. I assume it would take a prohibitive amount of labor, and this type of dough is way too stiff for that method to work. In the end I think it would make a big mess. (That's merely my opinion, though, as I haven't tried it.)

      The pizza I've tried to create in this post is based on the Upper Arlington Tommy's. I don't know if I wrote this in the post, but there is a huge difference between UA Tommy's and OSU Tommy's (which I didn't realize until after I published this post). OSU Tommy's is much thinner and crispier than UA Tommy's. Also, OSU Tommy's still bakes in deck ovens (rather than conveyor ovens), and I think OSU Tommy's still bakes directly on stone, rather than on pans. There are several other differences, too, which I can't remember clearly because it's been several months. The two stores may have the same name, but they don't sell the same pizza. I've never been to either of the other two stores (or Iacono's).

      I accidentally learned a ton about Tommy's crust by trying to clone Shakey's. The Shakey's post is very incomplete, but after publishing that post I spent at least a few weeks working on making a good Shakey's clone. The Shakey's clone was pretty awesome, I must admit, even before I made any changes to it. I have a lot of notes about my Shakey's experiment, too, so maybe I'll publish an updated Shakey's post someday.

    2. Hi Ryan, I wanted to thank you again for posting this recipe. I finally got around to making this crust on July 4th. My wife and I both loved it. I used your original formula without your suggestions above because this was only my third pizza from scratch and I wanted to keep it simple. It was crispy and delicious. I did notice the chewiness you allude to above but we both actually liked the contrast of that along with the crispiness. I do not have a perforated coupe-style pan so I just cooked directly on my stone which is a glaze stone I recently got from Chefs. I thought it did a good job. Had a nice color and blister. What is the advantage of cooking in the pan first? Is it to increase the cooking time? Do you have one that you recommend (your link did not work for me)? Even though we liked the chewiness I do plan on trying your suggestions above fro a more tender crust. For the water, would you cut back the amount of oil used? So use 4% oil but cut back the water to 52%? or would you cut back the water more? I appreciate your guidance on this. The fact that a novice like myself could make a pretty damn good thin crust pizza is a testament to your good instructions. I look forward to trying some of your other recipes! Thanks again! AlmightyJB

    3. [Apparently my message is too long for one comment, so I'm gonna have to split it into two comments.]

      Interesting that you commented again Saturday night, because I ended up reading your comment Sunday morning, a few hours before throwing a pizza party in which I made 8 NY style pizzas and 2 deep dish pizzas, mostly to try some flours I was sent by a restaurant owner who lives a long way from here. This was the first time I've made pizza since January. If you had only commented a day or two earlier, I would have invited you. I'm probably gonna do it a few more times this summer, so if you care to attend, please email me (at the email address that's displayed on my Blogger profile). I mean, the fact that you even bothered trying to follow my Tommy's instructions tells me you're pretty serious, thus worthy of an invitation, because making this pizza is a heavy duty workout, and I know my instructions are confusing as hell.

      You can get perforated coupe pans at Restaurant Equippers (on the south side of West Broad, just east of 315), or almost certainly Wasserstrom on Silver Dr., which I think is just north of Crew Stadium, on the road that's like a frontage road beside I-71. You'd probably be better off going to Restaurant Equippers. I think Restaurant Equippers only carries one type of perforated pan, and it’s easy to find within the store. It’s available in all sizes, too. These pans look just like the pans shown in a couple of my pics above, except they're a light gray aluminum color in the store (because they're not seasoned).

      Hmmm. I just looked around for a more up-to-date link for that specific product, but I can’t find anything…

      Man, I've been looking for pan examples on the Restaurant Equippers web site, the Wasserstrom web site, and the American Metalcraft web site, and I cannot find any results for the pan model I'm trying to show you… OK, here’s a link to what I think is the exact pan used at the Tommy’s UA store. The only difference between this pan and the pans I use is that this one is already dark and does not need to be seasoned. (Also, the one on the linked page is 9”.)

      The only reason I really ever used pans for Tommy’s style is because I knew they use pans at the UA store, which is the only store I'd been to since years before I ever thought about trying to clone Tommy's (until I finally ate at the OSU store last fall, after I'd written all this). I've never been to either the 161 store or the eastside store. In the case of the UA Tommy's store, I think the most obvious advantages of baking on a pan are that: 1) Inserting a pan into an oven is much easier than peeling pizzas into an oven; and 2) You pretty much have to use pans when you bake in a conveyor oven. Another reason to consider baking this kind of pizza in a pan is because the shape of the pan helps keep the cheese and toppings from oozing off the edges of the pizza while it bakes, which is very likely to happen with a pizza that has been peeled onto a flat baking surface. However, if I was selling a pizza like this, I'd find a way to get around that problem without using a pan.

    4. Any time I change the oil content of a dough formula, I also change the hydration inversely by the same percentage. I don’t think this is proper baking protocol, but it makes sense to me, and it is effective. I’m pretty sure the example you used is a perfect interpretation of what I think you should do. (I don’t want to say with absolute certainty that you interpreted everything right because I may have misread something, but I’m just about positive you’re on the right track.)

      I’d like to make this style of pizza again, but with a dough formula more like this:

      100% Pillsbury AP flour
      40% Water
      2% ADY
      2% Salt
      4% Shortening (or oil)
      1% Sugar

      A recipe for 35 oz (or 992 grams) of this dough:

      23.49 oz Pillsbury AP flour (or 666 g)
      9.4 oz Water (or 266 g)
      4.7 tsp ADY (or 13 g, or 0.47 oz)
      2.73 tsp Salt (or 13 g, or 0.47 oz)
      0.94 oz Shortening (or 27 g)
      1.93 tsp Sugar (or 7 g)

      This should be enough for two 13” pizzas (and a lot of scrap dough, which can be reused). For a 13” pizza, you’d want to start out with two 8.47 oz pieces of dough (or two 240 g pieces of dough), and end up with a 12.34 oz skin (or 350 g). My spreadsheet also says to use 4.65 oz of sauce and 6.45 oz of cheese, but I’m not sure if that is accurate (because it’s based on Shakey’s).

      This could be either a same-day dough or a next-day dough (or possibly a 48-hour dough), which I’d say could be used 4-14 hours after mixing if left at room temperature. It’s kind of a Shakey’s/Tommy’s hybrid, which might just turn out like a near-perfect Tommy’s clone. As you may already have noticed, the differences in this formula (from my standard Tommy’s formula) are: 1) Different flour; 2) Considerably lower hydration; 3) Double the yeast; 4) It contains quite a bit of both shortening and sugar, neither of which are included in my official Tommy’s dough.

      I wouldn’t add any bench flour to this dough while rolling it and folding it. This is a very stiff dough, so more flour is just not necessary. Due to the dryness of the dough, the layers and laminates will still show up in the baked pizza, even if you don’t use bench flour. From what I remember, this dough may actually be easier to roll than my official Tommy’s dough, too, even though it’s much stiffer, mainly due to the lack of bench flour.

      One thing I learned while messing around with Shakey’s style last year is that stiff doughs need a lot more yeast than softer doughs. If a stiff dough doesn’t have a ton of yeast, it just won’t rise, nor will it have much flavor. (Not that you want this dough to rise a whole bunch, but you do want it to rise.)

      I’m very curious about the barley malt you mentioned in your first comment. I think I saw that post, too, a long time after you mentioned it. I don’t even know what barley malt is, but I think that person’s post could be a good lead.

      Anyway, I’d really like for you to try this formula. Hope this hasn’t been too confusing. And thanks for the kind words.

  3. Thank you, thank you, for your continued work. As a fellow pizza fan, who married a Buckeye from Columbus, I've been trying to duplicated Tommy's for ages. Come really close with your original post, but now I'm super anxious to try the updates!!

  4. I worked at Tommys for years..Theres no salt or sugar in the dough. Its bakers syrup - dark. And there are only 5 ingredients in the sauce - three of which are spices. Its actually so simple and clean, everybody over thinks whats in it.

    I used to make and roll dough every morning there..

    1. I don't know if you'll ever see this, Anonymous, but thanks. I haven't done any Tommy's style in a while, but whenever I do it again I'll try it using your tips. I've already acquired some malt syrup, specifically for this style of pizza, but I haven't used it yet. I think I was already planning to substitute it for sugar (rather than using both ingredients). It'll be interesting to see how my dough turns out without salt, but I'll definitely try it.

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