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There was a time, and it wasn't so very long ago, when pizza chefs adhered to a rather conservative list of toppings. Italian meats, tomato sauce, mozzarella, mushrooms, and the like.
But those standards have changed. These days, especially with a horde of millennials running around looking for new yet sustainable food sensations, it's not unusual to find toppings like apples, asparagus, and even tzatziki.
And with all those new ingredients has come an increasingly creative pizza naming methodology. So when we heard about Bad Tattoo Brewing's new crocodile pizza, we wondered what esoteric combination of toppings would have elicited such a reptilian image and name.
We never guessed the primary topping would indeed be real crocodile.
But it is. And it's wonderful.
Bad Tattoo head chef Donnie Carlson explained that the concept of a crocodile pizza made with real crocodile meat began as "a joke."
"We always try to do crazy different things here. And this was one of those ideas that the more we looked at it, the more viable it became."
"We were originally trying to find snake, oddly enough. Marley (Bad Tattoo general manager Marley Gravely) said we should try to put together a snake pizza for Carl Meadows and his group with the Snakebite Film Festival (in February). And then we found out that snake just isn't available anymore."
But, says, Carlson, the general idea remained with them. "And we were trying to think, well, if we can't get that, what other weird thing can we get. And that's when we came upon this product."
Carlson and team spent some time researching crocodile meat, discovering, he says, that it's low in fat, cholesterol-free, and high in protein. And, it's a farmed product.
"It's from an industry that's driven by the hide, where they're being used to make bags and leather. So if anything, the meat is a by-product."
Carlson says Bad Tattoo's crocodile pizza is "very simple. We wanted to keep it approachable."
"We're kind of playing with the reality that crocodile tastes like chicken. So we're very inspired by a barbecue chicken pizza, with our spin on it."
The dish features spicy in-house barbecue sauce, a house blend of mozzarella and provolone, and a thinly sliced crocodile filet. It's topped with cilantro, crispy onion instead of red onion, and a drizzle of peppery poblano ranch dressing.
And it's downright addictive. Taste is a subjective thing of course, but to this journalist, crocodile comes across like a moderately chewier chicken breast. Any initial crocodilian hesitation evaporated instantly with the very first bite. It was that engaging, that yummy.
Didn't hurt that the other ingredients melded so well with it. The pizza was spicy but not overtly so, the mozza/provolone combo made for a wonderful base, and the addition of cilantro was perfection. Add to that Bad Tattoo's thin, hand-tossed crust and you have one heck of a good pizza.
"We treat crocodile the same way we treat a high quality fish," says Carlson. "We have to use it the day we prep it, and it has to go on the pizza raw because it can overcook and get tough very easily.
"So it lends itself very well to our style of cooking. Our pizzas cook so quick, at such high heat, that it cooks fully without being in there enough to dry it out. So you still get that really tender bite."
"It's very tender. It's somewhere between the texture of chicken and a very dense white fish."
Carlson says he realizes that crocodile pizza tends to fly against Bad Tattoo norms. "This one is unusual. We're very vegan friendly here, and we usually try to keep everything local. But this obviously isn't local, and it's obviously not vegan."
Bad Tattoo Brewing's new crocodile pizza is available now. It's the headliner of the facility's new summer menu, and as such will be available throughout the spring and summer.
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