Sausage and pizza go together like macaroni and cheese.

Now, two ostensible pizza competitors, Ian’s Pizza and Salvatore’s Tomato Pies, have teamed up to make the sausage for their pizza even better — by making their own.

The collaboration came about in part because Patrick DePula, the owner of Salvatore’s pizza restaurants in Sun Prairie and on East Johnson Street in Madison, wanted to carry his locavore ethos into the meat.

“Many local pizza restaurants use essentially the same sausage, commodity pork sourced from around the country,” DePula said. “We wanted to do something different with local pork and without preservative chemicals like BHT and propolyne glycol.”

At Ian’s, which is currently planning a sixth location in Seattle, owner Ian Gurfield was faced with the closing of Black Earth Meats with a month of inventory left.

He took the problem to the cooks in the pizzeria’s prep kitchen, and the idea of making their own “had a lot of appeal” with the staff.

The project started last winter with pork sourcing and recipe testing for an Italian-style sausage. The final mix includes fennel, garlic, chili flakes, rosemary, nutmeg, salt and pepper.

The meat is kurobota pork from Black Berkshire pigs, raised on the Uphoff Ham and Bacon Farm in the town of Dunn. It’s processed at Neesvig’s in Windsor and made into sausage in Ian’s prep kitchen.

“It’s a traditional Italian sausage, close to what I grew up with in New Jersey,” DePula said. “It’s got a good fennel infused flavor with a little bit of heat, so it’s finally spicy enough. It’s the recipe I like the best.”

The sausage Salvatore’s had been using came from Fraboni’s, a venerable Madison deli. Bennett Fraboni, a manager and sausage maker at Fraboni’s, worked at Sal’s East Johnson location briefly.

When DePula decided he wanted to use heritage pork and wanted it to be local, Fraboni understood.

“We’re not able to use local farms because they wouldn’t be able to provide us with the quantity we need,” Fraboni said. “There’s no way most farmers would be able to keep up with that.”

Despite the difference in size between Sal’s relatively small restaurants and Ian’s larger clientele, the amount of sausage they use is about the same. They split approximately 400 lbs. of sausage evenly each week.

Ian’s features the sausage on pizzas like Sausage Penne Alfredo and Chipotle Sweet Potato.

“Sausage is not our main protein,” Gurfield said. “So many of our pies are made with chicken or brisket, and obviously mac and cheese is our number one seller.

“We don’t go through as much sausage as other places do.”

At Salvatore’s Madison location, there are frequently sausage specials and it’s available as a build-your-own topping. DePula likes the basic tomato pie ($12-15) with sausage.

In Sun Prairie, it’s featured on the Terrence’s Favorite with caramelized onions, goat cheese and roasted red peppers, as well as the Fat Uncle Tony alongside pepperoni and bacon.

This kind of collaboration between apparent competitors is becoming more common, in part because of groups like the Madison Area Chefs Network (MACN). Restaurants are combining resources to get better fish, for example, and holding pop-ups in each other’s spaces.

“There’s been more collaboration in the last year between chefs than I’ve seen in the last 14,” said Gurfield. “It’s great even for guys like me, who aren’t in MACN.”

DePula dismisses the idea that his and Gurfield’s pizza shops are in direct competition.

“We both do pizza, but we have separate markets,” DePula said. “While Ian concentrates on pizza by the slice downtown and on campus, we’re more of a sit-down restaurant.

“It was really nice to work together on this and develop a product together that’s good ... with the size of both of our organizations to make it economical.”

Gurfield agreed.

“I mean, sure, anyone who wants pizza is going to have a bunch of options, including us and them.

“But we’ve got our niche, and he has his. I’m a big fan of Patrick and what he does, so I don’t feel like ‘Ah, we’ve got to do better than them.’”

The project started last winter with pork sourcing and recipe testing for an Italian-style sausage. The final mix includes fennel, garlic, chili flakes, rosemary, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
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Since 2008, food editor Lindsay Christians has been writing about fine arts and food for The Capital Times. She loves eating at the bar, going to the theater, sparkling wine and good stories. She lives in Madison with two cats and too many cookbooks.