|Phyllis Weber and her homemade pizza. (Photo: Aaron Carpenter/Sentinel-Tribune)
WOODVILLE - Phyllis Weber is the local go-to girl when it comes to amazing pizza crust.
"I'm kind of famous over in Woodville for the pizza," she admitted.
The original recipe is over half a century old, and carefully preserved.
"An Italian neighbor gave this recipe to my mother about 60 years ago, and we have added and deleted topping and sauces to make our favorite pizza. When my children were younger, we had no pizza place in our small town, so I made it every Friday night for many years."
A 1959 high school graduate from the Cleveland suburb of Brooklyn, she still remembers "the very first time I had pizza at a pizza parlor was in high school. People loved it; it was a very busy place."
But Woodville is not Cleveland. There "I still had to make my own pizza. Until the 1970s, there wasn't a pizza place in Woodville."
Weber is one of six children, all of whom kept making the pizza within their own families. And now their own children carry on the tradition.
Weber remembers the Italian family from Booklyn well; they went on to open a pizza parlor.
"Rose Sclementi was the mother's name. Her children were Manny, Rosie and Tony.
"They used to make it more like a pie, with a very thick crust. But my mother was probably trying to stretch it to feed six kids!" so she rolled the crust out a little thinner.
There are two secrets to the pizza's wild popularity, Weber believes.
"The secret is the kneading" of the dough and it's vital not to shortchange this step. "I usually do it at least 10 minutes."
Also a key to the supreme flavor is this exact mixture of crust ingredients. "I think the sugar has something to do with it."
As for the toppings, Weber can't do without pepperoni and green pepper, although her own mom, now 89, always favored Italian sausage. For the sauce, she uses either Contadina Pizza Sauce or, more recently, the locally produced Dei Fratelli Pizza Sauce.
"My children now make it for their families," Weber said of her three offspring, one of whom is Wendy Stram, executive director of Bowling Green Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The pizza is such an important part of their family's history that it has been served for holidays and weddings.
"When my son got married he was only 19 and I had an in-home rehearsal dinner for them, since they were young. I made 10 big pizzas on cookie sheets."
Then there was the year she decided to serve pizza for the family's Easter dinner. "I made it up the day before. They were happy," she said of her family who didn't think to complain about no ham and mashed potatoes.
"I've never found a crust to compare with mine in a pizza parlor" adds Weber, who worked in one for a while herself.
She moved to northwest Ohio to attend Bowling Green State University, but quit after a year to marry and move to Woodville.
For 17 years she worked as a travel agent, first at AAA in Bowling Green and later at Central Travel in the Woodville Mall in Northwood.
"I had a wonderful time. They used to send you everywhere, so you could experience it" and better serve customers. He favorite destinations were the South Pacific and the Caribbean.
Another way many local residents know Weber and her husband is from the group "Ronnie D and the Greasers," a lip-synching and acting group of about 20 people who performed ‘50s and ‘60s hits all over northwest Ohio for more than a decade. The name was a take-off from the movie title “Eddie and the Cruisers.”
It started out as a command performance for Woodville’s annual Lime Fest, and later extended to performances at Toledo’s Savage Hall, the Sandusky County Fair, plus more than a few Christmas shows.
“We even had our groupies!”
A favorite number was the 1970s hit “The Streak” in which Weber and fellow Greasers “would turn their back to the audience and open a raincoat!”
The above-mentioned Lime Fest is also where Weber had her greatest culinary triumph, winning first prize for her Dutch apple pie 30 years ago.
But it’s still the pizza for which the locals offer her the most acclaim.
Weber’s glad to share her mother’s recipe and encourages those who try it to “make it your own” by being creative with ideas for topping.
Italy to Brooklyn (Ohio) homemade pizza dough
1/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup warm water
One packet dry yeast
2 TBL sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 TBL of oil
2 3/4 cups of flour (enough to make a stiff dough; add 1/4 cup flour to kneed, if needed)
Mix yeast and 1/4 cup water, mix and let stand for 5 minutes. Add rest of water, sugar, salt, and oil. Add flour a little at a time and mix well after each addition of flour. When dough is stiff, put out on a floured board, and knead until spongy (about 10 minutes - important). Put in a greased bowl and let rise until doubled. Lightly grease pan and put fingers in oil and spread dough in pan and add your favorite toppings. Bake at 450 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until brown.
I usually use Contadina Pizza sauce (I have been trying our local Dei Fratelli Pizza Sauce and it is very good), mozzarella cheese, oregano, pepperoni or Italian sausage for toppings. I also add green pepper and mushrooms.