Pizza Pie: Basil’s 904 Serves up Pizza with Success

Portico October 2013Portico Jackson
October 2013

Jackson native and restaurateur Nathan Glenn pretty much earned his cooking credentials right here in the metro area.  In 1984, when Glenn was nine years old, his father Tim opened Rooster’s Restaurant, which is still home to one of Jackson’s best burgers 29 years later.  Glenn says he has been working in a kitchen ever since.

Fast forward almost three decades and Glenn is now the owner of five restaurants in the Jackson area.  In addition to Rooster’s in Fondren, Congress Street Bar and Grill serves up hamburgers, po boys, and Southern blue plate specials to the lunch crowd in downtown Jackson.  Glenn also opened his popular chain of Italian-inspired restaurants – Basil’s – which has locations in downtown Jackson, Fondren, and Belhaven.

It’s Basil’s Belhaven – now known as Basil’s 904 because of its location at 904 Fortification Street – that has been creating a lot of buzz lately.  After taking back over the restaurant earlier this year, Glenn wanted to revamp the location and make some changes to the menu.  That’s when Glenn’s brother-in-law Matthew Puckett recommended adding homemade pizza to the mix.

Glenn and Puckett go way back.  Long before they became in-laws, Puckett was a baker at Rooster’s for 10 years.  Puckett and his roommate built an outdoor brick oven in the backyard of their Memphis home and frequently enjoyed trying out new pizza recipes.  Turns out, Puckett just so happened to be working on a new recipe for the perfect pizza dough.

Recalls Puckett, “As soon as I saw the deck ovens in the kitchen, I told Nathan, ‘I know what we can do with those.’”

Puckett returned to Jackson and began tweaking his dough recipe for larger scale production.  As soon as the pizzas hit the market, Glenn and Puckett both agree they were an immediate hit.

“We almost weren’t prepared for how quickly they became a success,” says Puckett.  “News got around by word of mouth.  There were a lot of conversations going on about it and the pizzas took off really quickly.”

Adds Glenn, “Adding pizza to the menu really changed the shape of the entire restaurant.”

Glenn and Puckett credit several factors that make their pizzas stand out.  First, the crust is made using Antimo Caputo flour, produced by the Antico Molino Caputo company based in Naples, Italy.  The company sources high quality local ingredients and finely mills its wheat, earning it the reputation of producing some of the world’s highest quality flour.

“Pizza is really all about the crust,” Puckett explains.  “The flour we use creates smoother dough and allows it to become hydrated easier.”

The pizzas are also baked on stones at 600 degrees Fahrenheit.  Baking the pizza at this temperature not only cooks it in a mere six minutes, but it also steams the crust giving it a crunchy texture on the outside, but leaving it soft and chewy on the inside.  Glenn also keeps the pizzas simple, choosing fresh ingredients but not loading up the pizza with too many toppings.  The menu features your standard cheese and pepperoni options.  But there are also some regional favorites like the barbecue chicken pizza made with honey barbecue sauce, caramelized onions, and cilantro.

Finally, each pizza has a distinct oblong shape that is cut in a cross-cut pattern, creating long, thin slices.  Glenn says this ensures that every slice is the same, creating a more consistent bite.

“Pizza really speaks to everyone.  It is affordable and can feed a lot of people,” he adds.  “When we decided to add pizza to the menu, we didn’t just want to create a great pizza.  We wanted a pizza that would knock your socks off.  I think we hit a grand slam.”