An instant Alabama classic: Conecuh chili and sausage pizza

Leave it to a New Yorker to create one of the tastiest, most inspired chili cheese dishes we’ve ever put in our mouths.

Chili Pizza.

With Sausage Conecuh.

And bacon.

And the jalapenos.

That’s the genius of Giani Respinto, the chef and co-owner of Homewood’s Pizzeria GM hot spot.

Respinto started serving chili cheese pizza as a specialty in his restaurant about two years ago, he says, and it hasn’t left the menu since.

“People just loved it,” he says. “And what’s great is that we can do it consistently.

“It’s been on the menu, and there’s no reason to take it off as there’s nothing seasonal about it.”

Respinto makes its pimento cheese in-house, combining grated cheddar cheese with diced peppers, adding a little cayenne pepper, then binding it with cream cheese – not mayonnaise, like most traditional Southern recipes. ask.

“Obviously, you can’t put mayonnaise in the (pizza) oven,” he says. “It won’t work.”

Topping the pizza with Conecuh sausage and Conecuh bacon was “a given to me,” Respinto adds.

“I mean, you could put Conecuh bacon and Conecuh sausage on a shoe and people would eat it,” he says. “Add the jalapenos, and you have the chilli (cheese) pizza.

“As I said,” he adds, “we are fortunate to live in a condition that has probably the best commercial smokehouse in the country, in my opinion, which is Conecuh. I just think it’s a great combination. “

The gregarious Respinto – who grew up in the Bronx before the restoration brought him first to Florida and then to Alabama – likes to straighten out customers who try to tell her that a New Yorker can’t know the first thing about making chili cheese.

“It has always been a lot of fun for me and resulted in a lot of very interesting and fun conversations with southerners,” he says. “Because chili cheese was invented in New York.”

Of course, as Charleston, SC-based food writer Robert Moss detailed in this fascinating history of chili cheese which he wrote for Serious Eats, the roots of “Pate du Sud” go back to the early 1900s, when Good Housekeeping magazine recommended mixing cream cheese and canned chili peppers to create a creamy spreadable sandwich.

Eventually, the new spread made its way south, and as the recipe evolved over the following decades, southerners replaced cream cheese and then cheddar.

Respinto’s Chili Cheese Pizza combines the best of both cultures.

“We went back to the original base, which was cream cheese, and then we kind of made a conglomerate of the North and the South with the cream cheese base and we just added the cheddar cheese and chili peppers and all those other good things, ”he says.

While the pimento cheese pizza is available year-round at the GM Pizzeria, the restaurant offers another Alabama-centric pie that’s only served in the summer – the Chilton County Peach Pizza and Conecuh and bacon sausage with buffalo mozzarella, basil and Eastaboga Bee. A drizzle of company honey balsamic vinegar.

“People ask me in winter,” Respinto says of peach pizza. “I have to keep trying to explain to them: how long have you lived here? Do peaches grow in winter? “

Repinto and his brother, Marco, opened Pizzeria GM in February 2018 next to Patriot Park in West Homewood. The brothers also have GianMarco Restaurant, an Italian-inspired neighborhood restaurant they opened with their father, Giovanni Respinto, in Edgewood in 2003.

In addition to its signature pizzas, Pizzeria GM’s menu offers small plates, salads, sandwiches and pasta dishes.

GM Pizzeria is at 600 Oak Grove Road in Homewood. The phone is 205-905-3266. Lunch hours are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Friday and dinner hours are 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Friday. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, go here.

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