Pizzeria fires up at Plant St. Market

The special niche of Michael's Ali is the realization of a dream for the owner of Winter Garden Pizza.

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  • | 1:14 p.m. December 8, 2015
  • West Orange Times & Observer
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A New Yorker with an Italian name: Is there anyone else you’d trust more when it comes to pizza?

After nine years as the owner of Winter Garden Pizza, Michael Scorsone decided to expand his business into a branch of the pizza world that isn’t very common. He opened Michael’s Ali Coal Fired Pizza, named for his partner in business and in life, Ali McBride Wright, at Plant Street Market last month.

“I’ve always wanted to do this coal-fired thing, for years and years,” Scorsone said. He was just waiting for the right opportunity.

The market provides the platform Scorsone needed. It’s frequented by patrons who are interested in artisan products, such as beers from Crooked Can Brewery and speciality foods at the various other businesses inside. 

Customers can choose from a variety of specialty toppings, such as pineapple and rapini.
Customers can choose from a variety of specialty toppings, such as pineapple and rapini.

Because of the immigration boom during the Industrial Revolution, Italian-owned pizzerias started popping up all over New York City. The restauranteurs tended to use coal because it was more efficient than wood, less expensive and took up less space. 

Technology has evolved over the years, and Scorsone’s coal oven, which was custom-built in the state of Washington, is environmentally cleaner than others. But today, there are only about 150 coal-fired pizzerias in the entire United States. 

You might notice some blackness on your crust, but don’t worry—it’s not burnt.

“It’s got some flavor on that char that you’re not getting with a traditional pizza,” Scorsone said. “It’s really becoming a subculture within the pizza business.”

Pies at Michael’s Ali range from $11 to $16 and feed one to two people. Patrons can sit at the counter and watch as dough is tossed in the air, toppings are placed and the pie is loaded into the oven.

“It’s fun to watch somebody make a pizza—the oven, the fire,” Wright said. “We wanted it to be more of an experience when you come to order a pizza than just getting some food and going.”

Business hours at Michael’s Ali are noon to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday at Plant Street Market, 426 W. Plant St., Winter Garden. 

Contact Catherine Kerr at [email protected]


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