Pinky Ring Pizza – Madison, Tennessee - Gastro Obscura

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Gastro Obscura

Pinky Ring Pizza

Madison, Tennessee

Pickles belong on pizza and this freewheeling outpost proves it. 

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Wedged into a strip mall parking lot behind a Subway, this unassuming pizza parlor turns out 18-inch New York–style pies that could make Manhattan’s top pizzaiolos weak in the knees. Offerings lean unconventional, with standouts including the Esmerelda, featuring pistachio pesto, fig preserves, and charred lamb flank, and the Bianca, which tops a ricotta base with locally grown oyster mushrooms. 

The real feat of nature, however, is the pickle pizza, which pairs slivers of kosher dill pickles with toasted garlic, ricotta cream, smoked provolone, and ranch. Recently, the kitchen crew has been experimenting with a plussed-up variation called the “Hot Matty.” Chef David Bonner, Jr., inspired by a cluster of daikon radish sprouts growing on the counter, whipped up a daikon-feta pesto and amped up the heat using a healthy hit of Calabrian chiles.

It sounds bizarre; it tastes sensational. The sweet-hot-savory flavor is loosely reminiscent of Nashville’s famous hot chicken sandwich. “If you think about it, a pizza is really just an exhibitionist panino,” says chef David Paternostro.

Attention to detail is what makes this unlikely flavor combination sing. Wes Scoggins, Pinky Ring’s founding executive chef (who sometimes goes by the Jewish Cowboy), uses two wild starters in his 48-hour-aged dough: One hails from Bootleg Biology, a local Nashville fermentation lab, and one is collected by Jester King, the pioneering Texas brewery known for their spontaneously fermented ales. The pickles (as well as the restaurant’s banana peppers and giardiniera) bathe in a house mother vinegar.

And that ranch dressing? It begins by soaking Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds in heavy cream until they liquify, which Wes’s brother and kitchen-overseer, Kameron Scoggins, does in-house, along with the help of the team. The umami-packed elixir then gets a shower of fresh herbs, plus a blend of marigolds, borage, and other edible flower blossoms. According to the chefs, the brightly speckled mixture initially resembles a bowl of Fruity Pebbles.

It’s a “ranch” so good, regulars know to ask for a side for dunking, regardless of what pizza they’ve ordered.

Know Before You Go

To avoid waiting for your pizza at peak dining hours, call ahead to order, then simply tear open your box on the picnic benches. Owner Don Hernandez, a restaurant and bar industry veteran who is sober, made sure that there’s also an excellent selection of non-alcoholic drinks available.

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