Sicilian style deep-dish making waves in Ohio

According to the News-Herald in Willoughby, Ohio:
“Award-winning Sicilian-style deep-dish pizza is cooking in Lake County. We’re talking about thick, doughy pizza with quality topping and lots of cheese.
The man behind the mounds of mozzarella is Frank Baird, who, after snatching a food concessions contract at Classic Park, recently moved his Pizza Plus operation to Eastlake from Avon Lake and is making his mark among the top tiers of pizza chefs.
Transitioning from a wholesale business to a restaurant about three years ago proved beneficial to Baird after he participated in several competitions and won or placed among the top competitors in each one.
His “pizza pie” won back-to-back People’s Choice Awards in Lorain County contests.
‘We refer to it as a pie because it’s not cardboard and ketchup,’ Baird says.
He earned fourth place at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas last year and also has appeared on the Food Network.
Steve Lieber, director of the United States Pizza Team, a group of pizza makers and dough acrobats whose goal is to bring the world’s attention to the talent and camaraderie of the pizza industry, has competed with Baird and attests to his talents.
‘He’s very passionate, and he’s constantly improving his product,’ Lieber says. ‘He brings a great balance in building a taste profile, and he’s very careful about the baking and technical side. He uses that special ingredient, which is the love of the pizza.’
But there’s more than love going into his award-winning pies.
While searching for the best sauce available he discovered Stanislaus Food Products in Modesto, Calif. The company uses only fresh tomatoes to create its product rather than starting with a concentrated base.
Baird also uses Flour 000, which is made in Italy and, he says, has a fine quality that doesn’t burn and activates better with yeast.
Though prime ingredients are crucial to the taste of the pie, it’s Baird’s 30-step process that may boost it into a class of its own.
Here’s part of the procedure.
After buttering the pan, crushed basil is sprinkled on for seasoning. Fresh dough then is spread and poked with small holes — termed ‘docking’ — to prevent large air pockets from forming. Next, the edge of the crust is stuffed with pepperoni and asiago cheese and rolled.
For higher rising, Baird makes about two dozen small cuts into the edge of the crust so ‘it will jump out of the pan and be fuller,’ he says. Slices of pepperoni are slid into the snips for a bit of visual flair.
Then, a variety of cheeses, sausage, pepperoni, green peppers, sweet Vidalia onions and mushrooms are added. Fresh basil is sprinkled over all.
Finally, the entire pie is misted with olive oil, then water, to hinder the cheese from burning.