Leave it to restaurateur Grant Krueger to use gunpowder and 16th century tax collectors as inspirations behind the name of his third eatery in St. Philip’s Plaza.
This and other secrets were recently revealed to me at Proof Artisanal Pizza and Pasta, 4340 N. Campbell Avenue. Krueger stopped short of calling them secrets, but acknowledged that the side stories his cuisine tells is part of Proof’s allure.
“For restaurants today, food is the ultimate expression in differentiation, and we definitely do things a little differently with ours,” said Krueger, Proof’s owner. “What you’ll find here isn’t what you’re going to find down the street.”
Krueger offered his Green Machine pasta dish as Exhibit A, with pesto, cream, baby kale, spiced pepitas, Grana Padano cheese, and basil spaghetti.
Rolling fresh basil into the pasta dough is Proof’s secret weapon here, a colorful twist on spaghetti that he hasn’t seen anywhere else.
“You can buy spinach pasta anywhere, but when you make your pastas in house you can be a little more imaginative,” he said. “We discovered that basil brings a brightness to pasta, and that brightness is a nice balance to the thick and creamy sauce in this dish.”
Krueger also held up his mussels as another differentiation expression, with Italian sausage, roasted Roma tomatoes, spinach, white wine, butter, and—wait for it— Sambuca, an Italian liqueur with notes of anise that was first produced in the coastal town of Civitavecchia in the 1800s.
“Our executive chef is of Italian descent, and we looked for ways to incorporate doses of Italy in this dish without going over the top,” Krueger said. “We really love the way that the Sambuca rounds it all out.”
Even Proof’s 10 signature pizzas have a role in the dialogue of differentiation, and Krueger knew that he’d have a fight on his hands when he and his team decided to include a pineapple pie in the line-up.
“I’ve seen Instagram fights break out over the very idea of putting pineapple on a pizza,” he said. “But we realized that this can be done so much better than using supermarket ham, canned pineapple, and low moisture mozzarella cheese.”
Krueger is mindful of the issue’s divided camps and honors the convictions of their inhabitants. But he boldly suggests that his version just might have unifying properties.
This less traditional solution integrates roasted pineapple with pickled jalapenos, mozzarella, ricotta, basil, and garlic oil, with crispy prosciutto standing in for the ham.
Given the peace that this pizza has already produced among traditionally warring factions, imagine its potential for uniting our divided nation. If only Proof delivered to Capitol Hill.
Which brings me back to those 16th century tax collectors.
While the more common definition of proof is the rising of dough, Krueger tells me that the word proof, which we also know as the measurement of ethanol in spirituous beverages, was originally used by tax collectors to test how much alcohol was in a spirit.
“They would take a pellet of gunpowder and dip it into the spirit, and if it burst into flames it would be taxed at a heavier rate,” he said. “You knew that was the good stuff, and this double entendre of proof is how we got our name.”
Whether it speaks dough or drink to you, there’s good stuff in every story, and every secret, at Proof.
Contact Matt Russell, whose day job is CEO of Russell Public Communications, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Russell is also a regular contributor to “Tales of the Keg” on ESPN Tucson, KFFN 1490 AM & 104.9 FM, as well as the host of the Friday Weekend Watch segment on the “Buckmaster Show” on KVOI 1030 AM.