The story goes that Puck invented his most famous dish one night when legendary actress Joan Collins ordered smoked salmon with brioche and the restaurant was out of bread. Quick on his feet, Puck replaced the bread with a freshly baked pizza crust and created an elevated version of a classic bagel and cream cheese.
The current incarnation features whole salmon that is butchered by Spago’s chefs and seasoned with cloves, bay leaves, parsley, thyme and brown sugar. The cured salmon is then smoked in-house, the whole process taking up to four days. Cooked to order, the pizza dough is fired with shaved dried onion and olive oil until the crust is crackling before being covered with crème fraîche infused with dill, shallots, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and crowned with smoked salmon slices and caviar.
“When I opened Spago in Los Angeles, everybody said, 'Wolfgang has worked in the finest restaurants and now he is making pizzas?’ But I knew I was going to make it a little different. The most important part was following my intuition.”
Spago defined California cuisine in the 1980s and started a California pizza trend that spread far and wide, spawning copycats and inspiring other famous chefs. “I went to Manchester to watch Manchester United play [soccer] and I was at an Italian restaurant and they had ‘Spago pizza’ on the menu,” the chef chuckles. “I was very good friends with the late Paul Bocuse and I went to his restaurant in France and I saw a smoked salmon pizza there. I said, ‘Paul, what the heck?’ and he showed me the menu and the name of the pizza was ‘Spago Pizza.’ It was a proud moment for me.”