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The Fish Guy Knows His Pizza

By Janet Rausa Fuller | December 20, 2012 6:27am | Updated on December 20, 2012 12:01pm

MAYFAIR — Bill Dugan is not a pizza guy.

His Elston Avenue shop, now in its 17th year, is called the Fishguy Market, after all.

But the pizzas coming out of his little, blistering hot oven might be the best, least-hyped pizzas you've never had.

"They're out of control," said chef Homaro Cantu of moto and iNG restaurants, who was in for lunch Tuesday, his third time in less than a week.

Dugan has made his living supplying seafood to many of the city's top chefs. A year ago, he turned part of his retail space into a 14-seat dining area called Wellfleet, a spinoff of his popular pop-up dinners by the same name.

The plan was to serve lunch and dinner. Dinner didn't really take off, so Dugan axed it after six months. But lunch service has been steady, and the pizzas, which recall the New Haven-style ones of Dugan's youth, have their devotees.

"Laura, Dennis ... ," said Wellfleet chef Janet Flores, ticking off the names of the regulars who come in at least twice a week for pizza.

Pizza isn't the only item on the lunch menu (which Dugan has kept simple and, obviously, seafood-focused), but it has become something of an obsession.

Dugan said he spent more than two years developing the mother starter for the dough, "and we're still working on it," he said. The natural gas oven, custom-built by a friend, has a single, rotating stone that can fire up a crust at 800 degrees.

This being a seafood market, not a pizzeria, diners don't have a laundry list of toppings from which to choose. It's pretty much one pizza daily, chef's whim.

Some weeks it's white pizza with fresh clams, a nod to Dugan's upbringing in Fairfield, Conn. When it's lobster season, an entire lobster goes into a single pie. He'll do a margherita for the kids. If he has mushrooms, he'll use them. He'll use fish cheeks, too. Lately, he has been featuring lox-style balik salmon, cured in-house.

You can order the pizzas to go, but why would you? They take all of two minutes to cook. Adds Dugan: "To-go pizza is horrible. I just don't think it makes sense. I'm the first one to say, 'Hey, why don't you just sit down and eat?' "

He has toyed with the idea of offering a pizza-making class in the same vein as the sushi-making classes he did for years until his sushi chef left. But then, the fish guy doesn't want to overextend himself.

"The whole idea was to complement the market," he said. "My philosophy is, stick to what you know."