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Interview: Yankees' Curtis Granderson lends his dough, if not his know-how, to pizza business

Luis Gomez

About Last Night

9:07 AM CST, January 9, 2012

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Curtis Granderson doesn’t do much cooking other than the eggs and bacon breakfast he prepares for himself and the cornbread he made during an appearance on “The Martha Stewart Show” in 2010, but the New York Yankees star and South Side native put on a chef’s jacket Wednesday at Roots Handmade Pizza, where he is an investor, and took a stab at making his own pizza for once.

“I’m going to win an award,” said Granderson, proudly stretching out the brewer’s malt dough with his knuckles.

Granderson, who finished fourth in the voting for the 2011 American League Most Valuable Player award, would remain playfully confident even after Roots executive chef Martin Arellano informed him his dough had come up short in size.

“This will be a pot pie,” Granderson announced.

Long before he was suiting up alongside Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez in the Yankees lineup, Granderson was a college student taking to-go orders at Bogart’s Charhouse in Homewood. “I didn’t realize people tip for take-out,” said Granderson, spinning the dough with his knuckles. “My first order was $30 or $40 and they tipped $2 or $3. I was so excited.” His other job at the restaurant was as the host, which meant he was in charge of seating guests — or at least trying to: “The guests would follow me around and, unfortunately, I wouldn’t remember where the tables were.”

Granderson added pizza sauce and mozzarella cheese to his dough and then Arellano placed his pizza in the oven, where it would cook about 12 minutes. In the mean time, Granderson helped himself to the cheese that had fallen off of his dough.

“I get asked all the time which city has better pizza,” said Granderson about Chicago and New York. “They both are great, but I’m not a huge fan of pizza going limp, which is what New York-style pizza does.”

Like all the pizzas on the Roots menu, the pizza Granderson was waiting on was Quad Cities-style (the dough is malt-heavy, the sauce is slightly spicy, the toppings go under the cheese and the pizza is cut in strips).

He admitted he was apprehensive about helping to bring the project to a city that isn’t lacking in pizza restaurants, but he’s glad he did. He now dines at the Ukrainian Village restaurant when he’s in town and brought Yankees teammates Jeter, CC Sabathia, Jorge Posada and Eric Chavez with him after a game against the White Sox in August.

Granderson said the veterans usually choose the restaurant on the road, unless it’s a city where a player has a reputation. His teammates, for the most part, prefer chain restaurants such as The Cheesecake Factory or The Capital Grille, while he opts for more foodie-friendly fare.

As for who picks up the tab: “It’s all based on tenure,” Granderson said. “You always want to go eat with veteran guys because veteran guys will pay. … If you’re a rookie, typically you don’t pay. If they want to play a prank on you, they might take you to one of the most expensive restaurants and make you pay to see how you react. As long as you don’t complain about it, you’ll get free dinners from them.”

Once it was time to take the pizza out of the oven, Granderson positioned himself behind Arellano, watching eagerly.

“That looks amazing,” Granderson said. “I’m not sure if it’s good, but it looks amazing.”

Twitter @TribLuis