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The Art of the Neapolitan Pizza
“Pizza is very popular is Lombardy just as it is popular in all of Italy, and all over the world actually!”, says Chef Jacopo Avigo, Sorriso, Marriott Suites Pune, as he gently stretches and flattens a knob of pizza dough into a perfect circle and reminisces of his native Lombardy, a region in north Italy, where he grew up and enjoyed polenta, cheese, a variety of meats, fish, and lots of homemade pasta, gnocchi and pizza.
He enjoys preparing and eating pizzas, and says the preparation is a reflection of the resourcefulness of mothers who creatively used the available ingredients to make a delicious preparation that could feed an entire family. He explains that there are two kinds of pizzas in Italy. “One is the Neapolitan style which is difficult to find in north and the other is Alla Romana that is thinner and lighter than Neapolitan, but still is authentic Italian. Both these styles are very far from what they serve in America! My favourite though is pizza fritta, which is like calzone that is a folded pizza but deep fried. It is something that I love from childhood and I need it at least once a month. I cannot imagine a world without pizza!”
Divulging the technique of the wonderfully light pizza base he makes he says the pizza dough is really very easy to make. “Our pizza dough consists of only four ingredients that are flour, water, olive oil, salt and fresh yeast. We make the pizza dough, cover it with a wet cloth, keep it in a box and let rise one time for 10 to 12 hours inside the chiller. After that we make small balls of approximately 250g each and let rise it again for 5 to 6 hours outside the chiller. After that it is ready to use. It is important to remember that it is always better to use the dough at room temperature”.
Chef Avigo prefers to gently stretch and flatten the dough with his hands rather than roll it out. “As it is authentic Neapolitan pizza dough, it does not require a rolling pin to roll as the dough is very soft. Also if you roll by rolling pin you will not get thick or puffed crust outside”.
He then spoons a layer of Tomato di San Marzano followed by a dash of extra virgin olive oil and a generous helping of parmesan, and a sprinkling of fresh basil or fresh oregano on the base. He says Mozzarella di Bufala that is mozzarella made from the milk of the domestic buffalo also adds a delicious flavour to pizzas. “For non-vegetarian toppings, one can cook the pizza and top with cold cuts of one’s choice as these do not require to be cooked”.
Picking up his creation with a long handled pizza peel he slips it into the oven saying, “While wood fired ovens are always preferred for baking pizzas, in its absence an electric one is fine. Do ensure that the temperature of the oven is very high. It needs to be around 350 or 400 degrees F”
While he admits homemade pizza is different than what one would find at a pizzeria in Italy, he says it is always a pleasure to make a pizza at home and to eat it with family. “Always use fresh yeast, flour, oil and salt to make the dough. Try not using ready-made dough or pizza base. It is an easy dish. Pizza is not like burgers or sandwiches, it is a real cuisine. So make it with passion and love and you will definitely enjoy it”.
And he is delighted that the art of “pizzaiuolo” that is twirling the pizza dough and baking it in a wood-fired brick oven has recently been placed on the UNESCO list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. “It is definitely a great recognition as pizza was born as a poor man’s dish but has now become popular all over the world…” he concludes.
Sorriso, 81 Mundhwa, Annex, Koregaon Park, Koregaon Park Annexe, Koregaon Park, Pune, Maharashtra 411001; tel: +91 20 6725 7777