Guest Columns
Is There Really a Perfect Pizza?
Michael Hanson

Recently I returned from a “pizza quest” to Southern Italy and would like to share my thoughts on where and what I think is the perfect or best pizza. I have been making dough for over forty years and pizzas for over twenty; it was only after a spell working at London’s most famous pizzeria, Franco Manca, that I felt capable of making a real pizza. The owner, Guisseppe Mascoli, wanted to create the best pizza in London and, with the help of “pizza consultant” Marco Parente, he set about this task. I believe they achieved their goal; but now my goal was to see if I could find an even better pizza in Italy.

My obsessive quest took me to only two cities, Rome and Naples, and only a handful of pizzerias. I purposely excluded restaurants, even those serving pasta. I wanted the real deal and thought a pizza-only pizzeria would deliver the best pizzas. My survey was in no way accurate, impartial, rigorous, or independent, and my research consisted solely of reading some great posts on the Forno Bravo Forum.

I read of a pizzeria, near my Rome hotel, called Dar Poeta . At first sight the pizzas looked good. I obtained permission to check out the oven. It was old and very hot; the dough soft and very cold. In my experience, one of the crucial factors is the intense heat on a cold, barely fermented disc of hand formed dough, creating the puffed up chewy, crispy cornicione full of holes. In artisan bread baking the quest, or holy grail is, as was pointed out in the Tartine video on Pizza Quest, a dough with irregular holes (or, as the French would say, beaucoup de trop). This is a combination of many factors, primarily a low final dough temperature, long bulk proof, and a hot hearth. Which is, as we saw in the video, why the Tartine bread dough makes a great pizza dough!

But back to Dar Poeta pizzeria. I always choose the pizza with the least toppings, so I chose a simple olive, anchovie pie. It was very disappointing;

 
A few thoughts on Family and Pizza
Brad English

Family, Food and Friends

Why is pizza such a popular food all across the world?  One reason may be that it is the perfect food to share. 

As I was recently writing and posting photos for my Mother's Day Pizza pictorial, I had to search back through some old photos from a trip I took with my family to Vancouver, BC. I remembered taking some pictures in the Creperie that I was referring to and thought they would be fun to add to the story.  I had started out writing what I thought was a recipe pictorial recap of my Mother's Day Surprise Pizzas.  My kids were all excited to make mommy breakfast for Mother's Day.  So, I pulled some dough from the freezer and set the alarm to get up early to get the dough out and start the oven.  It turns out the kids were less interested in the "making" of the breakfast than just being there to eat it.

Whenever I think of a breakfast pizza, I think back to this trip we took to Victoria, BC.  It's amazing how strong a smell or a taste memory is.  I have many that will trigger not only a memory, but a feeling.  The feeling can be so strong that it seems as if for a moment I have been literally transported through time and space.  I love this experience.  It is far more intense than a

 
Tradition--Really?
John Arena

Lately I’ve been thinking about Roger Bannister. No, Bannister is not the latest hot shot artisan pizza maker. For those of you too young to remember, Roger Bannister was a British track & field athlete who on May 6, 1954 became the first person to run a sub 4 minute mile. Roger, who was later knighted for his efforts, broke what was considered by the general public to be an unbreakable barrier. What is interesting is that, to serious athletes of the day, shattering the 4 minute obstacle was considered not impossible but inevitable. The fact is they were correct, and the current US High School record stands at a full 6 seconds faster than Sir Roger Bannister’s World Record achievement of just 57 years ago!

So what has this got to do with pizza? Well, last week I came across an article in a pizza trade publication about a certain well established pizza chain that proudly stated that their pizza has not

 
Pizza and Mythology
John Arena

 

Lately I’ve been thinking about pizza and mythology. Certainly the history of Italy is punctuated by myths and legends, from the time of the Etruscans right up to the exploits of the current Prime Minister. So why wouldn't the subject of pizza be any different?

The plain fact is there are a lot of myths and fables (some true and some not so much), but also misinformation, and even outright deception in the world of pizza. Starting with what I call the “Big Three Myths” , specifically, New York “holy water”, “heirloom” Chicago pizza pans, and “magic” Italian-made wood burning ovens. While all three of these prevailing fables of pizza making are easily debunked by any rational pizza maker, there is one area of our craft that I think merits some consideration. I am referring to what could be considered the three "schools" of pizza making.

School number one consists of the ingredient devotees. Their focus is on the fact that only the very best (usually imported) ingredients must be selected for their pizzas. Their mantra is “Use the best stuff and get out of the way”. What they mean is that the pizza maker must let every ingredient speak for itself. The belief is that great ingredients result in great pizza.

School number two is made up of equipment disciples. These pizza makers dedicate time and considerable expense to finding the right tools of the trade. The major object of their attention is usually the oven. They will spare no expense in importing ovens from Naples or, in some cases, bringing in artisan oven builders to hand craft an “authentic” pizza oven on-site. The thinking is that great pizza can only come out of a great oven.

The third major school of pizza making is dedicated to technique. The premise is that skilled hands

 
BBQ Pizza--Not
Tom Carrig

Lately I’ve been thinking about barbecue pizza. My favorite local purveyor of pies recently had a daily special he called, “BBQ Pizza.”  I could not order it.  I have little doubt that it was a delicious nosh, but the name just rubbed me the wrong way, and I shared my thoughts, which follow here, with the pizziaolo.

Topping a pizza with some combination of meat and barbecue sauce—regardless of quality—does not constitute barbecued pizza.  Likewise, grilling a boneless, skinless chicken breast covered with sauce is not barbecued chicken. To be sure, the term “barbecue” is one of the most misunderstood, and consequently, abused terms in the culinary world.

A quick web search for the definition of barbecue clearly demonstrates the lack of clarity

 
Let the Buyer Beware!
John Arena

Lately I’ve been thinking about "counterfeiters."  More specifically, I’ve been thinking about a Latin saying that dates back to the early 1500’s, Caveat Emptor, or, "Let the buyer beware." In this era, more than any other, it has become crucial that we understand what is truly behind the labels on the products that we buy. Unfortunately this is especially true of Italian products.  With global awareness creating unprecedented demand for Italian food items the door has swung open for all sorts of deception and outright fraud.


Here is something to think about: The country of Italy is roughly the size of Arizona. Italy has a food based culture. Plain and simple, the Italians can consume much of the highest quality

 

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