Pizza Quest Globe

Close Menu

DiNapoli Brand - Italian Style Tomato Products

Two Secret Ingredients of Great Pizza

Written By John Arena
Friday, 18 November 2011 Guest Bloggers

If you are reading this it is safe to say that you are a pizza fanatic. You have traveled to hundreds of pizzerias and possibly even picked through some trash barrels in search of the keys to the mythological “perfect pie”. You have spent hours debating the merits of different types of ovens, flour, cheese and tomatoes. Over time what becomes painfully clear is that there are no universal rules, standards or agreed upon recipes for what defines a great pizza.  Of course it is human nature to try to find order in the chaos, so there must be something that is common to all of the truly extraordinary pies, right? Well, it turns out that there is. Truly amazing, life changing, mind blowing pizzas, have two things in common, two ingredients that are available anywhere, but are only truly used and understood by a handful of pizza makers and pizza aficionados.

So, for the first time anywhere, the two top secret ingredients common to every great pizza are: Wabi and Sabi. Wait! Don’t rush out to the local Whole Foods to pick up these items. As they say in the infomercials, “Wabi and Sabi are not available in any store.”  That’s because they are not tangible ingredients, but they are, in my opinion, the crucial elements that can be found in any truly great artistic expression including the pizza you will find at places like Una Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco and Paulie Gee’s in Brooklyn.

Wabi and Sabi are Japanese words that can be defined as “understated elegance and finding beauty in the impermanent”. This is the reason that we are drawn to the simple pizza bianca at Volpetti in Rome. It is also the reason why you can find 50 people waiting in line in front of Frank Pepe’s on Wooster St. in New Haven. The irregular blisters on the crust of a pizza at Spacca Napoli in Chicago, and the simple choice of organic toppings at Slice in New York — that’s Wabi and Sabi. But of course there is more to it than that.

The real key to including Wabi and Sabi in your pizza recipe and in your life can be found in the completion of the definition: “Things that resonate with the spirit of the makers hand.”
Think about it, whether we are talking about the tomato pies of DeLorenzo’s in Trenton or the amazing creations of Al Santillo at Santillo’s in Elizabeth NJ, the one thing that every pizza we love has in common is that they are a pure expression of the person who made them. Sure the big chains have consistency and uniformity but none of them achieve greatness. Keep it simple. Let every ingredient shine. Most of all, allow your pizza to show your own hands. This generous sharing of self will allow people to connect to the gifts you offer them. When your pizza tells the world everything they need to know about you, you are on your way to being a legendary pizza maker.



hi john

many thanks for introducing me to wabi-sabi. It seems to perfectly embrace my baking ethos. Sacred baking perhaps?

“Pared down to its barest essence, wabi-sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. It’s simple, slow, and uncluttered-and it reveres authenticity above all”

I totally agree that a pizza made with love can fall into this category. Did you read my thoughts on sacramental bread/pizza making on this site. I think we are of one accord.


I agree with Michael — there seem to be a lot of kindred spirits on this site. Thanks to you both for your ongoing contributions.

Add Comment

Pizza Quest Info


Vision Statement

Pizza Quest is a site dedicated to the exploration of artisanship in all forms, wherever we find it, but especially through the literal and metaphorical image of pizza. As we share our own quest for the perfect pizza we invite all of you to join us and share your journeys too. We have discovered that you never know what engaging roads and side paths will reveal themselves on this quest, but we do know that there are many kindred spirits out there, passionate artisans, doing all sorts of amazing things. These are the stories we want to discover, and we invite you to jump on the proverbial bus and join us on this, our never ending pizza quest.

Peter’s Books

American Pie
Artisan Breads Every Day
The Bread Bakers Apprentice
Brother Junipers Bread Book
Crust and Crumb
Whole Grain Breads

...and other books by Peter Reinhart, available on