Credit: Shweta Mehta Sen
Award-winning pizza chef Giulio Adriani separates fact from fiction in our quest for authentic Neapolitan pizza.
There’s no such thing as a perfect pizza.
There’s an idea, which we pursue every day. What I can tell you is that Neapolitan pizza was intended to be soft, fluffy and juicy.
Unfortunately, pizza has evolved in many styles.
I say it’s been ruined. I live in New York, where New York-style pizza is popular. Even in different regions of Italy, it’s been bastardized. The moment it travels out of Naples, it changes because of unavailability of good ingredients, lack of pizza-making skill, equipment etc. It usually becomes more crunchy and dry.
There’s only one way to make authentic Neapolitan pizza.
The crust must be soft and fluffy. Pizza sauce is traditionally just crushed tomatoes. Nothing else is added, apart from maybe some salt. Across the world, because of varied produce, you end up adding spices, garlic, onion etc and it starts tasting like something else. As for cheese, buffalo mozzarella is the only one. Even if you make a Quatro Formaggi pizza that has more kinds of cheese, mozzarella is the base on which others are added. The only exception, with no cheese, is the marinara pizza. Of course, it has to be cooked in a wood-fired oven.
Pizza doesn’t need seasoning.
Chilli flakes are a big no, and oregano is acceptable only on marinara pizza. Pizza is a great base to transform and accommodate all kinds of ingredients, and it may taste great too. But the minute you do that, it fails to be the authentic Neapolitan pizza.
There are lots of misconceptions about pizza.
That it must be crunchy is the biggest one. Also, overcooking your pizza has way bigger consequences than you’d think. After cooking, ingredients transform in flavour profile. In the case of mozzarella, the more you cook, the more you transform regular fat into butter. Tomatoes transform in terms of acidity and sweetness. And with oil, the more you cook it past its smoking point, it becomes trans fat. A regular margherita is 500-600 calories, but if you cook it the way Americans do, a single slice might have up to 800 calories.
My pizza recipe is very similar to what I learnt 30 years ago.
The flavor profile and cooking technique remain unchanged. The only difference is that because of improved flour availability, we can now stretch fermentation in a way that facilitates better digestion.
I only eat margherita pizza. I have one for lunch every day, and will never eat anything else. I just cooked at a huge media event, where five of us chefs were asked to make pizza; I made margherita, while the rest served variations.
In Italy, chicken is never used as a pizza topping.
We do serve it in India and the US, because it’s a major request everywhere. In Italy, if you want a non-vegetarian pizza, the ideal topping is prosciutto, or a processed meat like ham or salami. Even pepperoni is an American concept. In general, Italians will use pork. The reason is that back when the first pizza was made, mozzarella was a premium ingredient, and tomato wasn’t readily available — so they used oregano (in marinara pizzas), garlic and instead of tomato they used pork fat, since it was cheap to use as a nutrient. Chicken, then, was only kept to lay eggs. It was too expensive to use as an ingredient.
Italians don’t share pizza… …
unless it’s your girlfriend and you’ve agreed to share beforehand. It’s served as a main course, and you get one per person. It’s only when I traveled the world that I saw it being shared.
Beer is generally paired with pizza in Italy.
For me, however, wine would be fine. With margherita, I’d pick white, as it counters the acidity of the tomato. In case of meat pizzas, red wine works better.
Giulio Adriani is Consulting Chef at Gustoso, Mumbai