Ask the Expert
So, Emiliano, bit of a pizza professor, are you? Tell us about your experiences in pizza making. It all started when I got a summer job in a restaurant in Puglia – the passion came out, as I had a really good teacher. The owner was the president of Associazione Pizzaioli Professionisti (it’s like the academy of pizza in Italy, and covers the everything from the dough to the finished product and the acrobatics of pizza-making), and so, over the next 15 years, I learned everything there is to know about wheat, the mix of flours, the science of the dough, the best mozzarella to use… Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to travel the world as a pizza consultant, opening new restaurants in Dubai, Saudi Arabia and France before coming to Bath to open Dough in The Corridor. Why are Neapolitan pizzas regarded as the holy grail of pizza? There are so many types – metre, classic, Roman, Neapolitan – all are different, but Neapolitan especially so. It’s the most famous because the Neapolitans were the first to export pizza as we know it, and they also put their heart into the pizza, and have a special passion for it.
What is it that Naples does so well, and is so hard to replicate? They keep it really simple, focusing on the likes of the Margherita and marinara pizza. It’s also about the ingredients and the quality of the produce – from the amazing San Marzano tomatoes to volcanic water from Vesuvio, and the original buffalo mozzarella from Campania. You get the best flour in Napoli, too. With Neapolitan pizza, the dough is made in a totally different way, without olive oil. It rises faster and is affected by everything from the time of day to the ambient temperature. You can do a whole training course on Neapolitan pizza alone, because there’s a whole world of rules behind it, and it needs much more experience and knowledge to do really well. So the choice of ingredients is pretty crucial to the end result, then? Absolutely. We use mozzarella and flour from Napoli, and get tomatoes and olive oil from Puglia, because I think they’re slightly better. I know the fields where the tomatoes are grown, who’s picked them, and the local factory where they’re canned. You just can’t beat these raw ingredients, and the way they’re treated.
Let’s move onto cooking, now. Tell us all about pizza ovens. There are four types: wood-fired, gas, combo (a mix of both) and electric. The cooking process is much faster than in a regular cooker; the oven is properly insulated and reaches much higher temperatures, so you’ll always get a better result. Well, a regular cooker is all we have; can we still make something decent? Yes, but you have to adjust your dough for the type of oven. You need to let the dough rise a bit more, or even twice, to get better results. It’s also best to use a pizza stone, and make sure your oven is at the maximum temperature. So, why do you think itʼs crucial to nail the perfect dough? It’s the foundation of the pizza, so is really important – just like the foundation of a building. Not only is it the vessel to carry all the toppings, but it makes the pizza light or heavy, burnt or raw. The dough has to be properly made and properly cooked, and then you can really taste the toppings. It’s the combination of both these elements that make the perfect pizza.