Tuesday 10 December 2013

Naples Pizza Tour

A weekend's worth of pizza gluttony distilled into just over three minutes:

Naples Pizza Tour from BerthasPizza on Vimeo.

Restaurants (in order of appearance):
Di Matteo
Il Pizzaiolo del Presidente
Di Matteo (again)
Locanda ‘Ntretella
Da Michele

Sunday 10 November 2013

5 Reasons to visit Bravi Ragazzi

1) One of the best margheritas I’ve had anywhere let alone in London

2) Textbook charing

3) Cloud-like cornicione

4) Proper Pastiera - Neapolitan cheese cake made with ricotta, wheat and a hint of citrus. No photo, we demolished it before I remembered

5) Advice on Naples pizzerias - when I mentioned we were going to Naples for a weekend pizza tour their reply was “why? It’s just he same as you’ve had here”

They may have a point.

Saturday 19 October 2013

PG tips

After Flagstaff I headed to New York which in my humble opinion has the strongest claim to the best pizza city on earth. The tea however is rubbish.
You only make the mistake of ordering a tea in a coffee shop once
I’m guessing they don’t have PG tips over there, but that didn’t matter I was here so seek tips from Mr Paulie Gee himself. I’ve talked about Paulie before, he needs no introductions in the pizza circles and was good enough to spare a couple of hours to sit down with us and share his advice. His generosity didn’t end there and before we knew it he’d picked out four of his favourites from his current menu. They were incredible. There are lots of great pizzerias in New York but where Paulie really stands out - his genius - is his topping combinations. The Cherry Jones with gorgonzola, prosciutto and cherries being just one example which ticked off each of the five tastes with aplomb. I’d like to show you pictures, but part and parcel of the unique interior is low level lighting and my phone camera didn’t do justice at all, so for now you’ll just have to take me word for it and visit in person as soon as you can.

Whilst in town we also managed to squeeze in visits to a couple of other pizza places I’ve been longing to try. Roberta's had been on my wish list for some time and being just around the corner from where we were staying we swung by on our first night. There we shared a Barely Legal, with the broccoli and pork sausage I thought this would be a take on a classic salsiccia and friarielli but the horseradish and caramelised onion took it to another level. The best things about it was the crust though, really distinctive and like nothing we’d tried before, it had a light interior but was crisper than usual on the outside.

Motorino completed the trinity of my must visit Neapolitan joints although if I’m honest we came away underwhelmed, it felt like very Americanised pizza, heavy on the toppings. There’s no denying their Brussels Sprout with smoked pancetta, garlic and said sprouts is a brilliant combination but the toppings were piled to deep pan heights and it lacked the subtlety and sophistication of what we’d seen elsewhere. Perhaps just an off night.

From there it was only fair that my other half participated more in the restaurant selection and we were spoilt by all the other culinary delights New York has to offer.

As another Englishman in New York recently put it:
Better Out Than In, Banksy in New York

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Rocket not Arugula

24 hours travelling, Government shutdown, elocution lessons and silly amounts of pizza.

Flagstaff is a long way from the UK, I appreciate that now, it’s also much higher and hence colder than I’d envisaged, so much for shorts and t-shirt desert weather. Yet it’s a great destination, if like me you arrive on public transport and remain close to the historic old town, it’s a quaint American town, so quaint it’s possible to avoid strip malls and the golden arches of McDonalds entirely. Ahh, bliss. It’s also dark, very dark, if you happen to arrive late at night, on a new moon, having travelled for 24hours straight I’d recommend a torch, it’s the world’s first International Dark Sky City - amazing for star gazing, less good for finding your motel.

Day one was a struggle, 3 batches of dough, gelato, prep, full service on little sleep. That night I slept like a log. As the week progressed I settled into the groove, fuelled by coffee from one of the town’s many roasteries and the banter from my new colleagues. They couldn’t have been more welcoming. Caleb threw open the doors to the whole operation and answered all my questions without hesitation. In return I did my best not to get in the way and helped out where I could. My accent provided the amusement, and it appears the American equivalent of sending the new guy out for a ‘long stand’ is to request one egg to be collected at a time from the store room, either that or was just unlucky with the orders. The highlight of each day was being let loose on the oven, a beaut of a Stefano Ferrara, and my skills progressed as I got used to the high hydration, 3 day ferment dough which they’re famous for, delicious and delicate in equal measures.

I helped with the bakes, something I’d been really excited about seeing beforehand and I wasn’t disappointed. They’re a pizzeria first and a bakery second but I don’t think there’s a bakery out there which wouldn’t be proud of the results. It’s no fluke, this is a real labour of love and Scott and Caleb were both in on their day off to run a test bake always looking to hone their skills. In fact that’s probably what struck me most, the whole team cares. Really cares. This was genuine, and they all mucked in to ensure the best experience for anyone who stops by.

The best testament to what Pizzicletta stands for was probably not the pizza, it was the team, the Pizzicletta family.

Thursday 26 September 2013

Baby Steps

This weekend I’ll travel 5000 miles for pizza. That’s got to be close to some kind of record, it’s five times further than the Proclaimers were prepared to go. I’ll be going to spend some time at Pizzicletta. There are arguably better pizzerias around, and definitely closer ones but I doubt there’s one which is closer to my vision - a friendly neighbourhood restaurant serving good ingredients on good bread. It helps that they make everything from scratch, including their own gelato, that they focus on the best of local ingredients and even bake their own bread in house – not even the oven’s residual heat is wasted here. So it’s not hard to understand my attraction, what takes a bit more explaining is why I’m taking my allotted two week’s annual leave and flying to the other side of the planet to work 14 hour days and stay in a crappy motel.

The truth is I can’t wait. It’s a first tentative step towards my dream. The dream of running my own pizzeria. The trip is a test, I love the idea but am I prepared for the reality.

The owner, Caleb also started out in a very different field, as his name suggests he’s not Italian, but he’s got pizza in his soul and his story has been an inspiration to me for some time. Whilst over there I’ll also be spending some time in New York – it’d be rude not to – and ticking off some of the long list of pizza joints I’ve wanted to try for an age. I’ll also be meeting another legend from the pizza scene a Mr Paulie Gee who’s generously agreed to spare some time to share his own experiences in moving from IT professional to owner of one of the most popular restaurants in New York. Cheers Paulie!

As for what happens after that, who knows. One step at a time. Baby steps.

Monday 26 August 2013

Top That: Tomato Masala

Pizza number two was a combination I've wanted to try for a while and relied on a homemade masala paste which I  currently can't get enough of. We use a Simon Hopkinson recipe which has been the basis of some of our more successful curries - make in bulk and keep in the fridge - I wanted to see how it'd work on a pizza.

Our favourite sourdough base
Fresh tomatoes, courtesy of our friendly next door neighbour

Extra prep?
Other than making the masala paste, none.

What I'd do differently
The basil didn't add anything so I wouldn't bother next time, coriander would have worked better but we didn't have any. The peas went on to add a bit of sweetness, the bright green also contrasted nicely with the reds. Next time we'd add some paneer too, that'd make this a real winner.

Top That: Charred Leeks with Capers and Brown Butter

It'd been a while since we'd fired up Bertha, turns out getting married takes up quite a bit of your time. A sunny Bank Holiday Monday formed the perfect excuse though and a great opportunity to try some new toppings. First up a take on a restaurant dish I'd seen on Raymond Blanc's: How to Cook Well, BBQ & Grill program; leeks were thrown directly onto the coals, the idea being was that the core steamed in the charred and soon to be discarded outer leaves and what's left is juicy and tender with a subtle hint of smoke - worth a try at least.

Our favourite sourdough base
Peas, I used frozen so defrosted in a bit of boiling water
Butter (soon to be browned)

Extra prep?
Heat the butter in a small pan taking off the heat when it reaches a hazelnut brown colour, stir in the capers and set aside
Throw the leeks straight on the fire, I did this while Bertha was warming up. The outers will blacken completely but you're not eating this bit. Rotate after a couple of minutes and remove when the stem is soft to pinch. Allow to cool and once they're at a temperature to handle grab a few outer leaves from the top and pull down. Discard the blackened outer, slice and set aside the centre.

the fun bit

What I'd do differently
For the last slice, we added some lemon zest which really lifted the flavour so we'll be doing that from the start next time.
The leeks were a real success and I'll definitely use this technique again. The same leeks on a b├ęchamel base with ham or chicken would make a great combination.

Saturday 20 July 2013

Top That: Isle of Wight Ninja

A second topping post following on from last weekend's firing, this one slightly more traditional, a margherita with spicy nduja sausage or as I prefer to call it, the Isle of Wight Ninja. I picked up some stunning Isle of Wight tomatoes from the market, crushed over the dough these were better than any tinned tomatoes I could have used. For a bit of spice I added some nduja, the spicy Calabrian pork sausage and favourite of the Pizza Pilgrims 
keeping it simple, the oregano's not pictured here as that went straight from the plant to the pizza
Our favourite sourdough base
Isle of Wight toms
Fresh Oregano
not a bad looking set of ingredients
Extra prep?
None again, I wouldn't add any extra oil, plenty comes out of the nduja

What I'd do differently
Not much, I'd possible add a chopped chilli for a bit more kick but given every batch of nduja seems to have a different level of spice this is one to adjust to taste

Top That: Stilton Cheeseboard

I've long been a fan of the Serious Eats pizza blog, Slice and in particular their Top This feature which in their own words "show[s] you how to replicate unusually topped restaurant pies at home". Now I'm a pie fan but a pie to me is prefaced by the word "pork" and as a British pizza blogger I'll be sticking with the word pizza. Minor quibble's aside it's a great series and I've enjoyed following their suggestions to create many a memorable pizza at home. As homage to this I'd like to do something similar so here's the first post with one of my own creations, the stilton cheeseboard.

We had a block of stilton in the fridge which was looking pretty sorry for itself and that formed the inspiration for this pizza. Combined with some rosemary from the garden, walnuts for texture and some grapes for a touch of sweetness this turned out reasonably well.
...decided against adding the pancetta and parmesan cheese in the end
Our favourite sourdough base
Chopped rosemary
Sliced grapes
Olive Oil
ready for Bertha
Extra prep?
None really, although I added the rocket after baking to retain it's freshness
straight out of the oven
... and just before we demolished it
What I'd do differently
The olive oil wasn't needed, a fair amount of oil came out of the stilton. I'd add half a teaspoon of honey next time to balance the acidity and salt in the stilton too.

Sunday 16 June 2013

Return of the Jedi

Well, not quite, more Return to the Pizza Jedis, but Ealing certainly felt like a galaxy far, far away from North London. It'd been ages since we'd been to Santa Maria, too long, but Ealing is a bit of a mission. It always took something special for me to make the trip, previously that was either great sushi or great pizza, but now Sushi Hiro's closed its doors it's the pizza that's the main draw.

And what pizza. Santa Maria are the daddies when it comes to Neapolitan pizza (no pun intended writing this on Father's Day) and no matter whose review, list or blog you read they're always knocking about the top spot of London's best pizzeria. It's well deserved too, as far as toppings go they're pioneers of the less is more approach, but with a crust like that and first rate ingredients who can blame them.

We arrived mid afternoon in the usual lull between lunch and dinner but the front area was full; their seating's split either side of the oven - I guess this helps during quieter periods as they can still fill one section completely and keep the atmosphere. We started with a garlic focaccia and aubergine parmigiana, the latter being spooned onto the former to make an impromptu mini starter pizza - don't judge - I was starving and this seemed like the most efficient way to offset a hunger related tantrum. 

Two starters, or one if you're starving
Civility restored the mains started arriving and by this stage the waiters were warming up for their Saturday night and had started singing along to what I assume were Italian classics. Let's just say their pizzas were better than their vocals but it all added to the atmosphere. We opted for the Santa Maria, essentially a pizza marinara, simply tomato sauce, olive oil, garlic (lots of), basil, oregano, a Neapolitan classic. Our second choice was their San Gennaro a napoli, with anchovies olives and capers. Both were spot on. In my opinion they're as traditional a Neapolitan pizza as you can get in London. It's the base which stands out, thin and yielding to the weight of the toppings in the centre but still speckled from the blistering heat of the oven. Cooking times are around the one minute mark, 50 seconds typically, just long enough to melt the delicate fior di latte, cow's milk mozzarella without it becoming too liquid. Perfezione!

... the blurring and refusal to wait for the photo before picking up the cutlery suggests we were still hungrier than I thought at this stage
We rounded off the meal with some gelati, a tiramisu and a coffee. They stock Oddono's gelato which is always incredible, go for the nut flavours with the hidden gems of whole nuts. The home made tiramisu was my only complaint, it lacked the coffee hit to live up to it's translation as 'pick-me-up', but was rich, creamy and satisfying enough that I could have licked the bowl so I'll put that down as a minor quibble. The table next to us were bantered for ordering a macchiato; here a 'coffee' is an espresso and if you were to order a latte I'm pretty sure you'd get a glass of milk. These guys are traditional to the core and you've got to love them for it.
 It's a bargain too.

Friday 24 May 2013

Homeslice Review

There’s something deeply satisfying about ordering the whole menu. No faff, no compromise. Simple. We’ll just have it all. I've only managed this on a couple of occasions, normally it’s practically, financially and gastric…ly unfeasible. It’s also rare, even for a practiced glutton such as myself, that I’d want to try all the dishes. But that’s what we did at Homeslice.

In their own words “wood fired pizza from the streets, Homeslice began with a home built mobile wood fired oven in the court yard of London Fields Brewery. The aim was to create pizzas that we wanted to eat. After two nomadic years we've now found a home. PIZZA, BEER, WINE, PROSECCO.” Welcome home. I’ve been a fan of Homeslice for ages, part of the first wave on the London street food scene and a consistent performer serving up slice after slice of novel topping combinations. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t novelty for the sake of it, we’re not talking Fire and Stone, these guys know what they’re doing and know what flavour combinations work.

Their Covent Garden home is a partnership between original founder Ry Jessup and Mark Wogan, TV chef, restaurateur and son of Terry so I’m led to believe. It’s a great space, stripped back with around 50 covers spaced on chunky wooden tables, tiling my girlfriend approved of, a prominent, beast of an oven which I approved of, and large handwritten chalkboard with the day’s pizzas. Further backing to my theory that handwritten chalkboard menus are a hallmark of good restaurants.
They had 7 pizzas on for our visit, 3 available by the slice with the remaining coming as whole 20” pizzas but with the option to split two toppings ‘half and half’. There were 7 of us, so we split the first 6 toppings across 3 pizzas with a 4th pizza devoted to the final topping, pork belly, chimichurri & smoked onion – it’d have been rude not to. Highlights for me included the latter (obviously), the acidity of the chimichurri, added after baking regained its freshness and cut through the richness of the pork. Several of the vegetarian options also stood out, the courgette & artichoke on a garlic base was first out the oven with the ribbons of courgette retaining their bite and the Caprese pizza, groaning under the weight of the fresh tomato and mozzarella salad showcased the quality of the ingredients. For an encore, we ordered a 5th pizza, half Caprese, half Sopressata (Italian salami) & Rocket, the salami worked well with their chilli oil although their ‘super hot’ oil, stored in a glass skull is still restrained on the scoville scale.
Margherita / Courgete & Artichoke
The not so hot, 'super hot' chilli oil
Sopressata & Rocket / Caprese
Duck & Szechuan Pineapple / Smoked Trout, Baby Beets & Goats Curd
Pork Belly, Chimichurri & Smoked Onion
Drinks were straight forward too, beer, wine or prosecco. I spied Kernel beers in the fridge but opted for wine on this occasion, served by the magnum you take as much as you like and pay by the glass as they measure what’s left (or not) in the bottle. I like the idea, I suspect it works well for them too, especially if your friends are anything like mine, refuse to leave any alcohol on the table, and revel in the challenge of polishing off a couple of magnums on a school night. Error.

Front of house were friendly, knowledgeable and on form with their banter, Mark giving the table a pizza cutting master class and claiming he'd absolve my friend of responsibility and repercussions if he took on the challenge of a magnum to himself. A swift boot from his other half put him back in check.

Prices are reasonable, £4 a slice, £20 for the whole 20" pizza, which servers 2 normal people and £4 a glass of wine too.

PIZZA, BEER, WINE, PROSECCO – what’s not to love

Sunday 21 April 2013

Life of a pizza

Feels like we've had several seasons worth of weather condensed into the last couple of weeks. Last time I wrote I was making pizzas in the snow wearing all the layers I own and yesterday was well and truly shorts and t-shirt weather - has spring finally sprung?

We had some friends over last night, the namesakes of our sourdough starters actually and with one veggie in the house it was time to test out some more meat free topping combinations. The highlight of the bunch being a variation of a birds' nest topping with ribbons of asparagus (British asparagus I'd like to add), lemon zest and quail's eggs… there may have been a tincy bit of dry cured pancetta on one side too, perhaps that's why it was my favourite…

I'm rambling now. What I was originally planning to write about was video app I've been playing around with, Vine. It's essentially the video arm of Twitter and makes short (6s) looping clips. You can find me on there under my twitter handle myperfectpizza and what better way to road test a new video app than try and document the full life of a pizza.

So here it is, 1.26 million words worth*:

Feeding the starter:

Mixing the dough:

Knocking back:

Making the balls:

Forming the base:

Top and cook:
Mushroom and wild garlic:

Birds' / Piggies' nest:

*working on the assumption that each picture's still worth 1000 words and assuming Vine shoots each of my 7, 6s videos at 30fps. Apologies.

Monday 1 April 2013

Building a Billy

Last weekend was my dad's birthday and our family converged on the 'Norf' to celebrate. By conventional standards this was one of those 'big birthdays' although given my dad insists he stopped counting when he hit 40 we'll call this his '40th'.

My brother and I had big plans this year and for a while had it in mind that we'd treat him to an outdoor oven. A pyromaniac at heart we knew he'd like this and over the years we've had many a family gathering, come rain or shine with the BBQ at the centre.

This nonchalance to the weather proved useful as our train pulled into the station to see an inch of fresh snow on the platform. Still, you can't let a bit of snow put you off cooking outside… Or building an oven for that matter, although I use the term building loosely as the oven we'd chosen only required minor assembly, everyone meet Billy, Billy meet everyone…

You may notice a striking resemblance to Bertha and that's no surprise given he's from the same, excellent, Garden Oven Company. He arrived on a pallet on the Friday and by Saturday lunchtime he was fired up and ready to cook his inaugural batch of pizzas. That's even factoring in the best efforts of a hapless forklift driver, who along the way had gauged huge holes in the box and lost a couple of parts, still, it's amazing what you can do with a cable tie.

It was a great day, despite the weather we spent most of it outdoors, warmed by the fire and the 'chef's provision' beers. Eight pizzas and a monster, 2kg, shoulder of pork later and he'd done very well on his first firing, most of which is hopefully captured in the following video:

Building a Billy from MyPerfectPizza on Vimeo.

Note: Thanks again to Jay at the Garden Oven Company, who not only sorted out the order and a custom engraving but also drove to my parents' to replace the parts chipped in shipping, how's that for customer service!

Wednesday 13 March 2013

Sticky peel

I'm writing this on the train home from Dorset, turns out South West trains don't have plugs by the seats and with the battery on my laptop fading this could well be brief.

I wanted to write a post with some basic tips on using a peel, you know, the flat metal plates on a stick for transferring pizzas in and out of the oven. We've had ours for a while and it's really useful, but it's fair to say our first attempts to use it were pretty disastrous. There was more than one occasion where a pizza quickly became an unintentional calzone as it stuck and flopped onto the stone. Still tasted fine mind you.

We persisted though and over time realised where we were going wrong. The aim here is to note down what we wish we'd known when we started out. I don't have any pictures so this will be illustrated via the medium of my scribbles on South West train napkins or similar - no expense spared here… [edit: in the end I found a notebook but I'm afraid you're still stuck with my doodles]

First things first, the best tip I can give is to use plenty of flour or semolina to stop things sticking in the first place, sounds simple but I still forget from time to time. Polenta or semolina also adds a contrasting texture where it sticks to the dough.

Secondly, you need to be quick. If you're going to faff, you've got friends over who're all making their own pizzas and taking their time then it's probably easiest to use sheets of tin foil, dust each one generously and then you can take a along as you like.

If you're doing things properly though here are my tips:
  • Use a wooden peel if you've got the option for transferring uncooked pizzas, we'll call this your 'placing peel', the dough sticks easier to steel. Aluminium placing peels also work well

  • Work the dough and top the pizza on the worktop or similar. Lie the peel flush with the work surface and then rotate it onto the dusted (don't forget that) placing peel

  • Once on, pull out the edges of the pizza to it's at full size once again
  • When you're ready to bake, give the pizza a little shimmy back and forward on the peel to check it's loose and then slide it straight on to the stone. This can take a bit of practice with small domestic ovens, and in a moment's over exuberance I've slid a few pizzas straight off the back of the pizza stone - all part of the learning though

  • Now it's time to use the metal peel, your 'turning peel', if you have one. Most pizzerias use a peel with a small circular head, much smaller than the pizza diameter, these tend to be made of steel primarily to withstand more time in the oven. The turning peel is used to lift the pizza at and angle, if you keep one edge in contact with the stone you can roll the pizza and replace in the centre allowing it to cook evenly

  • If you're using an oven like mine, there's an additional step here to get your leopard spots
  • Finally, slide it out and serve

Troubleshooting a sticky peel
If for whatever reason the dough does stick, don't panic. Your best bet is to slowly pry the dough away with a spatula or similar and each time you manage to release a section throw some flour or polenta underneath.

Thursday 21 February 2013

Top Toppings - what the chefs go for...

A couple of weeks ago I was asked what my favourite topping is:

"Well you can't beat a well made sourdough margherita, then again, I'm a sucker for anchovies and find it hard to look past them on a menu..."

some time later

"...recently I've been making more white pizzas (without the tomato sauce) and brussels sprouts on a pizza was a revelation..."

their eyes have now well and truly glazed over

"MEATBALLS!" they rouse, "Kale, potato, have you tried them on a pizza?"

I clearly wasn't in a particularly decisive mood although it also highlights that you can't define perfect pizza, it's different things, to different people, at different times. What you can work towards is truly great pizza, memorable pizza, and that's what all the guys below specialise in. After my inability to pick a single favourite I got in touch with some of my favourite pizzerias to see what the top pizzaiolos in the UK choose when they have blank canvas of dough.

In no particular order, here's what the pros said:

Restaurant: Story Deli
Chef: Lee Hollingworth
In their words:
"We do pizza. Pizza's fun to make & fun to eat, but we're not about pizza it's just a vehicle that we use we're about organic food and earning a living from using organic food to support farmers & growers who are out there saving the soil. Everything we buy is 100% certified organically grown with the exception of the spring water we use to make the dough - it can't be called organic, but it's drawn from certified organic land, which is the closest I can get & sea salt - it also can't be called organic, but the brand we use is certified by the soil association as suitable for use in organic cooking. I don't use yeast - because there isn't an organic one. There are seven organic pizza flours in Italy having tried them all the one I use is the best for the way we cook @ 405c or 410c. People seem to like our product so I'm pleased.

Me - when I'm by myself - my partner & kid usually hijack the recipe. I always make a pizza around 3 basic ingredients egg, garlic roasted, fresh baby spinach & birds eye chillies adding an ingredient here & there"

Restaurant: Pizza East
Chef: Brian McGowan
In their words:
"My personal favourite pizza topping here is our Veal Meatball pizza. We use a white panna base. The pizza is then topped with torn San Danielle and our own Veal meatball mix. We make our own mix in house each day. Some chopped sage is sprinkled over the top and the pizza is placed in the oven. We hold our ovens at a lower temperature to traditional ovens as our dough has a far higher water content when compared with usual pizza dough. If the temperature is too high the crust will burn on the outside before the pizza is cooked through. The cooking time is normally between five and six minutes. The pizza is then sliced and finished off with some freshly grated lemon zest. Heaven.

This is my personal favourite but our biggest sellers are the Margarita, Salami and our Cotto pizzas. I cannot stress enough the attention that should be paid to the quality of the dough and the freshness of the toppings. If you keep this in mind at all times then you’re well on the road to producing the best pizza possible."

Restaurant: Pizza Pilgrims
Chef: Thom and James Elliot
In their words:
"I think our favourite topping of the last year has to be Nduja [edit: aka The Ninja as I insist on calling it]. It is a spicy sausage from Calabria in the South of Italy, made from the belly and cheeks of the pig, along with a (very) high proportion of Calabrian chilli (sometimes around 50%). It is then smoked and cured. We discovered it on our "Pizza Pilgrimage" at the end of 2011 in a small town called Spilinga.

The fatty cut of meat used means that it also has the strange property of being spreadable. This also makes it amazing on pizza - as the Nduja melts in the hot oven and releases pools of hot, spicy, meaty oil. It needs to be used sparingly for this reason, and we often don't add any olive oil to the pizza to compensate. It works well on a bianca base, but we think it is hard to beat just added to a sourdough Margherita."

Chef: Rachel Seed
In their words:
"As you may know, we have a very small main menu (6 pizzas) as we use the best quality (local wherever possible) ingredients and make everything ourselves. We also always have two weekly specials, and the most popular have been the pulled pork and BBQ sauce (inspired by our trip to Orlando where we had fabulously gluttonous trip gorging ourselves on delicious street food!) and Chaumes, trompette mushrooms and smoked garlic (all ingredients purchased from a trip across the channel to visit some french markets)."

Restaurant: Santa Maria
Chef: Lucio Miano Petta from Naples
In their words:
"The main thing is...that we are sort of against toppings. For us the best topping is just the fior di latte mozzarella. We are pioneers of the "less is more", the less you put on a pizza, the better. Only this way, you can taste the freshness and lightness of the dough, and the tomato sauce. Toppings would hide the underneath flavours!

Fave topping: just tomato sauce with garlic and origano (Marinara) fior di latte mozzarella (margherita) or going for the buffalo mozzarella (bufalina). Nothing else.

Fior di latte mozzarella, typical neapolitan mozzarella, has a very delicate and light taste. Combined with the tomato sauce, reaches the perfect combination. Has to be cooked in a 450-485 degrees oven for 50 seconds. Over doing it, will become liquid. Buffalo mozzarella, made with buffalo milk typical of the area of Mondragone and Battipaglia. Has a very strong taste, the texture is nearly rubbery and chewy. It's the deluxe version of the regular fior di latte."

Monday 18 February 2013

Topping tasting

Less of a post, more a set of pictures from the weekend's tasting session.

A couple of good friends came over on Saturday and we used the excuse to test out a few toppings we'd been wanting to try. I'm not going to ramble on about which was our favourite, not just because each of us ended up picking a different one, but more because I've got a much more interesting topping related post in the pipeline which should be coming your way soon...

In the meantime here are some pictures of the weekend's creations:
Photos credited to said good friend

Sunday 3 February 2013

Due Sardi

It'd been ages since we'd made pizza, too long, ages since we'd even had pizza. But a Friday night in recovering from the dreaded lurgi seemed like the perfect excuse to try out some of the delivery places in the area.

The restaurant of choice was Due Sardi, the takeaway arm of Amici Miei (reviewed much more eloquently here) where we'd had a couple of excellent meals previously so our expectations were high. Things started well, I called through our order and it arrived, warm, within half an hour. Here's what we went for:

Margherita - Tomato Sauce, Mozzarella, Basil.

The benchmark for any pizzeria. A prize to anyone who spots the basil

Napoli - Tomato Sauce, Mozzarella, Olives, Anchovies
 Another classic and personal favourite.

Completa - Tomato Sauce, Mozzarella, Pepperoni, Gorgonzola, Onion, Avocado & Cherry Tomatoes

More out of curiosity than anything else.

They looked quite good, some reasonable blistering and signs of charring although overall I'd have preferred another 30s in the oven. The toppings weren't bad either, generous quantities and a good salt kick from the anchovies and gorgonzola on the Napoli and Completa. For me the jury's still out on the role of avocado on a pizza and as well as looking a bit brown by the time it arrived it didn't really add anything here.

The real let down was the crust though, perhaps my favourite part of a pizza, this was a real disappointment. Dry, bland, chewy to the point of distraction and lacking rise or fluffy texture.

Having said all that these were still a reasonable set of takeout pizzas and given we demolished them all they can't have been that bad. I sometimes wonder that I've been spoiled of late and that combined with my initial high expectations probably worked against them. So perhaps I should give them another try?

Here are the details:
Cost: A very reasonable £23.65 including delivery
Verdict: The dough was the let down.
Will we be back: Perhaps, the excellent meals we've had at Amici Miei previously have probably earned them a second chance