From a distance, an authentic Neapolitan pizza base resembles a chapati. But one bite of the soft thin-crust layered with basil and mozzarella changes that perception instantly.
New York-based celebrity chef Giulio Adriani has just finished training the staff of a new city restaurant, Di Napoli, in the art of making the perfect Neapolitan pizza. “Traditionally, authentic pizza is supposed to be soft. Everywhere in the world, it is crispy, which is why we are trying to make people understand otherwise. You should be able to fold a real Neapolitan pizza four times and eat it without letting it break,” says the chef, who ferments the dough for 24 hours to prepare it. “It makes the pizza fluffier,” he says.
One corner of this Nariman Point venue is occupied by a massive stone furnace-oven. “The base is cooked at 400 to 420 degrees Celsius. It takes roughly 60 seconds to a minute-and-a-half or two,” he says. Hailing from Naples, the city where pizzas originated, the Italian chef takes great pride in his work. So much so that he refuses to taste any product from India’s numerous pizza chains. “As an ambassador of Neapolitan pizza, everything else is a bad evolution of the original product,” he says, smiling.
Apart from introducing the city to these thin-crust pizzas, which unlike most other specimens don’t feel as heavy on the stomach, Adriani has another trick up his sleeve for pizza fans: “I invented the fried pizza in New York,” he says. And this pizza will soon make it to the menu of Di Napoli. “The technique was generated in Naples a long time ago. It came before the regular pizza, because when people didn’t have ovens, they used to cook it on a pan with oil.”
Jai Thakur, owner of Di Napoli and trained pizza connoisseur explains how it works. “We flash fry the base, just until the colour changes. Then we take it out and dab it. We add the ingredients and put it in the oven,” he says. Starting at a price of R385 for the 12-inch pizza Margherita, Thakur hopes to cater to those interested in authentic tastes.
Dough it yourself
Find fine flour that is high on gluten. It makes it easy to stretch.
Mix flour with water and salt. For every litre of water, add 50 grams of salt.
Add 4 to 5 grams of fresh yeast.
Work it with your hands and let it rise for some time.
Then put some oil in a pan.
Expand the dough as per the size of the pan. It should not be less than a cm of the pan’s diameter.
Put it on the stove.
Add the mozzarella.
Put it in the oven for another 5 minutes.
Read to eat!
How the pizza lost authenticity
“Pizza originated in Naples in the 1600s. Then it took the form of the margherita pizza when they began adding ingredients to the base. During the First World War, a lot of immigration happened. As a result, a lot of Italians spread to various parts of the world. Construction workers and lawyers moved to America, Australia and South America. When they arrived, they tried to find a way to survive. They said, ‘Let’s open a pizza parlour!’ These were not professional pizza makers and they started making pizza with non-traditional ingredients,” says chef Giulio Adriani.