Meet the pizza champion: Giulio Adriani says the real Italian pizza is not greasy

Hindustan Times | By, Mumbai
Aug 04, 2016 07:41 PM IST

Chef Giulio Adriani has won four world pizza championships. According to him the true Italian 10-inch pizza has less than 600 calories

Quiz Chef Giulio Adriani on the ingredients that go into making the perfect pizza and he says, “Heart, passion, perfection.” And just like any true Italian chef, Adriani believes that even a drop more or less of tomato sauce can change its taste. New York-based Adriani (47) is in the city as the consulting chef at Gustoso (earlier known as Pizza Metro Pizza), a Neapolitan restaurant with outlets in Khar and Kemps Corner.

Giulio Adriani at Gustoso, Kemps Corner(Photo: Aalok Soni/HT)
Giulio Adriani at Gustoso, Kemps Corner(Photo: Aalok Soni/HT)

Mellow, opera-style music plays in the background as Adriani gets to work at the big stone oven placed in the centre of the restaurant. He kneads the dough with all his heart, passionately slathers it with tomato sauce and sprinkles cheese over it, bringing together all the ingredients for that quintessential margherita.

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Winning streak

In his 30-year-long career, Adriani has won four World Pizza Championships (an annual event to determine the world’s best pizza makers), opened three pizzerias in New York (including the city’s first kosher pizzeria) and started 20 pizza trucks. “I have five more in the pipeline,” he says. Though he calls the margherita his signature pizza, Adriani won acclaim for the Montanara, a Neapolitan pie where the dough is flash-fried, toppings are added, and the pizza is finished in a 1,000 Fahrenheit (537.7 Celsius) wood-burning oven.

“The frying gives the crust a pillow-y texture. The baking evaporates residual oil, making the crust light and fragrant,” says Adriani. This fried pizza is so popular that Adriani plans to open a pizzeria dedicated to just these in October in New York.

Adriani has won four World Pizza Championships (an annual event to determine the world’s best pizza makers) (Photo: Aalok Soni/HT)
Adriani has won four World Pizza Championships (an annual event to determine the world’s best pizza makers) (Photo: Aalok Soni/HT)

Of cheese and sauce

So, what’s that one advice he’d give to anyone trying to make a good pizza? “Keep it simple. Don’t overload the pizza with toppings,” he says. According to Adriani, an authentic Italian pizza is always soft and soggy. Not the crisp, super-doughy version one finds at restaurants. “It’s a common misconception across the world that pizza should be crisp. When pizza makers migrated from Italy to other countries, they couldn’t find the right ovens and ingredients. That’s how pizza became crisp and greasy,” he explains.

Read: Chef Tim Dornon wants you to ditch store-bought sauce for the real stuff

Another common misconception is that pizza is a high-calorie food item. “A true Italian, 10-inch pizza has less than 600 calories. But if you look at the way a pizza is made at a regular American restaurant, with lots of cheese and oil, a pizza crosses over 1,000 calories,” says Adriani.

At Gustoso, too, the Italian chef hopes to debunk some of these myths and introduce the city to authentic pizzas, like the Italians eat it. And to bring this experience as close to the real deal as possible, ingredients such as flour, San Marzano tomatoes, pastas and olive oil is shipped all the way from Naples every two months. “We need to educate people across the world about the real Italian pizzas, not what the world is used to eating,” he says.

Adriani’s signature margherita pizza (Photo: Aalok Soni/HT)
Adriani’s signature margherita pizza (Photo: Aalok Soni/HT)

The art of Making the perfect pizza

• Add the mozzarella halfway into cooking. This will help you avoid overcooking it (which turns the cheese into unhealthy fat).

• Don’t add olive oil in the beginning, but only towards the end. This will help preserve the oil’s flavour and smell.

• When making the sauce, add whole basil leaves and let it marinate in the sauce for a few hours.

• Cook the pizza at the highest temperature possible.

• Don’t be scared to make the dough soft; it should be sticky and elastic.

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    Meenakshi Iyer writes on food, fashion, technology and health for Hindustan Times. She has worked with Indian Express, Mid-Day and Reuters in the past.

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