the art of pizza

The modern pizza, born hundreds of years ago in working class Naples as a food for the poor, is a dish steeped in tradition with clear rules outlining its preparation.

The most common mistake people make when making pizza is trying to rush, says Orazio D’Elia, partner and chef at the latest restaurant to make a splash in Bondi,Da Orazio Pizza + Porchetta.

“They make the dough in the morning, and they expect to serve it in the afternoon,” he says. “They don’t prove the dough properly.” This haste means the pizza dough is still high in yeast when it’s cooked. “That’s why you feel so heavy after you eat most pizza,” says the Italian-born chef. “A good dough needs to prove for at least 36 hours, so you make the dough today, early in the morning, and you cook it tomorrow night.”

At Da Orazio, pizza dough is left to prove for 48 hours, which makes a very light base. “The next day we start a new dough with a little bit of the old dough, so therefore we put less yeast into it,” says d’Elia.

Making pizza is such an art that it’s the last thing you learn as a trainee pizzaiolo. “The first thing you learn is how to cook a pizza,” says D’Elia, which means mastering a wood-fired furnace that reaches temperatures as high as 500 degrees Celcius. Da Orazio’s oven, made using a special, heat-resistant cement, was manufactured in Italy by a family from Naples who have been making pizza ovens for more than 200 years.

“Then slowly, slowly they train you to stretch, to put toppings on, and the last thing they teach you is how to do the dough,” D’Elia explains.

Like most Italian trades, pizza making is a family business. Da Orazio’s pizza chef, Luca di Napoli, is a fourth generation pizzaiolo, says D’Elia. “He started doing his first pizza with his father when he was seven years old.”

While Da Orazio schools Sydneysiders in the traditions of Neopolitan pizza, in Alexandria, Cipro Pizza al Taglio represents the new wave of pizza making, inspired by Gabriele Bonci’s Pizzarium in Rome.

Chef Angel Fernandez agrees with D’Elia: great pizza needs a good tasty base, which at Cipro is closer to a focaccia than the thin crusty base of conventional pizza from Naples.

While both restaurants use Caputo 00, an Italian, finely ground flour low in gluten that is used in pizza dough all over the world, Fernandez also uses Buratto, a high-quality, soft wheat flour made by Mulino Marino, in his thicker pizza bases.

“Before we started the place up we tried about 10 to 12 different flours,” says Fernandez. “What we came out with was a lot less flavor than what we got with the Caputo and the Buratto.”

Despite the care – and chemistry – that goes into making pizza dough, it’s the toppings that often hog the spotlight.

At Da Orazio the philosophy is one of simplicity, says D’Elia. “The less toppings you put on a pizza, the better!”

“People at the moment seem to love this pizza we call the Diavoletta,” he says. It’s basically like a margherita with very spicy salami. People love it!”

At Cipro, Fernandez is willing to take risks with unorthodox toppings, as long as the ingredients are of the highest quality. One of their most popular pizzas is the one topped with pork ragu.

“We get pork belly, pork neck and pork shoulder and we salt them down for about 24 hours,” explains Fernandez. “We cook it the next day with some garlic and San Marzano tomatoes, and we cook that for about four to five hours, until it falls apart.”

Topped with peppery rocket, it’s clear why the pork ragu is one of Cipro’s best selling pizzas. As Fernandez says, it’s like the ultimate meat lover’s pizza.

While the two restaurants represent the old and the new of pizza making, there’s one tenet both D’Elia and Fernandez avowedly adhere to – you’ll never see pineapple on Da Orazio or Cipro pizza.

ON JUNE 11, 2014


nicola heath

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