Pizza is Serious Business

It’s doubtful that a masterclass from a Neapolitan pizza maker would have drawn a big crowd in years past. Not so anymore. This is 2017 and pizza is serious business.

Pizza is one of the most ubiquitous foods in Australia and has been for a long time. But tastes and Australian pizzas are changing. As people become more interested in the origins of their food, the way it looks and the El Dorado of ‘authenticity’, the traditional style of Napoletano pizza is booming in popularity.

By no means a majority of Adelaide pizzerias serve up this elegant style of pizza, but a casual glance at the local scene sees a sharp growth in restaurants that do, including the likes of Pizzateca, Napoli Pizzeria, Pizza e Mozzarella, Antica and Etica. Judging by the sheer number of local pizza makers attending a masterclass from the newly crowned World Pizza Champion and owner of Melbourne’s Zero95 pizza restaurants, Andrew Cozzolino, that number could be set to grow even more.

As Cozzolino tells The Adelaide Review after his demonstration, “Now Napoletano pizza is known all around the world. It’s on the TV, and Facebook, Google, everywhere…  Every day people get to know it a little more. Here in this country, it’s new.”

It’s a curious mix of people one finds attending a masterclass like Cozzolino’s, and one that speaks to the popularity of this style. Slipping into Antica Pizzeria on a sunny Monday afternoon, the slick restaurant is packed to the gills, one half pizza makers, one half food writers and bloggers. Glasses of Aperol spritz and bubbly make their way around the room as the throng nibbles at slices of prosciutto, chatting about their pizza shop or the last pretty thing they ate.

Anyone who came along thinking they might plonk themselves at a bench to knead pizza dough and cook their own pie is mistaken. Instead, it’s more a casual, but detailed, lecture and demonstration delivered by Cozzolino himself, while the audience sits, take notes and sips spritz.

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Prior pizza knowledge is assumed, and it becomes clear that this isn’t just your undergraduate Pizza 101 class. Think more along the lines of Pizza-ology: The Mathematics and Dynamics of Good Dough. Cozzolino runs through the most elementary calculations first: five kilograms of 00 flour plus three litres of water plus five grams of yeast plus time equals dough. Good. Noted.

But from there things become more complex. Temperature gets involved. See, the temperature of the dough and water must be within a couple of degrees of the ambient room temperature at the time it’s made. If not, non bene.

As the chemical calculations pile up, note-takers and amateur recipe makers mutter that this is more science than cooking. Soon, few are noting, most are just watching a master at work. The pizza makers are still on board though, calling out questions here and there, which are answered proficiently by the maestro up front.

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“What about the water quality? Does tap water affect the dough?” one local pizzaiolo asks.

“Yes. If you have a machine to remove the chlorine from the water, you will want to leave it to sit for at least two hours before you make the dough,” the young Cozzolino sagely responds.

Ettore Bertonati, a local Neaopolitan expat who has worked for the likes of Etica, Napoli Pizzeria and now Pizzateca, tells The Adelaide Review that Cozzolino’s craft is formidable, particularly complimenting his precise treatment of the dough.

Quizzed afterwards on what’s most important when making Napoletano pizza, Cozzolino explains:

“The key is to know the ingredients that you use and use the best ingredients, like Caputo flour. It’s the flour that comes from Naples and like I said earlier, it’s 100 per cent natural flour. A lot are bleached to make it white, but this is 100 per cent natural and it tastes unbelievable. It’s the flour of Napoli, which keeps me traditional.”

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As the masterclass goes on, servers ferry pizza to the audience that is now split between some quickly taking notes and others snapping shots of the photogenic dish on their smartphones or DSLR cameras for publication on blogs and Instagram profiles. Caputo, as it turns out, offers a range of flours capable of creating gluten-free and multigrain pizzas in the Napoletano style. Technically they’re not truly Napoletano pizzas, since that style has strict guidelines on the type of flour and number of ingredients used (“If you use max four ingredients, it’s Napoletano pizza. If you use more than four ingredients, it isn’t Napoletano anymore.”), but they have that potential to cater to the contemporary market’s wants and needs.

As the World Pizza Champion continues to chat, he alludes to the size of the competition he took out. “The competition is the biggest in the world,” he says. “About 600 people compete from all around the world and about a million people watch the competition. It runs for one week on the waterfront in Napoli. It’s big, you know?”

Photography: Sia Duff

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