Learning to use the pizza oven
Ever wondered how to make the best pizza in the world? I’ve wanted to make good pizza ever since I first visited Naples (the pizza capital of the world) back in 2012. But every time I’ve attempted to make a good dough, it’s ended up either a hard crunchy disc or a soggy ball of mess - that has so many holes in it, it resembles a pizza sieve. It’s so bad, I usually resort to buying and layering wraps on top of each other - disguising the purchased base.
So, on our return to Naples four years after we first visited, we discovered some of the top pizza chefs in the city actually offer a hands-on course, to teach you how to make the perfect pizza. It's all based at pizzeria Al 22, in the heart of the old-town of Naples.
Rosario Piscopo teaching the class about toppings
There we learned it's all about the base. But surely it can’t be that complicated, I hear you say.
In reality, it is. The perfect base involves a careful balancing act of hydration, humidity, and low protein flour. It is more chemistry than cooking.
Chef Rosario Piscopo and Giovanni Improta are award winning pizza chefs - so much so, they’re referred to as 'maestros'. They are even instructors at the True Neapolitan Pizza Association. Yes, pizza is taken very seriously in this part of the world, and once you taste it you’ll understand why. You will never look at Pizza Hut the same.
Rosario Piscopo and Giovanni Improta
So, the Pizza Experience.
The benches were set up and ready for us when we arrived, together with a welcome coffee which we enjoyed while we listened to a short explanation on the science of pizza. We then tied on our aprons, rolled up our sleeves, and began to mix the ingredients for our dough. Water comes first, then salt and yeast, THEN the flour. No wonder mine never turned out!
Making the dough
Being the only non-Italians in the group, we were admittedly the last ones to finish with most steps, but Rosario and Giovanni were extremely kind and patient as they helped us with our sticky fingers and oddly shaped dough balls.
After creating a pretty good dough (for our standards) we put that aside and were able to work with the proper stuff made by the maestros themselves (created the day before and rested for 24 hours).
Learning from the maestros
Taking turns under the watchful eye of the pizza chefs, we began (attempting) to flatten the balls of dough into round pizza bases which we then topped with pomodoro sauce, fior di latte (this is fresh cheese), a ‘dash’ of olive oil and a few sprigs of basil.
Learning how to roll the dough
We then transported the pizza on the giant pizza stick/handle thing (official name ‘peel’) into an oven roaring at a scary 450 degrees celsius. I managed this a lot better than expected and even got a cheer of approval from my spectators when it landed safely. However, retrieving it from the furnace wasn’t as easy - I took the pizza out just as a giant flame caught on the crust and the whole thing threatened to blow…. we saved it just in time.
Rescuing my pizza from near death
I was then able to devour my creation in the traditional way; folded up like a crepe and wrapped in paper with the cheese dripping through the base.
Eating my creation the traditional way
Once we’d all recovered from the hard work of making our own pizza, we were rewarded with a massive feast of 3 different pizzas created by our wonderful instructors - all served with a huge glass of wine. We were so full, we weren't even able to finish the last few pieces (I’ll forever regret not stashing them in my tote bag for the way home).
Preparing pizza for the oven
If you want to enjoy an amazing day of laughter and all-you-can-eat pizza, do yourself a favour (and anyone you’ll be inviting for dinner back at home) and book this delicious experience. Along with a new confidence for making some damn good pizza, you’ll go home with a ball of the dough you made, an apron, a small gift and a certificate you can hang at home to prove your new skill set. We will never forget this fun and inspirational day - we have the recipe now so no more crumbly scone pizza base in my kitchen!
You can check out the Pizza Experience website here for bookings
They also have a Facebook page