Giulio Adriani on the art of making traditional Neapolitan pizza
Giulio Adriani knows about authentic Naples-style pizza. The Italian pizzaiolo has four pizza world championships under his belt and three New York City restaurants devoted to his style of Neapolitan pizza (Forcella is now open in two spots: Williamsburg and NoHo, and the just-opened Montanara, which features five fried pizzas, is on the Lower East Side). He e-mailed with us from Italy on what sets his burgeoning pizza empire apart from the regular New York City slice.
What separates your Neapolitan pizza from regular New York pizza?
Neapolitan pizza is different from New York pizza for many reasons. The oven we cook the pizza in is a wood-fire oven that cooks the pizza in 60 to 75 seconds at over 750 degrees — giving our pizza the famous characteristic of being fluffy, chewy and soft. This kind of cooking also preserves the freshness and original taste of the ingredients we use. We use fresh mozzarella/fior di latte that is, in my opinion, much more tasty. The pizza at the end will also be a little bit more “wet,” but this is what we like in our style.
What toppings make for the perfect pizza?
Until a few months ago, I would have said tomato, mozzarella and basil [margherita], and still think this is the best pizza to test a pizzeria. But with my last visit to Los Angeles, I changed my mind, thanks to Mozza [Mario Batali's new pizza venture] and began to try different experimental toppings creating unique pizzas that, for me, can be considered art. My favorite one now is the Bagnoli, made with roasted potatoes, roasted pancetta, homemade burrata cheese and rosemary.
What does it takes to be a master pizzaiolo?
For me, a “master” is a pizza-maker who works for almost 30 years and who has successful restaurants and universally recognized skills. When I travel to teach the art of making pizza or do consulting, I don’t like to be called “master” because I consider it to be disrespectful to my old masters — people who, at 70 years old, still make hundreds of pizzas a day. “Master” is something you can’t claim; it’s a word that other people use to refer to someone. I’ve made pizza since I?was 13 — now I’m 41 — but on my business card, I will never claim to be a “master pizzaiolo.”
How have New Yorkers taken to your Neapolitan pizza?
My introduction of the fried [Neapolitan] pizza, montanara, really created a big hit in the New York pizza world because it was the only new thing in the pizza world in the last decade. It’s made by lightly frying the dough, then putting the toppings on and finishing it in the oven to remove the grease of the oil while helping to keep the fried taste.
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