Pizza gets rise out of tourists spending dough
Italians insist careful preparation of ingredients is key to successful taste
Updated: 5:35 p.m. ET Feb. 20, 2006
TURIN, Italy - Would you like pear on your pizza? How about lard? Perhaps you’re not so adventurous and would like to stick to a common Italian topping like egg or anchovy?
A true Italian pizza may surprise the unaccustomed American palette, but it rarely fails to please.
“It’s the best pizza in the world,” said 25-year-old Chicago native Trevor Turk.
“It must be the wood fire and their experience,” he said as he waited for a table at the popular, family-run Pizzeria Ristorante Gennaro Esposito in Turin.
“It’s the crust,” his girlfriend Lauren Wolf piped up.
“It’s the fresh tomato and the fresh mozzarella cheese,” her mother, Vivian Liese, said.
“In Chicago there’s too much cheese on the pizzas. Here it’s more delicate and you get a choice of different styles all on a freshly baked crust. It’s very sophisticated,” Liese’s partner Marshall Segal concluded.
So what’s their secret?
It seems not to be in the array of unusual toppings but instead lies — or perhaps one should say rises — in the dough.
“Our main secret is that we let the dough rise for 48 hours in a natural way without the addition of other strange ingredients like potato or egg,” said Guido Picariello, a nephew of the owner, Genarro Esposito — after whom the 10-year-old restaurant and its two newer branches are named.
“We only use flour, water, salt and baking powder, in the correct quantities to make a soft dough that develops in the oven into a perfect pizza,” he said.
Unlike their American counterparts, Italian pizzas are so thin that everyone gets their own. And they must be eaten with a fork and knife.
Toppings are chosen with care to complement each other.
Picariello said a popular combination is sausage with friarielli — a typical Neapolitan green vegetable.
Pear and mozzarella also is considered a high-class option. In fact, there’s an Italian proverb that says: Do not tell the farm worker how well cheese goes with pears. In other words, it goes so well together he’ll eat all the produce.
Although that’s a hit, pineapple on pizza is considered a catastrophe.
“Americans complicate their pizzas with too many flavors,” Picariello said.
Here, quattro formaggi is a four-cheese pizza, but the cheeses must stay in their separate quadrants.
When asked if two kinds of cheese could be put on top of each other, Turin resident Ricardo Maffioti exclaimed: “No, no! You cannot put two kinds of cheese together — it is like wearing two scarves!”
Esposito, the pizzeria’s Neapolitan owner, brings all his ingredients north from his home city. By truck, train, and air, everything from the high quality fior di latte mozzarella – to the friarielli comes from Naples, the city that invented the pizza.
Although not related to Turin’s Gennaro Esposito, a man with the same last name, Raffaele Esposito, is credited with making the first pizza in 1889 to honor a visit by King Umberto I and Queen Margherita. Made with basil, mozzarella, and tomatoes — the green, white, and red of the Italian flag — the margherita is now one of the most popular pizzas in the country.
Despite all the exotic ingredients on the menu, the margherita and the marinara – made with tomato sauce, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and fresh-cut tomatoes — are Pizzeria Ristorante Gennaro Esposito’s top sellers, according to Picariello.
Adding to the dining experience is the open kitchen where the pizzaioli, or pizza makers, toss the dough, flatten it out, add the toppings by hand, and using a long pole, gently ease it into the large brick oven, back toward the wood fire, pulling it out minutes later piping hot and cooked to perfection.