I don’t want to say we planned our accommodation in Rome earlier this year around Gabriele Bonci’s Pizzarium, but I will say that his tiny hole-in-the-wall pizzeria was directly opposite our metro stop and only two blocks from the apartment we rented for five days. After watching an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s The Layover where Bourdain explores Rome in just over 30 hours, packing in the best places to eat, stay and visit, I was obsessed with getting some of Bonci’s Roman-style ‘Pizza al taglio’ (pizza by the cut). And I don’t really want to admit to going to the same place over and over again when the Eternal City is overflowing with amazing places to eat, but…we did manage to eat our way through almost all varieties of pizza available, and it certainly took more than a couple of visits to do so.
Some of my favs were potato pizza (carbs on carbs, yes please), ricotta and courgette with freshly ground nutmeg, and a spring themed asparagus with eggs and lemon. Look out over the coming weeks for posts featuring these toppings. But really, the most amazing, crunchy, soft, chewy and delicious part of any of them was the incredible crust. When we returned to New Zealand I bought Bonci’s book, aptly titled Pizza, and we have been happily crafting dough for the past six months.
They say good things take time and this is no exception. You ideally need a whole weekend to make the dough and that’s assuming the starters were already happily bubbling away, well fed over the past 7-10 days. But don’t mistake time for effort, this is a softly, softly approach, a little kneading here, leaving it proof in a warm spot there, it simply requires a little back-planning (one our fav pastimes here in product development) so that you get the end product on time. I’ve been keeping my starters on my desk at work so I can feed them every second day, I even took them home for the long weekend to keep them active. They are my little (ugly) dough babies.
Last week we made two doughs: a wholegrain using the rye flour starter, and a mostly white with a little wholegrain using the yoghurt starter. Both were delicious, the wholegrain was definitely a little firmer to work with and not quite as lofty, but so flavoursome and I felt pretty smug eating my healthy and delicious pizza. The recipes below are my versions of Bonci’s creations, adapted for local ingredients and climate.
I follow the seven stages as outlined in Bonci’s book, and they never fail me: Mixing, First Rising, Folding, Second Rising, Dividing, Stretching, and (finally!) Cooking. I’ve tried with dried yeast and with natural (starter), and well as doing it all on the same day and being more diligent and starting a day or two in advance. All pizzas are delicious, although if you can use natural yeast and retard the dough in the fridge at least overnight, then the flavour and texture are definitely better.