Today it’s pizza! As an Italiana I have no choice but to write about it. Many think pizza is just pizza – if you’re one of them, I hope to change your mind in this post. Pizza can be made in many different ways – I’ll describe you a few key styles, so that next time you’re ordering pizza, you’ll have a better idea of what you are having (and impress your Italian friends!).
To bake pizza, few simple ingredients are needed – flour, water, olive oil, salt and brewer’s yeast – but what capable hands can obtain from a good combination of these can be outstanding. Pizza can, however, change much, depending on the quantities of the ingredients and on the various refined processing techniques.
The first classification can be made taking into consideration the shape. The most classic one is the Pizza Napoletana, which comes in a round shape. To make it, the dough rolled into small balls that are left to raise. This allows the pizzaiolo (pizza chef) to throw them in the air and work the dough until it becomes flat and round. The other popular style is the pizza “al taglio”, meaning that it is sold in slices – normally squared – and can be found both in pizzerias and in bakeries. This style of pizza is usually made in the morning and sold throughout the whole day; hence this pizza needs to have a lot of moisture (up to 90%) to remain soft after a whole day in the shop and even after re-heating.
The second important classification is on the origin, which influences not only the way the dough is processed, but also the garnishes on the pizza:
– Naples: the dough is made without any oil – only water, flour, yeast and salt. There are two classic ways of garnishing it. One is of course margherita, with tomato, basil, oil and mozzarella; the most authentic pizzas from Naples use mozzarella di bufala, which is more smoky and tasty than “normal” mozzarella. The second one is Marinara – tomato, garlic, oregano, oil. This pizza is quite thin in the middle but with a high and soft crust towards the edges. This is caused by the flow of air from the centre towards the crust during the processing. Exclusively cooked in wooden ovens, it captures the smell of wood, which adds strong taste to the pizza.
– Genoa: this pizza is made with flour of soft wheat flour, water, salt, brewer’s yeast and (sometimes) milk. It is laid by hand (without a rolling pin) in a baking pan and cooked in a wooden oven.
– Tuscany: this pizza is very deep – at least 3cm. It is commonly sold “al taglio” and it is very soft.
– Rome: round, thin and crunchy. An extra pinch of salt makes the dough quite hard, and the result is a very crispy and tasty pizza. Typical garnishments include basil, pecorino cheese and black pepper.
– Sicily: this region probably has the widest range of different garnishments, depending on the city. It differs somewhat from the classic Neapolitan pizza, due to its origins as a poor, rural dish. Most commonly, there is no tomato or mozzarella, but a wide range of other ingredients differently combined depending on the city, including onion, caciocavallo cheese, anchovies, potatoes, sausages, and so on.
A few weeks ago, I went for lunch with my colleague JDG at the pizzeria daRita ed Antonio. This pizzeria is quite hidden, on the same side of its block as the Teatro dal Verme, quite close to the city centre. It is furnished in the style of the 70s, with simple white table clothes, black chairs, grey walls and linoleum floor. These very basic colours give a fresh and neat look to the dining room; neither too old nor boring. Round lights that focus the attention on the tiny round tables make you feel even more like being in a 70s movie. The service is very prompt, which is great if you’re going there on a lunch break from work, but may less appreciated if you are a tourist. Most of the clients are businessmen, some even with clients. It is a restaurant that allows one to have a conversation easily since it is quite quiet considering its size.
A specially tasty starter is always offered as you sit: complimentary bread and oil. We had three different types of bread: white, with olives and with paprika (this one was very hot to my taste). The oil was very strong in taste, with a note of acidity that made it most interesting. The bread was very special, fresh and perfect to dip in the oil – excellent start to the meal!
We had two different pizzas to share: prosciutto e funghi (ham and mushrooms) and ortolana (grilled vegetables). They make the most Neapolitan pizza I’ve ever had in Milan. The crust was thick and delicious, with an airy, soft texture. The middle of the pizza was quite thin and, even though it was not too oily, it tasted as if it was fried! As for the garnish, the ham and mushroom was indeed very good, but what I was most struck by the vegetables – they were freshly grilled, crispy on the outside and succulent on the inside – it is very rare to find vegetables that are so well cooked, and especially so in a pizzeria.
Here you see JDG with watering mouth, ready to try the most local food in the country of mandolino!
I agree with Federico Marchetti, who said that this was the best pizza in Milan. Now that you know (almost) everything about the different styles of pizza, if you found yourself being a Neapolitan pizza person, this is the place for you!
Prices: 14 € per person (drinks included)
Pizzeria da Rita ed Antonio
Via Giacomo Puccini 2
Tel. +39 02875579