The No. 4 spot on the list went to Dan Richer’s Razza Pizza Artigianale - his advice ranges from ovens and dough hydration, to simply measuring things properly.
Dan Richer’s Razza Pizza Artigianale ©50 Top Pizza
“I always recommend using a pizza dough recipe that is geared around the oven that you're baking in. If you're using a dough formula that is from your favourite restaurant that has a woodfired oven, and they give you a dough recipe, don't try to bake that in your home oven because it's not going to come out great. Gear your dough recipe around the oven.”
“And then just practice. This is a skill. It’s not like making a bowl of soup that you can follow the recipe and it comes out the same way every single time. Because pizza is such a simple food, there's nothing to hide behind. You got to be a bread baker. You got to be a cook. We're cheese makers also because we make our own cheese, and we have to understand the properties of cheese in order to make great pizza.”
“I always recommend keeping your dough very dry. Use lots of flour. From my recipes that are built around the home oven, it's a very high hydration dough, meaning it's a very wet dough. And you got to use a lot of flour with wet doughs to keep it dry. Because otherwise it just sticks to everything and it's hard to work with.”
“And weigh your ingredients. That's number one. Don't attempt to make pizza dough if you don't have a kitchen scale, it's not going to come out the same every single time. A scoop of flour, a cup of flour, if you try to measure it out by volume, and you do it three times, you're gonna get three different weights. 100 grams of flour is 100 grams of flour.”
Coming in at No. 9 on the list is the famous LA pizza chef Daniele Uditi of Pizzana. Uditi is an adherent to wild fermentation of dough – he uses a more than 60-year-old starter for his own pizza – and loves to tinker around with the many variables that come with a sourdough starter instead of using fresh or dry active yeast. But he also takes pride in simplifying and demystifying the process of making pizza.
“For starters, buy my book," he says. "Usually when people deal with the home oven, they don't have the right temperature to make a great pizza. But you know, I developed a system of wild fermenting the dough and adjusting the hydration for a home oven. Also, placing the cheese on the pizza for the last three minutes before the pizza is cooked, I think gives you the best results. Lastly, turning the broiler on before putting the pizza on the stone, like three to five minutes prior, it makes the crust of the undercarriage more charred.”
Lastly, the No. 12 spot went to freshly-minted James Beard Award winner Chris Bianco of Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, Arizona (and now Los Angeles). Bianco has a more than 30-year history of firing up artisanal pizzas and has built an empire out of his ubiquitous Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes.
“I think the one thing that pizza makers, or makers of anything, is to first do an inventory of what they do know. Can you make pancakes? Have you ever cooked round food or square food before? I think understanding what they like, and reverse engineering. So, I think achieving understanding of what you want from a flavour profile and build a reference for it. If you said you want to do a real Neapolitan pizza, I would go eat in New York with Anthony at Una Pizza Napoletana, or I would go to Naples, or I would go and look to do something in that window and study it. And I think that's the other aspect of it. We're so busy mastering f****** nothing, that we never really get anything.”
Bianco is also a big fan of failing as the best learning tool. “It's gonna take a little bit of work. And when you get there, it's going to take understanding what went right. And the other thing is you learn things when you burn things. It won't be your triumph, but it'll give you the ah-ha moment. Like, oh, f***, I'll never do that, again.”
Ultimately, Bianco’s best tips are figuring out what’s best for you. “It’s not about what’s my best. What’s your best? I think since people empower themselves, they find their humour, their political discourse or whatever. But finding the things that make sense to them. And I think those are the keys to finding our own happiness.”