Bonci, who has been described as "The Michelangelo of Pizza" in the past, is a great reference point both in Italy and beyond. With his Pizzarium, a paradise for pizza by the slice in Rome, he has changed the rules of the game.
Chef's Table Pizza begins with Bonci's first appearances on TV and narrates his evolution and personal crisis: a path that's never simple or predictable, both in his professional and private life. From starting out as a chef in haute cuisine to working in a butcher's shop and understanding the complexity of agriculture, to his approach to a popular product such as pizza and the innovations needed to raise its quality, he has always searched for authentic sustainability, in the belief that "eating is an agricultural act".
There are many young people who have passed through the laboratory of the Roman master, from whom they have learned not only technique but an entire vision of the world of cooking: a new generation of pizza makers and more, who are following in the footsteps of the master.
Who are Bonci's 'heirs'? Below we meet some of the chefs and pizza makers who have made his teachings their own.
Chef's Table Pizza: Gabriele Bonci's 'heirs'
Tommaso Tonioni – Marzapane, Rome
"For me, Gabriele was the greatest teacher, especially for the initial imprinting," begins Tommaso Tonioni, one of the finalists of S.Pellegrino Young Chef Academy Competition 2021, now chef at Marzapane in Rome. "I started to work with him in a restaurant that was basically a hamburger joint, he was my chef. Then I went into his Pizzarium, I worked there for less than a year, but since then we have been hanging out all the time, never losing sight of each other for the past 13 years. Surely it was he who opened the doors to the raw material. Today, after having worked both in Michelin-starred restaurants and in bakeries, I can say that what I saw in Pizzarium's fridge I didn't see anywhere else: the level of raw material was very high,” he explains.
“Bonci left me a great legacy in the way to research raw materials: although Pizzarium is a pizzeria, I always cooked there. I always wanted to be a cook, and Gabriele knew this: it was he who let me into the kitchen of Metamorfosi for an internship in fine dining,” he continues.
"I owe so many things to him, and then not everyone knows that he has always been at the forefront of everything: he is a true genius with regards not only to his approach to raw materials, but also his intuition in transformation." Bonci is not just a pizza maker, but a “quick change man”, as Tonioni defines him.
During the filming of Chef's Table Pizza, Bonci was also in Tommaso's kitchen, to reflect on one of his great loves, cooking. Chef Tonioni appears in a few frames of the episode dedicated to the master. "We spent a whole day with the crew, it was very intense and we shot a lot: I knew they would cut something, but certainly the message that the director let out was right: Gabriele redeemed himself, he spent a very difficult period and people no longer understood what he was doing. The episode was very emotional, it made people understand his depression about the character he played and it clearly emerges that he is a person who has a lot to say."
Francesca Marcantognini – Tema - Pizzeria Elementare, Milan
Francesca Marcantognini, originally from the province of Latina, is one of the founders of Tema in Milan, a bakery that will re-open as a new activity in October after a total renovation: Tema - Pizzeria Elementare. “I went to Bonci's just before Covid, from January to March 2020,” she says. “I had the opportunity to work with fantastic people, including Giuseppe Monaco, my first teacher, who in turn was trained by 'O Fiore Mio in Faenza. He taught me how to work neatly and accurately. But above all, the entire experience in Bonci's restaurant allowed me to get in touch with the area's real raw material. I had access to unique products, I met local farmers and artisans who worked in an impeccable way."
What about the dough? “Bonci gave me the opportunity to continue learning about Roman pan pizza and precooking, real mother yeast and fermentation. I learned to ferment anything, so much so that for the first time in my life I saw a fermentation of vine leaves in honey: a unique experience, from which a fantastic bread was produced. From there my passion for baking was born,” she explains. “I met Bonci personally, who complimented me on my speed, and I also met his mother, who is a fantastic person. I must say that it was a wonderful experience, the first real experience that made me realise that I was madly in love with bread."
Pier Daniele Seu – Seu Pizza Illuminati, Rome
A pizza champion who has passed through Bonci's brigade is Pier Daniele Seu, the master pizza maker behind Seu Pizza Illuminati in Rome, one of the best pizzerias in Italy, which has collected awards in recent years.
“Seu Pizza Illuminati was born with my wife, Valeria Zuppardo. Six months later we opened Pizza di Pier Daniele Seu at the Central Market in Rome. The Central Market project was born with Gabriele Bonci, an activity that started well from the beginning and allowed me to focus on Seu Pizza Illuminati,” Pier Daniele explains.
“I cannot say that I have had teachers in the strict sense. I've always tried to make a personal, gourmet-oriented pizza. A type of pizza that is now certainly a trend, but at the beginning it was not so popular. I was certainly inspired by the big names. When I started out in Rome the big names were those of Stefano Callegari, Giancarlo Casa, Gabriele Bonci and Edoardo Papa. Over time, I established a good relationship with everyone, especially with Gabriele Bonci, who was also a witness at my wedding."