Evaluating Pizza in Three Steps: Glance, Touch and Taste
Pizzaiolo of No. 1 Trip-Advisor pizzeria teaches “how to distinguish sacred from profane”
Written by: Thomas Ricciotti
What are the secrets to recognize good pizza in a world where you can find one almost on every corner of each street? What makes the difference between pizzas that often look just the same? In such an evaluation, of course taste plays the most important role. And, of course, taste varies from person to person. But there are some general tips that should always been kept in mind that go beyond just taste, which remains the core of any evaluation of this kind.
First of all, pizza can be evaluated at a glance and by touch. Once these first two tests are passed, then the ‘taste-test’ can release the final verdict. But the glance-test plays an important essential role, as it can prevent you from buying a bad pizza.
To discover and explain the secrets of good pizza, we decided to begin from the customers’ taste. And nothing could be better for this than Trip Advisor. We then choose the pizzeria favored by travelers and locals in Florence and we interviewed their pizzaiolo. At the time of the interview, at the end of last year, the top ranked pizzeria in Florence was Fuoco Matto in Via XXVII Aprile, a street near the train station connecting two of the main squares of Florence, Piazza San Marco and Piazza Indipendenza.
As we arrived, we were introduced to a surprisingly young pizzaiolo, Angelo. Angelo is the master behind the most appreciated pizza of Florence, he was quite happy and amused to answer our questions. Amused probably because only a few people knew how to distinguish a good from a bad pizza or, like he says, “sacred from profane.”
The first thing he explained to us was the importance of using a good wood oven. Given this granted premise, he told us the three steps to evaluate good pizza.
- GLANCE: This is the most difficult kind of What can be understood at first glance can only be the quality of cooking. Good pizzas must have a gold, crunchy-looking edge, which means that there are not remains of humid paste/dough inside. To prepare a proper pizza and to avoid making it ‘humid,’ the dough needs to be left leaven for some 48 hours and the pizza must be prepared in an oven that has a temperature between 400 and 450 Celsius degrees.
- TOUCH: Before tasting your pizza, touch its edge and make sure that it is not chewy and crumbly but crunchy and a little empty inside. In other words, make sure that the crust is not all flour but there is some air inside. The second part of the ‘touch’ test is to raise your pizza from its dish and make sure that it presents a light brown-gold color and that there are not black spots underneath it — the less the black spots are, the better the taste will be. An expert pizzaiolo knows how to roll out without using much dough: it is more difficult to roll with less flour of course, but the taste of the pizza is always better if there is not an excess of
- TASTE: A good taste means that the pizza is crunchy on its edges and soft but not gummy inside, that is easy and light to digest, which is something that may take some 12 hours to understand. This digestion test is essential, as if the pizza “remains too long on your stomach,” as Angelo tells us, that means it was not so good. Then, you do not feel the acidity of the yeast, that the sauce is neither tasteless nor acid and the mozzarella “does not bleed too much” but remains consistent (which is why proper pizza should not be made with buffalo mozzarella even though buffalo mozzarella is tastier) and finally, the taste of fresh basil.
At the very end, the secrets to making good pizza seem to be two: a good oven wood and a good pizzaiolo. A good patent oven must have tubes inside it that move the heat and help it circulate from the top to the bottom in order to heat the bricks that otherwise would chill a little. Secondly, a good pizzaiolo, which at the very end, could really be Angelo of Fuoco Matto.