Food & Drink

These are the secrets of perfect pizza (according to a top pizza chef)

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Francis Blagburn
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Frank Pinello of New York’s legendary Best Pizza reveals his top tips for getting the perfect slice

Remember when buying a packet of supermarket rocket to put on your microwavable deep dish monstrosity felt like you “really knew pizza”? 

Oh how far you’ve come. But the road to pizza enlightenment is long and winding. New York ’za legend Frank Pinello is best known for his (modestly-titled) Best Pizza joint in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and he’s just the sensei you need to lift you to another stage of dough-based knowledge entirely. 

He’s familiar with UK tastes, too, and has a collab with Yard Sale called the “white pizza pie” on sale for the rest of August. 

Mr Hyde asked him for his top tips about what makes an ideal slice.

Dough

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My favourite type of pizza has always been the pizza I grew up eating, the typical New York slice. That was the ’za that everyone associated America with – like the Ninja Turtles used to eat. 

A nice big one – 20” or so, cut into eight slices – with a crispy crust, where you pull the slice away and there’s a lot of cheese and pepperoni and everything. A New Yorker looks at a deep-dish pizza or stuffed-crust like, “What the hell is that?”. But by travelling around I’ve opened my mind and my ideas of what pizza can be – there’s so much regional variation – and can appreciate the craft.

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Sauce

For the longest time it was all about San Marzano tomatoes from Italy, but there are now some Californian places that grow great tomatoes as well. We try to stay as true to pizza culture as we can, so we use some Italian tomatoes, but we’re making American pizza so we thought “Let’s try and set it up so we can keep it American.” 

We’re doing a white pizza at Yard Sale with no tomato sauce, but with ricotta, caramelised onions and sesame seeds on the crust. The white pizza isn’t as much of a thing in the UK, but we’re really encouraging people to give it a shot. It’s really great, especially if you like cheese.

Cheese

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A really good whole milk mozzarella always does the job. I make my own, which is a large step and it’s hard to do, but when we take the curds and form them into cheese it allows me to control the salinity and moisture. 

The important thing to remember in terms of ratios is that you want to be able to taste everything. The sauce and the crust are crucial, and you don’t want to overpower them. A lot of places put too much cheese on because they think that’s what the customer wants, but it can go too far. If you like extra cheese, you can always just add it.

Toppings

Personally I’m a traditionalist, and like anchovies, pepperoni, mushrooms, so some of the newer stuff people put on pizza I’m not a huge fan of, but I’ll try it. Once you start going west they’ll put anything on there. 

A couple of years ago spicy honey became popular – that didn’t appeal to me at all. Then I finally had one and really liked it. Pineapple seems to be the most controversial topping. I’m not a huge fan, but sometimes you’ll visit a pizzeria and they’re doing it really well, putting the work into selecting the pineapples, roasting them nicely, pairing it well with ham. I opened up a pizzeria in Miami and the pizza with pineapple on it is one of our bestsellers.

The pizza experience

What I love about pizza is that it’s for the young and the old, the rich and the poor. It’s accessible to everyone, not a food that’s elitist in any way. I love being able to walk into a local pizzeria, order a slice and a fountain soda, and maybe sprinkle some oregano, chilli flakes or parmesan on it, then sit down and eat it before going on my way having spent five bucks. What I love most about the experience of pizza is it shouldn’t be fussed over. It’s just a reliable part of your day where you know you can take five minutes to sit and have a slice.

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