A slice of heaven

Alisha Shinde
Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Renato Viola, who has curated the pizza experience for Punekars at 1441 Pizzeria, tells us about the intricacies of making this globally popular dish

Don’t we all love a big slice of pizza? It is probably one of the most loved and most consumed foods across continents and the varieties you get nowadays are innumerable so there’s nothing to complain about it. Pizza masterchef Renato Viola, who has curated the pizza experience for Punekars at 1441 Pizzeria, Koregaon Park, tells us more about the art of pizza making and the appeal of this global food. 

Viola grew up spending a lot of his time in the kitchen with his mother. “At the age of three or four, I would wake up early in the morning, and prepare fresh pasta lasagna with my mother. One fine morning, she showed me how to prepare pizza and that’s when I fell in love,” says the Italian chef. Since then all he wanted to do was make more and more pizza. 

Pizza lovers may be acquainted with thin crust pizza, wood fired pizza, but acrobatic pizza is something that not many know of. It involves elaborate pizza dough tossing routines, in other words, rhythm gymnastics with raw dough and some tossing and stretching done by hand. 

Viola, like a few other pizza masterchefs, is part of the Acrobatic Pizza Italy team. He recalls that he started making acrobatic pizza on his own when he was about 12 or 13 years old. “My friends went biking, but I worked the whole summer, took two jobs and bought a dough mixer with the money I earned and trained every night in my garage for two years. After which I got an invitation from the president of the Acrobatic Pizza Italy team to join them,” he shares.    

Viola has another feather in his cap. He has also designed and created the world’s most expensive pizza called Louis XIII which costs a whopping Rs 77 lakh. He says that it all started when he had to make a pizza for a client on his anniversary. “Since it was a special event I cooked the fish with the special Remy Martin XIII Cognac, which gives it the special flavour and is also very expensive, and created the recipe with the ingredients that the client mentioned he loved and it turned out to be amazing,” he says.

Explaining what exactly this pizza is all about, Viola says that it is a small pizza, about 20 cm in diameter, and is enough for two. He adds that the pizza is served at home by the catering team, a sommelier and a chef. “The entire preparation is carried out on site with the exception of the dough that is made 72 hours before, and even the dishes and cutlery are limited editions,” he says.  

With pizzerias mushrooming all over we often wonder whether a wood-fired pizza scores over one which is made in an electric oven. Viola says that electric ovens are good if one is able to find the ones with the right equipment, however, wood fired ovens are better as they give an added flavour to the pizza. But he points out that the quality of the pizza mostly depends on the quality of ingredients.

Talking about toppings, we ask the expert whether pineapple on pizza is a good idea. Viola, who considers himself a traditional and an innovative chef, says, “In Italy, it is forbidden to use pineapple on pizza, but now that I am in the USA, where a lot of people love pineapple on pizzas, I am okay with using it as my goal is to always make the customer happy.” 

Nowadays, we also see a lot of Indian flavours in pizzas, which, Viola says, is perfectly okay. Pizza today is not limited to any specific region but is an international dish. “We use the traditional Italian ingredients to create the core but since pizza is a global food, you can customise it the way you want,” he says. 

Different toppings keep emerging but the real difference between two pizzas is the kind of cheese used. He adds that in November, 1441 Pizzeria will be having a cheese festival for guests to experience different cheese pizzas. And the health conscious can try the Classic Italian Marinara Pizza, which is without cheese but is still delicious. “Our pizzas are healthy because we do not use any preservatives or sugar in our ingredients,” he shares. 

Telling us about the secret behind making a good pizza at home, Viola says that the key to achieve a good and delicious pizza is good flour and good tomatoes.

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