Pizza is now a household word, however you pronounce it. Why this flat bread with tomato and cheese has taken the world by storm beats me. But there is no disputing its popularity.
This Naples staple made traditionally in a man-made earth and brick oven with a stone slab and fired by wood was, and still is Italy’s answer to McDonalds – fast and cheap – the big difference is the quality; pizza is made with fresh, healthy ingredients. The Naples version which is made from strong flour produces a stretchy pliable dough when mixed with water and yeast. It is rolled and then tossed around in the air and then thrown onto an iron paddle which places it deep inside the hot oven. It takes no time at all to cook primarily because after all that swirling and tossing, the base becomes quite thin leaving a crusty pillowy edge which holds in the chopped tomato, melted mozzarella and whatever else you decide to put on it.
Please don’t confuse this Neopolitan culinary superstar with variations the size of doorstoppers from Chicago, conveyor belt ones made in electric ovens from fast food chains or fusion ones with everything from Thai curry to chicken tikka as toppings.
In India, we’ve been eating all manner of pizza for the last 25 years or more… so much so that I had forgotten what the genuine article tasted like. Then I came across a little hole in the wall off the KP / Kalyani Nagar bridge serving pizza which looked and tasted amazingly like the real thing – the crust was perfect, the tomato – just a smear and the mozzarella as it should be, dabbed in blotches so that they melt evenly.
Young Rushad Wadia learned the art of the Napoli pizza by first visiting Naples, then doing a short culinary course in Dubai and spending a huge amount of time on R&D here to get it just right. At his new more spacious outlet in Baner, he has a wood and gas fired oven in the restaurant. His pizza toppings have undergone a slight change making them more acceptable to the local palate by adding local cheddar to the mozzarella. New toppings include a spicy chorizo and hipster with wood roast chicken, sun dried tomatoes finished with an orange honey balsamic glaze. The Buffalo chicken pizza with bocconcini (the small version of Buffalo mozzarella) and buffalo wing sauce … is almost ‘signature’ already. Lots of options for vegetarians including one with the up to the minute superfood, kale. On the Baner menu, he adds a couple of salads, scrumptious fries – bacon and cheddar and some deliciously innovative non alcoholic signature beverages, using eclectic ingredients like elder flower and Yuzu. Desserts are still to find their feet but the baked cheesecake is creamy and spot on. I dared not try the mountainesque waffle sundae or any of the many layered cobblers….too indulgent for a Wednesday afternoon.
The new Greedy Man (still not my favourite name for a pizza restaurant) delivers in the Baner area although I still maintain to really appreciate a GM pizza, you have to eat it piping hot straight out of the oven. Here is a young man trying hard to give Puneites a true taste of Italy and something to write home about. I urge you to try it.