So clear is my memory of the first piece of pizza I ever ate in Italy that I could lead you to the spot where I bought it 25 or so years ago in the backstreets of Venice.
That huge, thin triangle of crispy dough with nothing but tomato sauce, finely sliced zucchini and bubbling cheese was my awakening to the joy of what pizza could, and should be.
It was a far cry from my childhood memories of special nights out at Pizza Hut where the Meat Lovers, complete with an inch thick base and faux bacon seemed at the time like a feasibly authentic Sicilian experience.
Thankfully, Australia has grown up over the past 25 years, and now I don’t need to travel half way around the world to experience the true taste of Italy.
Dodge the mass produced, stuffed crust, pie encircled and corn chip sprinkled rubbish that some marketing genius has felt the need to invent, and you’ll find (particularly in Noosa), that there are a lot of places popping up that understand that great ingredients and simplicity done well is the key to success.
What makes a great pizza, like any food, is subjective. Some people love a thick base with 25 ingredients and some prefer theirs wafer thin with nothing but tomato sauce and cheese.
There are, however, some important factors in producing a great pizza which apply to all tastes:
More and more pizza makers are turning to using slowly aged doughs or sourdoughs made with stoneground, organic flour to create a better flavour and texture. This natural leavening process also helps with the digestion of the dough.
Ask any Italian where the best tomatoes come from and of course they’ll say Italy, but talk to a third or fourth generation Italian Australian and they may just back us (assuming that they grew them). There are a lot of places making their own sauce from burstingly ripe, fresh tomatoes, but there are also lots of world class Australian brand passatas on the market that are making our pizzas sing.
Sadly, the price of real buffalo mozzarella in Australia is prohibitive for use on most pizzas here, but there are some great cheese producers making the similar Fior di latte, from cows milk, which is an affordable and delicious substitute.
One of the key words that get thrown around in the food industry these days is provenance. People care about where their food has come from and they realise that the closer they are to the source the better it’s likely to taste. So the best pizza joints are making an effort to source their topping ingredients direct from the grower and tell their story.
Of course one of the most important factors in enjoying your pizza is where you’re eating it, and the company you’re in.
We’re spoilt for choice when it comes to pizza in the Noosa area and we’ve got all the ingredients to create a lasting pizza memory like mine without the air miles.