Pizza, as with many foods, is subject to personal tastes. Whether it is better thin, crispy with few toppings or thick, doughy and loaded is a matter of opinion.
We can argue till we are blue in the face about deep dish, stretched, cheesy, sparse or covered in spaghetti, but to really get an idea of what makes a good pizza, we asked the experts of Auckland. Here's what they said. All of these are valid answers. But some more valid than others.
Callum Davies – Director and founder, Hell Pizza
"This is not a one answer question," said Davies. Then he went niche: "The base should not be noticed, its job is to hold up the toppings and deliver them to your mouth."
After that bombshell, he went back to the widely agreed-upon basics. "The toppings should be evenly spread all the way to the outside and tasted in every mouthful; it's the combination that makes the pizza! The pizza needs to be not too sloppy, but not dry. You need some moisture to maximise the flavours but it's a fine line between the right amount and a sloppy mess."
Kevin Morris - Owner
When making the perfect pizza, Morris believes the key ingredient is time.
"The secret of an excellent pizza is the time of dough curing, ingredients used and the oven temperature. Allowing your dough to cold rise over two or more days, stretching it by hand, topping it with a very selective category of produce and baking it in a 400C oven is what separates pizza Napoletana from the rest."
Also remember to KISS - Keep It Simple, Stupid. "At Dante’s we only use flour, water, yeast, and salt. These simple four ingredients are transformed into something completely different through the long, slow, cold fermentation which produces a sourdough (which is light on your tummy)."
The end result? "This translates to big airy pockets that give a nice browning and aroma to the crust. Only then do we allow our hand-crushed tomatoes, fresh basil, fior di latte [mozzarella cheese] and EVOO [extra virgin olive oil] to rest on their new home, ready to be finished in our 400C wood-fired oven for 90 Seconds to perfection."
Stuart Deeks - Owner
Proper Pizza put a lot of thought into their base. "From our perspective, we believe the perfect pizza has a thin crispy base which holds the toppings so they don’t slide off and isn’t too oily. The base should add to the flavour. No piles of crusts left after the rest of the Pizza has been devoured is the sign of a great crust."
They believe in great toppings with lots of oomph. "Fresh ingredients, powerful flavours... try our black Truffle by way of example."
And their wildcard rule that we are high-key on board with? "Whilst classically it would be frowned on, we believe a pizza that tastes great when reheated or eaten cold is important as well."
So what does that great-reheated pizza look like? "The base should to the extent possible retain its crispness and not go all floppy. The cheese should also retain its texture and not dry or go chewy."
Pizzeria Rosso Pomodoro
Ankur Chugh - Owner and operator
"For Neapolitan-style wood-fired pizza, preparing the dough is key to the best pizza; giving it moisture, a perfect amount yeast and sufficient time to rest," says Chugh.
Chugh also agrees with the folks over at Dante's that the woodfired oven must be 400C before the pizza is put in to cook. Fresh mozzarella gives best flavour, aroma and texture to best pizza, he says.
Interestingly, Chugh reckons that "using Manuka wood for the wood-fired oven is another factor which gives aroma and crispiness to the pizza base." We're fans of that little New Zealand-specific tip.
Chris Rupe - Owner
Rupe has few rules for his perfect pizza. The cheese must be Mozarella and the ingredients need to be top notch. "Simple and seasonal is best!"
Chicklena Rose - Owner
Rose's priorities are pretty clear on this; "what makes the perfect pizza is DOUGH first, CHEESE second, and then SAUCE. So many people ruin the dough! I like my dough thin, chewy, and a tiny crispy on the crust, and it has to be baked correctly, never too blond or pale, medium brown is perfect."
Similarly, her opinions on toppings are specific and firm. "I love a buttery flavoured cheese with a good stretch, not too oily but some drips are good and necessary. The sauce should accent the cheese and not make the dough soggy. The sauce should not be too sugary or acidy either. It cannot be too thick because then it becomes a pasta sauce or too watery and it all evaporates with the heat of the oven."
"But this is coming from a New Yorker," Rose clarifies. "We love our deck-oven pies!"
Michael Treacy - Global Development Chef
Dominoes is one of New Zealand's most universally available pizza brands, so it is good to hear they take their pizza making seriously. Treacy reckons that "a great pizza starts with a good foundation."
"Our teams handmake our dough instore each day, then ensure it's proved correctly, so it creates a crust that is crisp on the outside and fluffy in the centre. After that it's all about the skill of our makers, the quality and freshness of our ingredients and the balance of flavours."
Crucially, "each pizza is made to order so our customers enjoy the best pizza experience." Gotta love that customisability. #ExtraChilli
Francesco Acri - Owner and Pizza chef
"There are a number of steps to make a great pizza but in my opinion what makes a perfect pizza is for sure the dough," Acri says. "When you make the dough you need the right technique and time. The technique of how you knead your dough, and the time that you allow your dough to proof till it reaches the right maturation - at least 12 hours. This is what makes your pizza light, airy and easy to digest."
"Of course, you can’t neglect the quality of your toppings - and the cherry on top for the perfect pizza is to cook it in a wood-fired oven." We imagine Acri did a chef kissing the air motion after saying that.
Archie Kuldegovic – Owner
"Attitude," says Kuldegovic firmly. We pressed him for more, but he repeated this same answer with such panache that it was pretty clear that was his final answer. The man knows what he wants to say. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Eleonora Barberis – Manager
By this point, it's pretty clear that the experts all agree that good dough takes time. At Farina it's no different. "The experts here say that what makes a pizza great is the quality of the flour; technique and accuracy [need to be] applied when making the dough," Barberis says. "The more the proofing (maturation), the better the result is."
Other than that, Barberis lists "the knowledge and experience of a pizzaiolo (pizza maker)"; "the quality, selection and preparation of the topping (tomato, cheese, meat veggies and herbs)" and the "technique of stretching the dough and preparing the pizza" as crucial factors.
Barberis stipulates that "the ingredients on top need to work together," and that "the oven [needs to be] chosen relative to the style of pizza selected."
"For instance, Neapolitan pizza requires a wood-fired oven and is baked for 90 seconds at a temperature exceeding 400C."