I visited Rome a few years back and am still dreaming of the food — the pasta, the pizza, the olive oil, the cheese….did I mention the pasta? And the pizza??
When you think of pizza, Neapolitan draws all the attention. But in Rome, it’s all about Bonci. That’s Gabriele Bonci of Rome’s famed Pizzarium. He’s been hailed as, “the Michelangelo of dough.” If I lived in Rome, I would for sure be a regular. I want to know all his secrets. He is a true master of his trade.
From Bonci’s book, Pizza: Seasonal Recipes from Rome’s Legendary Pizzarium (released October, 2013)…
“Following a recipe and preparing food for yourself and others starts with seeking out high-quality raw materials. Don’t worry, they won’t necessarily be expensive. You do need to take an active role, however, and examine your options. In other words, you can’t just go to the supermarket, buy the first bag of flour you see, drop any ingredients you like on the dough and stick your pizza in the oven. Procuring high quality ingredients is as much the part of making pizzas as kneading the dough or baking them.”
This philosophy, my friends, is why Bonci’s pizza tastes the way it does. It’s not mass-produced (you will not find Bonci pizza all over Rome). It’s hand-crafted. With love. And you can taste that.
Once you try Bonci’s pizza, you’ll be thinking about it for years to come. Which is good and bad. Good, because it’s memorable and delicious. Bad, if you don’t live in or near Rome.
Not quite Bonci (I need more practice), but still tasty…
Also, check out Elizabeth Minchilli’s blog and videos. She took a pizza making class with Bonci last year and was kind enough to translate and share her experience. Or, if you are so lucky to be in Rome anytime soon, you can sign up for a class with Bonci himself.
Here’s a breakdown of the process:
The dough (after a 24-hour rise in the refrigerator). As you can see, it’s bubbling with life…
Gently knead the dough, start with the edges of the dough and press down gently and then go to the center and press down…
Notes: You want to start with high quality flour. While Marino Burrato is the flour used by Bonci, he recommends using the best quality flour you can find in your area. I was lucky to snag a bag of Burrato when I was at Eataly in Chicago. Have since depleted my supply, so will have to find another source for flour. Check out your local farmers’ market or small local producers.
You don’t want to handle the dough too aggressively. Bonci says to lightly massage the dough, so the balls of air stay intact. Start with the edges, gently pressing down and then moving toward the center. Flip and repeat, making sure your work surface is well floured and the flour is distributed evenly (to ensure uniform thickness and even cooking).
Notes: The pizza is topped with Pelati tomatoes (peeled, canned, uncooked Italian tomatoes), sea salt, and extra-virgin olive oil. Spread the tomatoes around and then drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil. Then into the oven.
This is attempt #3. The bottom is nice and crispy and the dough nice and light and airy (got some nice air pockets in the dough)…still needs work, but slowly getting there.
At this point, you can add your toppings and pop the pizza back in the oven until the cheese melts and the toppings are warmed through.
Notes: After the pizza comes out of the oven, add the cheese and/or other topping (but no more than three toppings, lest the flavors get a bit muddled). Then, place the pizza back in the oven, just until the cheese melts. You can then add the fresh ingredients, like arugula, basil, or spinach.
I did 1/3 mozzarella, speck, and baby arugula; 1/3 mozzarella and mushrooms; and 1/3 anchovies.
The Finished Product…
The one and only Gabriele Bonci (on the right).
That’s a very tanned me, a few years back, enjoying some Bonci pizza on our last night in Rome…
While travel doesn’t last forever, the memories stick with you for a lifetime!
Bonci Pizza — Roman Style
refer to Elizabeth Minchilli’s video for further guidance
For 1 large 9 by 13 pizza (or divide the dough and make 2 smaller pizzas)
500 grams (tipo 0 or tipo 1) flour
3.5 grams (~1 1/4 teaspoons) dried or instant yeast (I like this brand)
350 ml (~1 1/2 cups) water
20 grams (~1 1/2 tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil
10 grams (~1/2 tablespoon) sea salt
Pelati tomatoes, crushed and seasoned with sea salt
Mix the flour, yeast, and water in a large bowl with a spoon. When most of the lumps are gone, add the olive oil and salt. It will be wet. The wetter the better.
Flip onto a floured work surface and gently fold the dough in half, over itself, toward you. Grab the dough by the corners facing you, pick it up like an envelope and turn 90 degrees and place back on the floured surface. Gently fold and turn. Repeat a few more times.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rest 15 minutes. Then repeat the folding and turning action as above. By the third pass, the dough will be springy and less sticky.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator for 24 hours. The next day, take the dough out of the refrigerator and let come to room temperature, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 500°F. Lightly oil a 9″x13″ baking pan.
Lightly flour your work surface. Place the dough on the work surface. Start with the edges of the dough and press down gently and then go to the center and press down. After the first passage, flip the far end over, so the top becomes the bottom. Make sure your flour is evenly distributed under the dough and continue to gently massage the dough, so the balls of air remain intact. Flip again and repeat until the dough is evenly distributed.
Pull the dough over your arm and then pull the other side over your other arm (as pictured above) with your palms facing down. Transfer the dough to the baking pan and distribute the dough toward the edges of the pan. Press down, distributing the dough evenly, but gently.
Add the pelati tomatoes. Distribute evenly with your hands. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
Place the pan on the bottom floor of your oven for the first 5 minutes. Then transfer to the bottom-middle rack of your oven and cook another 15-20 minutes.
Add cheese and other desired toppings and place back in the oven until the cheese is melted. Top with (fresh) ingredients (e.g., basil, arugula, spinach, prosciutto, speck).