and the International School of Pizza!
Tony Gemignani has a secret. Probably a lot of them.
And while he may not have told us his personal secret meatball recipe
in class, he certainly shares a lot of what he knows in the classes of
School of Pizza in San Francisco.
But let's start at the beginning.
Here's what we knew going in:
When we learned that the International
School of Pizza was offering a two-day Home Pizza Chef
course during the time we'd be in California, it seemed... providential.
- Tony Gemignani is an award-winning (9-time
World Pizza Champion) pizzaiolo
- He opened Tony's Pizza Napoletana in
San Francisco, amid fierce (and growing) competition,
- He founded the International School of Pizza,
which offers professional classes and certification as well as classes
for the home pizza chef,
- We wanted to meet him and learn more pizza
craft from him.
there was a time when, like many pizza snobs, we were ready to write
Gemignani off as a pizza tosser, an acrobat. I mean - the
Globetrotters are great, but is it basketball? Well, after
read the reviews of Tony's
Pizza Napoletana, seen his
cookbook, and with the
recommendation of Peter Reinhart, we went to Tony's
website to sign up.
we both wanted to attend, we could only afford tuition for one. Lillian
convinced Cary to take the class (it didn't take much convincing). On
the day of the class, we arrived in the Bay Area at about 4 a.m.
Class began at 7.
Someday, we'll take a pizza class that isn't proceeded by an all-night
drive! Cary picks up the story here:
It was still dark outside when I arrived at 1570 Stockton Street, home
of both Tony's Pizza
Napoletana and the International
School of Pizza. Tony was inside, firing the oven.
of my fellow students were already waiting.
By 7 a.m., all of us had arrived, seven intrepid students, ready to 'up
our pizza game' substantially. We were an eager
group of pizza-makers, looking forward to increasing our skills and
knowledge and, I'm sure, looking forward to sliding a Margherita pizza
into the 900-degree heat of Tony's domed Neapolitan wood-fired oven!
We were greeted by one of Tony's partners, Nancy Puglisi, who ushered
us into the main room. Tony stepped out from behind the
to greet us, introduced himself with a bit of history (we didn't know
that he'd opened Pyzano's
at age 18!) and give us a brief rundown of what we could expect over
the course of the class. Learning materials, t-shirts and
appeared, and we were ready to begin.
The first thing Tony
Gemignani taught us was about Neapolitan flour - that the two brands
used in Naples are Caputo and San Felice, and that the pizzerias there
use one or the other, but not both.
he told us that we would start out with one of the most difficult
skills; 'pushing' the dough - stretching the doughball out.
explained how crucial the first push is, and how each pizza maker
pushes dough a little bit differently. First Tony showed us
Then we took turns while our instructor watched.
Cary pushes the
dough under Tony's watchful eye.
was the beginning of two information-packed four-hour sessions of pizza
lessons, pizza conversation, pizza baking and pizza eating.
Classmate Fred Bernardo of Fred's
Music & BBQ (Fred is a true
aficionado - and a subscriber to our newsletter) persuaded Tony to show
just a little of his dough tossing technique:
That was just a taste, but it's a sample of how much fun we had.
learned about different kinds of cheese, tomatoes, spices... how to
apply the sauce, the cheese, and each of us got to make several pies.
I wish I was enough of a wordsmith to tell you what it felt
to make a pizza in a 1,000-degree wood-fired oven - in ninety seconds!
addition to the volumes of pizza making information Tony shared with us
and the hands-on guidance, he also made us a few pizzas!
favorites: his Sicilian pizza, which looked and tasted like it was made
in Brooklyn, and his Trenton-style Tomato Pie. Tony said it's based on DeLorenzo's
in Trenton, but I thought Tony's was better.
at Tony's Pizza Napoletana can get pretty much any style of pizza there
and, based on what we tasted, it's all authentic and delicious.
We got to use most of the five different style ovens in the kitchen of
the restaurant, and as we learned, watched, made pizzas and tasted
pizzas, every single one of us got better and better. I
needed that. At first, watching Tony Gemignani make pizza was
daunting - the man has skills. After day one, I said
Lillian, "Tomorrow, I'm going to ask Tony what I can possibly do to get
better at this, because I think I stink."
The next day I asked.
"More practice," was the answer. "Okay," I said, "I can do
And then Tony pulled out three trays with the dough we'd made
night before. He showed us what worked well and what didn't
so well. After that, we pushed more dough, sauced, shaped,
and baked more pizzas. As envious as I was of some of my classmates
pies, I was getting better at the balance and the baking.
the end of the second day,
Lillian came in to meet Tony and taste some pizza. I had already eaten
more than my share, as Tony or any of my fellow students could tell
you. But I wasn't the only one - classmate Frank V. wrote, "On Sunday
after class was over my wife and a couple of friends met me outside
Tony's. What did we do? Why we went back in and ordered a couple of
pizzas, of course." Now that's
passion for pizza!
think Lil was pleased with the improvement in my skills - or was it
the ovens? We'll find out when we start using what I've
home! Stay tuned to our Making
Pizza section, and we'll keep you informed.
from Tony Gemignani's
International School of Pizza to the Making Pizza
from Tony Gemignani
to the passion-4-pizza