Explores the offbeat pizza trend

Pizzas are the most well-liked Italian item wherever you go. And more popularity means experimentation. Chefs all around the world are creating pizzas that are offbeat in method and also ingredients. Chef Marco Murenu, Italian Chef de Cuisine at Prego, The Westin Gurgaon, New Delhi calls pizza the ‘Holy Trinity’ of crust, cheese and sauce. “What’s not to like?” he exclaims. “You got oodles of gooey cheese, paired with bread and then you have the tanginess of the sauce. From where I come in Italy, pizza-haters are so rare they’re almost mythical. It’s addictive because there is nothing offensive about it.”

The cheesiness and customised toppings of pizzas, according to Chef Suresh Shelar, Executive Chef, Banjara Restaurant, Andheri, Mumbai, is what makes this dish a global mouthwatering and popular option.

Desi Margherita

Akshit Shetty, owner and partner, The Big Flip Bar, Bandra, Mumbai, calls pizza a universal hunger solver which is a crowd favourite irrespective of age. “Taste, type, etc. differs from place to place, region to region according to the preferences and taste palette of the locals. Also, not forgetting it’s the most convenient thing to order in or order out and also goes perfectly well with your drinks too. What makes it more popular would definitely be the variations created over a period of time making it a versatile dish in itself.”

There is no doubt that certain pizzas top the favourite list. Chef Suresh recollects Margherita and Pepperoni Pizza as favourites amongst the masses. Chef Marco, who is a true Italian to the core, speaks at length on this delight. “Since its humble beginnings in Italy, pizza has undergone quite a transformation. There are numerous versions served across the globe like the Neapolitan Pizza. This pizza originated in Naples, Italy. It is prepared with simple and fresh ingredients: a basic dough, raw tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, and olive oil. The usual variations of the Neapolitan pizza are Margherita and Marinara. Marinara. also known as the world’s oldest pizza, is made with tomato, garlic and oregano and no cheese. Margherita, named after the legendary Queen Margherita of Savoy, is simply tomato, buffalo mozzarella and basil. Then there is Chicago style which includes ground beef, sausage, pepperoni, onions, mushrooms, and green peppers all placed underneath the tomato sauce. There is Greek-style pizza, popular in the New England states, that features a thick and chewy crust cooked in shallow, oiled pans.”

SPICY BUTTER CHICKEN PIZZA

Speaking about unusual pizzas, Akshit divulges, “In recent times I have come across Ramen Noodles Pizza, Maggie Pizza, Sushi Pizza and varieties of chocolate pizzas around Mumbai and many such unusual ones which, to my surprise, are actually good in taste. Although of late, anything topped on a flat surface is termed as pizza.”

Chef Marco recalls Prosciutto Crudo e Rucola pizza. He mentions Prosciutto or Italian bacon as the go-to meat for many Italian dishes along with fresh Arugula. “Italians also like using white anchovies as its light flavour allows it to be the perfect accompaniment of cheese without overpowering it. True pizza lovers who are ready to go an extra mile use truffles as a topping and it is packed with rich bespoke flavour.”

Speaking about creating unusual pizzas, Chef Marco reveals, “Don’t forget that people come to the restaurant to eat good food, so it is up to the culinary team to ensure that the guest has an excellent dining experience. Don’t go overboard with experimentation and keep the basics in check. Standard rules like a pizza dough should be springy and soft, easy to stretch and work with. A great crust wins half the battle and only serve fusions that you and your team are convinced about. Always use fresh ingredients. The crisp flavour, authentic and freshly sourced ingredients uplift not just the taste but the presentation as well.”

Desi Margherita

According to Chef Suresh, sauce quantity shouldn’t exceed when making a pizza. “The pizza spatula should always be dusted with refined flour.”

Akshit too mentions making sure the base goes well with topping and sauces. “It can’t be completely out of the box and ingredients that don’t match. For example, we can’t mix chicken with chocolate sauce just to create an unusual flavour for our patrons. Every ingredient should be complementing each other creating a unique yet appetising blend.”

If you love pizza, now is the chance to make something unusual without hesitation.

DESI MARGHERITA

Ingredients:

- Homemade Pizza Dough

- Olive Oil – 1 Tbsp

- Garlic & Green Chillies, finely chopped – 2 Cloves 

- Slice Onion

- Tomato Sauce

- Fresh Basil

- Mozzarella Cheese

- Fresh Ground Black Pepper, to taste

Method:

Prepare pizza dough including preheating the oven to 246°C. Cover the dough with plastic wrap to rest. Take olive oil, chopped garlic and chopped chilly and mix in a bowl. Brush the dough lightly with olive oil. Make flat dough using fingers and push dents into the surface of the dough to prevent bubbling. Top with pizza tomato sauce and grated mozzarella cheese and then spread out the chopped garlic and chilly on top. Bake for 14-16 minutes until the edges turn brown. Remove from the oven and top with fresh basil and pepper. Slice the pizza and serve.

— Chef Suresh Shelar, Executive Chef, Banjara Restaurant, Andheri, Mumbai