If you’re from Naples – like chef Antimo Verde, who runs the “mobile pizzeria” Antimo Pizza Chef in Melbourne – you’ll know a traditional Napoli pizza is a blend of art and science. “The Napoli pizza is our pride,” he says. “We’re born with it.”
Traditionally topped with tomato, basil, and fior di latte cheese, a classic Napoli pizza is made with fermented dough. Stretched paper-thin, it’s cooked for 60 to 70 seconds in an oven heated to at least 400 degrees Celsius.
“The dough is very light, very digestible, and super yummy,” says Verde. “The gas from the fermentation releases in the oven and it becomes like a bomb , you know? You get this fluffy, puffy, crispy crust and beautiful aroma. It gives me goosebumps.”
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Verde moved to Melbourne from Naples 10 years ago, landing a job as a kitchen hand on Lygon Street, before working in the kitchen at Renzo's Bar in Docklands. Applying for a job as chef at the then little-known pizza restaurant 400 Gradi on Lygon Street, Verde was hired almost as soon as they discovered he was from Naples. Working his way up to head chef, Verde helped launch Zero Gradi at Crown Melbourne in 2014, making thousands (yes, thousands) of the world’s best pizza every week. Five years later and looking for a change, he went travelling before returning to Australia in 2020 to launch his own catering business: Antimo Pizza Chef.
It’s essentially a truck with multiple Ooni Koda 16 Pizza Ovens on the back, which he drives around to cater for different events. “It’s my pride and joy,” he says of the ovens. “It can reach 400-450 degrees in 15 minutes which is the temperature you need for Napoli pizza ,” he says. “It’s crazy. A normal pizza oven would take about two hours to reach that temperature.”
One of Verde’s favourite twists on the Napoli is a truffle variation. Topped with truffle paste, mushrooms, prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella, he says it’s a crowd favourite – and easy to prep at home. But Verde has a few tips to get it right.
“With the toppings, it’s about less is more,” he says. “If you overload it, you don’t get to taste the sauce or the dough.”
Also, try to get the right flour: a “weak” flour from an Italian grocer. (Verde buys his from Mediterranean Wholesalers on Sydney Road.) “Weak doesn't mean bad,” he says. “It means the protein content of the flour is lower. Less protein [means] less fermentation time needed.” If you can’t find a weak flour, a standard 00 pizza flour from the supermarket will also work well.
If you don't have a pizza oven like an Ooni, you've been warned: you're not going to get the same results. "A good pizza is a mix of good dough, plus the right oven," says Verde. "You can't have a perfect pizza if you don't have both of those things, but you can get something that is nice." He says try using a pizza stone preheated for an hour in a conventional oven cranked up to its highest heat. Your pizza should take around six to nine minutes to cook, but watch it closely – you don't want a raw base.”
Here's how to make Verde’s truffle, mushroom, and prosciutto pizza with balsamic glaze at home.
Truffle, mushroom and prosciutto pizza with balsamic glaze
Makes 2 x 30-centimetre pizzas or 1x 40-centimetre pizza
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Dough resting time: 8 hours
Cooking time: 60-70 seconds
180ml room temperature water
2g fresh or dry yeast
300g 00 flour (11% protein), plus extra for dusting
1 tbsp truffle paste
4-5 mushrooms, sliced
70g fior di latte, sliced
8 slices prosciutto di parma
70g buffalo mozzarella, torn into chunks
Fresh basil leaves, to garnish
Balsamic vinegar glaze, to drizzle
Semolina to dust the peel
Place water in large bowl and whisk in yeast and salt until dissolved. Add flour slowly to
bowl and stir with wooden spoon until dough starts to form.
If mixing by hand: turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead with both hands for
about 10 minutes, until firm and stretchy.
If using a mixer: fit mixer with dough hook and mix on low speed for 5-10 minutes, or until
dough is firm and stretchy.
Divide dough into two rounded balls of roughly 240g each. Place each ball in a separate
bowl or tray. Cover with cling wrap and leave to rise at room temperature for 8 hours.
To stretch the dough, place the ball on a lightly floured surface. Flour hands and use
fingertips to press the dough into a small, flat disc. Working from the centre, push dough
outwards while spreading your fingers, making the disc slightly bigger. Pick up pizza dough
and gently pinch it all around the edge, allowing gravity to pull it downwards into a circle.
Neapolitan-style pizza bases are very thin, so you should be able to see through the base
when you hold it up to the light. Take care when doing this – you don’t want it to tear.
Once the dough is fully stretched, lightly flour or dust your pizza peel (the tool used to launch and retrieve pizzas in and out of the oven) with semolina and lay a base on it. If at this point you see any small holes, gently pinch them back together.
When you’re ready to start cooking, ignite burner on your Ooni Koda 16 and leave to heat
for 20 minutes. You can check the pizza stone has reached the optimal surface temperature
of 500°C using the Ooni Infrared Thermometer.
Spread an even layer of truffle paste onto the pizza base and top with mushrooms and fior
Using your peel, launch pizza into the oven. If you’re having issues with the base sticking,
gently lift its edge and dust the peel with more flour.
After 30 seconds, remove pizza from oven using peel. Rotate 180 degrees and launch back
into oven for another 30 seconds to ensure an even cook.
Remove cooked pizza and add prosciutto, mozzarella and basil leaves. Drizzle with
balsamic glaze. Enjoy.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Ooni.