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Pizza has become aspirational. When in June, the Times Weekend published a list of Father’s Day gift ideas, suggestions included an £89 Smeg pizza stone and a Gozney dual fuel, portable pizza oven at £399.
On packaging, the words ‘wood-fired’, ‘hand-stretched’ and ‘sourdough’ are standard requirements. Once Italian bitter greens were hard to track down outside Italy, now you’ll find friarielli on a Waitrose pizza.
What’s behind the posh pizza trend?
- The need to socialise outdoors in lockdown led many foodies – including Speciality Food editor, Holly Shackleton – to buy portable pizza ovens
- Intense competition among providers, especially food trucks, led to improved quality
- Growing awareness of the benefits of sourdough helped persuade the health conscious to eat pizza again. Sourdough is considered more digestible than yeast-puffed bases
Should we invest in a wood-fired oven?
George Dart, manager at The Farm Table restaurant at Darts Farm Shop, Devon is a fan. They bought a gas-and-wood combi to be on the safe side but found the wood fire easy to run and gas nozzles took up valuable space. George advises: “Get your kitchen layout right. You’ll need three full-time people: one for rolling; one for topping and slicing; and one for cooking and finishing. You could train up a keen youngster.”
What’s the best kind of flour?
At Dart’s, they use frozen dough balls made with British flour which they then ferment. If you want to buy British, Shipton Mill of Tetbury sell an Italian-style 00 white flour. The most delicious sourdough pizza we’ve tasted came from La Pernella pizzeria in London’s SW18. Owner, Elena Frattini, told us they use strong Caputo 00 flour – ‘the purple one’.
And whose tomatoes should we use?
Holly Shackleton reckons it’s worth shelling out for Mutti tomatoes. DOC quality standards for Vera Pizza Neapolitana specify San Marzano tomatoes grown in volcanic soil.
We’re sticking to chilled pizzas from our deli counter.
These can be “great business” as Liam Spivey of the Chatsworth Estate Farm Shop, Derbyshire confirms. They sell 7,000 a year and even had a Christmas dinner pizza featuring turkey, sprouts, cranberry sauce and bacon.
That’s nothing. The winner of Top Pizza Takeaway on BBC2’s Britain’s Top Takeaways series had a CTM or Chicken Tikka Masala pizza! Fun and luxury toppings can be great for publicity. We’ve come across an Absolutely Crabulous pizza with Northumberland crab meat, a Truffle Shuffle with truffle cream and The Seafood One with samphire, white wine cream sauce and Cornish crab.
What should we put on vegan pizzas? We’re not keen on fake meats and cheeses.
Our favourite branded pizzas are made by Crosta & Mollica who scooped many stars in the 2021 Great Taste Awards. You could copy their new Vegana pizza and use a tomato and caramelised balsamic onion sauce with grilled mushrooms and a green veg like broccoli. For protein they use a creamy chickpea sauce, with rosemary, sea salt and olive oil. At Darts Farm Shop they’ve had success with grilled aubergine sauces.
Got any ideas for gluten-avoiders? We already know the White Rabbit, Dr Oetker’s Ristorante and Pizza Express brands.
Dou_h at Home’s new Gluten Free Pizza Kits (£19.99 for two pizza bases and four toppings) won a gold in this year’s Free-From Awards. Invented by the owners of a street food trailer, one of whom is a coeliac, these pizzas wowed the judges who thought the price comparable with a good takeaway and worth the money for the “great flavour and texture”. Available from Dou_h and Co.
How to make the most of the trend
- Promote your pizzas during National Pizza Week (21st-27th November) organised by the Pizza, Pasta and Italian Food Association (PAPA). This year’s theme is the World Cup; could you design an appropriate topping?
- Copy Macknade Food Hall, Kent and offer pizza-making workshops during school holidays to increase footfall
- Showcase local produce such as Dorset salume, quality honey and Hampshire Buffalo Mozzarella
- Investigate British-grown basil grown hydroponically
- Avoid food waste. Use wonky vegetables from the farm in your sauces. A surplus of smoked trout after Christmas can be frozen and sold on a trout and mascarpone pizza
Is there a maximum people will pay?
George Dart reckons £22 is about the limit for a fresh pizza but this may soon change – see below. Liam Spivey reports many Chatsworth customers are cutting back - eating out less but treating themselves to special meals at home. So they’re introducing a ready-prepared sourdough pizza at £7 - alongside their standard £5 pizza.
Will the trend last?
As long as anxiety is on the increase, we’ll need comfort food. Pizza made up 19% of all takeaway orders on the Just Eat app in 2020. That said, a spokesman for PAPA told us that wheat prices and availability are major concerns for the pizza industry. Food prices are soaring. A posh pizza with a sublime topping and well-made base has become fine food. Rise to the challenge.