I know not all Italian food lovers are the same, but I'm pretty sure there is one thing all of us love: PIZZA. Whether you prefer the soft & chewy crust of a Neapolitan pizza, the thin crunchy crust of a Roman pizza or some of the other styles & forms of Italian pizza, one thing is certain: there's no better place to eat pizza than in Italy. A night at a pizzeria was certainly part of our Puglia culinary tour itinerary, but we had an even better experience than just eating pizza, we were pizzaioli for a night!
Yes, we donned our "Cook in Puglia" aprons and pizza maker's caps, got on the pizza maker's side of the floured work table, caressed dough into thin round disks, topped each pizza according to each person's taste, and ever-so-carefully slid pizza onto peel and into oven. We even got a lesson in working the pizza oven and rotating the pizza so it would cook quickly and evenly. It was definitely a bucket-list experience!
The pizza-making part wasn't actually on our official itinerary. Oronzino, the pizzaiolo & owner of La Pagghiara in Lecce, suggested that it might be fun if each guest made his or her own pizza. A big, "SI!" came out of my mouth before he finished asking. This is just one example where one of our hosts in Puglia went above and beyond to make us feel so welcome and part of the community; it was one of the many memorable moments of the tour.
Pizza in Lecce is a thin and crunchy-crusted pizza, similar to that of Rome. Oronzino explained how he prepares the dough and then he took each guest on a private pizza-making lesson alongside him at his work bench. Each person worked with him as he guided him/her through the process of coaxing a thick round ball of dough into a flat circular disk. Each person made a pizza, worked the peel and the oven. As pizzas came out of the oven, we tasted the others' in what was to be a taste competition. I don't think we ever determined a winner, though, as we all got lost in enjoying the experience and eating.
As usual with meals on this tour, there wasn't only pizza. We started with yet another onslaught of assorted antipasti. The fried treats - pittule (fried dough), arancini, vegetables in pastella (fried vegetables in batter - think Italian tempura) - made by Oronzino's mamma were some of the best I've had in Salento, and Italy.
Our pizzaioli in action & pizza-making steps in photos:
Everyone had such a great time making pizza, that we've officially added it to the 2013 itinerary. Want to join us and be a pizzaiolo for a night? You can! Details of this delicious food lover's culinary vacation are available on the page: Food Lover's Culinary Tour in Puglia
La Pagghiara Trattoria Pizzeria
Via Taranto, 64
Phone: +39 0832 240659