My Stint as a Pizzaiolo

by Bruno Vendittelli

I have a newfound respect for the simplicity of a perfectly made pizza. When done correctly there is total harmony between the definite crunch of the charred crust, the subtle chew of the soft and pillowy centre and the perfect balance of ingredients – fior di latte cheese, San Marzano tomato sauce, fresh basil and a drizzle of fine olive oil. Pizza is one of the most satisfying foods, particularly when consumed with a glass of Italian red wine.

Like many of you, a substantial portion of my time during the COVID lockdown was spent on doing things that I enjoy. With one of my passions being cooking, my goal was to create the perfect pizza that would be baked in my outdoor wood fired pizza oven. Given that during my teens I had a part-time job at the local mall pizza joint, I approached this task with a certain level of bravado. After numerous failed attempts – one that involved a close call to singeing all the hair on my head – I decided that the skills acquired as a teen were not enough. What followed was time spent on the web – my quest for pizza perfection.

The web is an interesting place. It is filled with information, both good and bad. It is a space where one can access this information, both good and bad. This information is used to formulate one’s opinion, both good and bad. I found it ironic that the very place where I would find a recipe for the ‘perfect pizza’ is where most people go to get their news and form their opinions. I wonder how they vet this information? Do they read past the headline to determine if it is in fact correct? Do they check to ensure that the sources are bona fide? Unfortunately, I don’t believe so. What I believe is that a headline is taken at face value and can perilously become dogma. “New information shows that Sars-CoV 2 is transmissible by aerosol and can stay suspended in the air for 3 hours.” We all know where that lead us as a profession. I digress! Let’s get back to pizza.

In my search, it became apparent that there were some common things that most self-professed pizza experts all expounded. After a Cochrane-style assessment of the information (I only chose randomized, controlled trials), here is a list of the important points to pizza perfection:

It’s all in the dough. This calls for 5-6 measured ingredients (water, flour, yeast, sugar, salt +/- olive oil) to be mixed together, kneaded and proofed, preferably over a 24-hour period.

Keep it simple. A restrained blend of San Marzano tomato sauce, fior di latte mozzarella cheese, fresh basil and olive oil yields a harmonious blend of flavours.

A wood-fired oven is optimal as it is the only way to yield a charred crust. Anything less is still very good, but not ‘perfect’.

Practise makes perfect. Achieving consistency of a perfect cook only comes with experience.

By now, most of you have returned to practice and have implemented changes in large part to keep you, your staff and the public safe as well as to meet the guidelines of regulatory bodies. Some of you have done your own web-based research to formulate your own opinions, both good and bad. What sources did you use? How did you vet this information? How did you distill the available information and opinions to come to your conclusions? Your conclusions and the changes you make in your office are important ones. They will have a direct and significant impact on the future of our profession as a whole, both good and bad. There is a lot more at stake than to create a perfect pizza…

About the Editor

Bruno Vendittelli, is a Toronto based orthodontist whose practice is Forest Hill Orthodontics. He is a Staff Orthodontist at the Hosptial for Sick Children and an Associate at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Dentistry.