Source: Giovanni Cir. 1970’s
(Giovanni had his own Pizza ristorante in San Jose, California)
Pizza a la Giovanni
Pizza a la Giovanni came about quite organically (literally!). I met Giovanni in 2009 at the organic vegetable stand that we frequented on Saturday’s in San Juan Bautista. I noticed that he seemed like a a pro at the vegetable stand. He knew what he wanted, chose his produce boldly, and was clearly on a food mission. While the rest of us wandered around the veg-stand aimlessly, Giovanni clearly knew what he wanted and how to select the best. He had an air about him, something that was familiar to me, in fact I realized he reminded me of my Nono. Once I learned that he was Italian, with a beautiful accent…well, I was hooked.
Finding common ground among the tomatoes.
I decided to approach Giovanni while we were both selecting our heirloom tomatoes. One thing lead to the other, and before I knew it, I had arranged a luncheon with him to join us at our ranch for lunch. He lit up, and immediately offered to bring the pizza. How could I decline such a wonderful offer from my compadre. It was a deal. When Giovanni showed up, he had all the essentials packed in a box. He brought his home-made tomato sauce in a glass jar. His cheese, his pepperoni, his pizza trays, and most importantly his pizza dough in an air-tight bag already made and ready to go.
It was time to learn from the pro…
He has a process-a very well tuned process indeed. First step was flouring the work surface. He got his ball of dough out and used only his hands to form the perfect circumference for the round netted-pizza tray. Next step, was spreading his sauce evenly ensuring all areas were nicely covered with the sauce. It was now time to layer the cheese. He used the firm mozzarella and liked to cut it into large rectangular sizes. The final layer was his pepperoni, and fresh cut tomatoes. The pizza was placed in the hot oven, and baked until it was nicely browned and crispy. His version of pizza was a nice thick, airy pizza that had a restaurant quality to it. It was delicious.
This whole experience left me puzzled, and wondering why my pizza wasn’t turning out like his. My next challenge was making the pizza just as he did, but I had to make a few adjustments. First, I added 1-2 cooked, peeled and mashed potatoes into the dough. I also added a TBS of sugar. In addition, I lost my rolling pin and converted to Giovanni’s hand method. There was a noticeable difference in my dough-not only did it rise triple the size, but it had air bubbles in it, and was a very nice pliable dough. I followed the rest of his steps: spooning the sauce on the spread out dough, used a metal airy pizza tray to bake it on, and layered my ingredients as he did. The difference in my pizza was amazing! It was as thick, airy and crunchy delicious as his. Learning these few valuable tips from the retired Italian pizza maker proved to be more advantageous than I could ever have imagined.
Ten years later now living in Europe, though we no longer see Giovanni, we think of him every Friday night. As we’ve dedicated our Friday nights to being “Pizza Friday”. As we sit and enjoy the amazing pizza, though we may not always mention him, we are thinking of Giovanni in spirit. Grazie Giovanni, and Buon Appetito!
Pizza a la Giovanni
- 900 gr flour 7.5 cups
- 20 gr fresh yeast
- 1 – 2 medium potatoes cooked and mashed with skin off
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 TBS olive oil
- 1 – 2 cups water lukewarm & enough water until consistency is achieved
- 1-2 TBS sugar
- Ingredients to make 2 large pizza’s Begin to boil 1 potato until soft and ready for mashing. Prepare the yeast with about 1 c. water (luke warm). Add yeast and water together, and let yeast dissolve and bind with the water.
- In a large bowl, add flour, salt,
- olive oil, and mashed potato.
- Add water-yeast mixture
- and combine
- now add the water and kneed
- until a nice supple ball is formed. This should take about 5-10 min. Cover and let rise, minimum 2 hours. (or put in a clean plastic bag and put in refrigerator)
- When dough is ready, cut in half, and on a floured surface, begin to form into a large flat circle. Use your fingers, not a rolling pin. Just begin to push from the center, and form a large round shape.
- When dough is the size of your pizza pan, place on pan.
- prepare your cheese
- Begin with olive oil on dough, then tomato paste,
- then sauce,
- and toppers.
- Bake @ 200ºC or 375ºF until pizza is brown and crusty. Now precut
- Usually 20-25 min. cut and serve.