It’s about time those of us dedicated to the pizza craft reclaim pizza as the original slow food.
After decades of mass advertising by the big guys, most consumers now classify pizza as a fast food. Pizza is often thought of as an unhealthy meal option when lumped into that category. We independents know that both assumptions couldn’t be further from the truth. Firstly, there’s a ton of prep work needed before you even get to the stretching, saucing, topping and baking of any pizza. It’s only the last stage, the baking, that is relatively quick. Secondly, as far as a healthy daily diet goes, Matt McClellan, a fellow pizza maker from Florida, proved pizza has what it takes when he ate a pizza-only diet complemented with beer or a pop for 30 days and lost 30 pounds! Check it out at www.tourdepizza.com. It’s time we reintroduce our fabulous creations to our customers as some of the original slow foods.
Dough is made fresh, and then given anything from a morning at room temperature to 24 hours in a cooler to rise and develop its flavours. Some dough recipes require two to four days to rise and develop flavours. Some starters are days old, even weeks or years. Marinara is typically peeled, chopped or puréed tomatoes mixed with your own blend of herbs and spices and allowed to marinate before it’s ready to use. Cheeses must be grated.
Meats should be cooked or cured. Pepperoni – the good stuff, that is – has had time to cure and seal in the flavours of the meats and spices. Then that pepperoni, capicola or salami has to be sliced. Chicken needs to be fully cooked, deboned and sliced before it touches the top of a pizza. Veggies must be washed, sliced (or diced) and some must be blanched or roasted with herbs and olive oil well in advance of the actual making of the pizza.
You all know what I’m talking about; it’s what we do each and every day. We are manufacturing plants that bring in raw ingredients in one door and turn them into finished products that are sent out another. Every local pizzeria is a small-scale factory and factories take a lot of work to keep running. Most of our customers don’t truly understand how much time and effort it takes to do all the prep involved in making a great pizza.
The great thing is that there’s no better time in history to reach out to our customers and start that conversation. Many are active Food Network viewers and they’re hungry for details about the “art of making a great pizza”, something that the big chains know little about. Consumers are also more educated than ever about proper cooking techniques. They are exposed to far more varieties of ethnic foods and herbs and spices than in years past. They just may not be aware that many of them are found in your sauces and seasonings for your toppings.
This is the key to differentiate from the big guys, and now is the perfect time to educate consumers that real pizza can easily be a healthy and delicious meal option. So the next time you get more menus or flyers printed, rather than have only edge-to-edge coupons, give some real estate to tell your customer the story of how you make a great pizza.
Diana Coutu is a two-time Canadian Pizza magazine chef of the year champion, internationally recognized gourmet pizzaiolo, co-owner of Diana’s Gourmet Pizzeria in Winnipeg and a member of the board of directors for the CRFA. In addition to creating award-winning recipes, Diana is also a consultant to other pizzeria owner/operators in menu development, creating systems to run a pizzeria on autopilot, along with marketing and positioning to help operators grow their business effectively and strategically. She is available for consulting on a limited basis. For more information contact her at Diana@dianas gourmetpizzeria.ca.