Chef of the Year East!
By By Colleen CrossFeatures Business and Operations Profiles Trends chef of the year
Amedeo Francesco Broccolo puts Fratelli Broccolo pizza catering on the map
[Editor’s note: Fratelli Broccolo was established in 2021, not in 2023 as reported in earlier versions of this article. Canadian Pizza apologizes for this error.]
When Amedeo Francesco Broccolo was named Canadian Pizza Chef of the Year East, no one was more surprised than the pizza chef himself.
“We went to have fun, meet new people, explain our ideas. I wasn’t expecting to win. After the event other pizza makers called to congratulate me. It’s nice because people appreciate what you do.”
Our interview is a lively conversation with Amedeo and his brother Michael. The brothers started their mobile catering business, Fratelli Broccolo, based in Thorold, Ont., near Niagara Falls, as a way to work for themselves and also educate people about their culture.
That culture is Calabrian. Amedeo, 25, and Michael, 22, were born in San Lucido, a small town of about 7,000 people located in the province of Cosenza in the Calabria region of southern Italy.
“The area is known for a lot of different kinds of ingredients: soft, spiced nduja sausage, roasted red peppers, Cipollo di Tropea – a flavourful onion that is famous on the coast.”
Fratelli Broccolo was inspired by their mother, who cooked everything at home from scratch. “We had a piece of land where we grew vegetables, everything pretty much organic,” Amedeo says. “We grew up with this mentality, seeing that everything was homemade.”
The brothers moved to Canada six years ago. They find the culture very different in Canada including a reliance on storebought food. Micheal says, “We want to bring a new experience here. Travel is one of the best things that you can do.”
“We used to think young people wanted appetizers, a glass of wine or beer. The way that people are eating out now is different. They’re getting something shareable. You’re trying to put something on the table that everyone can eat. In Italy often menus are shareable. You have your own table, they’ll bring one or two pizzas on the table (called “degustation” or “tasting”). Servers keep bringing different courses for people.”
Michael and Amedeo agree: “We want to collaborate with different chefs. We like to experiment.”
This includes the all-important dough. Says Michael, “The dough is the same but we’re always trying to make it better. We use a 72-75 per cent hydration and we mix different flours together. It’s not just about hydration. We typically have multiple fermentations going at the same time.
“In our case we let it ferment for around 20 hours at 15-16 C. We even control the pH because that helps you understand the acidity of the dough. These things help us to make same dough every time.
“It’s like how we make our own yeast. We start with fresh yeast and then the fermentation reduces the gluten. We need to keep it at a certain temperature.”
A growing catering business
Fratelli Broccolo, established in 2021, caters mostly private parties, birthdays, engagement parties and farmers markets in Niagara, Oakville, Mississauga and Toronto and area.
Michael says, “When you hire us, you get an experience. We give a little lesson to people. The people are curious and interested. We show them with the thermometer gun, how to open the pizza dough. People want to see what you’re doing. Our idea is to open a pizzeria eventually.”
Amedeo describes the process. “We ask the client how many people, how many pizzas, appetizers like arancini (rice balls) and pasta. It’s a buffet-style setup. We start to prepare the toppings and slow-cook. Some toppings can take eight hours to cook properly.
“The next day when we arrive at the event, we say two hours before, we’ll load the oven, start the oven 45 minutes early. People get excited, they’re looking at what we are doing.”
They use a Clementi wood-fired oven with a stone and a base of 100×80 centimetres making two 12- to 13-inch pizzas at a time. It’s a high-hydration dough that cooks in two minutes at 390 C. Wheels on the oven make it easier to get it onto the trailer.
“We were going to buy an oven-trailer combination, but then decided to do this. This way it’s easier to bring the oven in closer,” Amedeo says.
Amedeo says, “The slower pace gives us more control. In the market it’s go, go, go. Our first market, we stayed there all day, people loved it, came back for a second time. We had an idea how many people were supposed to come and it was pretty close.”
Most of the time clients want pizza as an extra dish for their party, not necessarily pizza as the main event.
They started at end of June and were busy all summer long. The pace was a little stressful as they both also work at full-time jobs.
They collaborate with other businesses. For example, they worked with Casa Mia Restaurant, a restaurant that organized an event where they served Hawaiian pizza. Amedeo says, “Together we raised money to help Hawaii after the disaster in Lahaina.”
“We try to put our stamp on it,” Michael adds. “The pineapple was grilled. We added ham from Italy of a really good quality.”
The idea for the winning pizza, Tartufata, came from a pizza they tried at Eataly, the restaurant/marketplace that opened in Toronto in recent years. It featured mushrooms, truffle and taleggio cheese. Amedeo explains: “We liked the taste, but we thought if we added Italian ham – prosciutto – it would be better. It was actually one of the pizzas we were trying to promote this year in our business. We sampled it to people this year, people tasted and liked it.
“It represented our business the best.”
Truffle is expensive and not for everybody, they point out. “At the beginning there is a taste of garlic a little bit inside. It’s for people with particular tastes,” Amedeo says.
Their strategy was to let people try the pizza for free. “Then they liked it enough and they wanted to pay.” He says a lot of people don’t know anything about truffles and the time-consuming process and specially trained sniffer dogs.
“People should understand the quality. It’s even connected to how much you eat. People sometimes comment on small portion sizes at restaurants for the price. We try to explain to them that the quantities are very important. We believe if you have too much it’s not a good experience.”
Amedeo adds, “It’s the process as well. For example, we buy fresh zucchini and prepare it ourselves.”
Next year they plan to start booking catering jobs in May. The longer-term plan is to open a sit-down restaurant. Their vision is small and intimate: 20-40 seats to allow them to take care of customers properly.
“It’s a different mentality of eating pizza,” Amedeo says. “You need stable customers who come because they want to be educated. They want to try different things and have different experiences.”
Michael describes their pizza as a cross between gourmet and contemporary. Contemporary is similar to Neapolian but with a loosening of the strict Neapolitan rules.
There are variations within the category. “Our crust is fluffier and lighter,” Amedeo says.
“The contemporary pizza you can’t cook at 425, for example,” Michael adds. “From 90-120 seconds but slightly lower pizza than Neapolitan would be cooked. It’s a different dough.”
Says Amedeo, “There is a lot of water inside, you need more time to cook at a lower temperature. You want a little bit of crunch on the crust.”
The brothers are inspired by Italian pizza makers who are trying to experiment and change the traditional Neapolitan. They will have many opportunities to be inspired by pizza innovators when they attend the 40th International Pizza Challenge at Las Vegas Pizza Expo in March. An exciting part of Amedeo’s Chef of the Year prize is the trip and a spot to compete in the Non-Traditional division.
We wish Amedeo well in the competition as he and Michael put Fratelli Brothers on the map and wave the flag for Calabria, Thorold and Canada!
Ingredients Calabria, Italy, is known for:
- Spiced nduja sausage
- Roasted red peppers
- Cipollo di Tropea (flavourful onion)
- 72-75 per cent hydration
- Mixture of flours
- Approximately 20 hours at 15-16 C
- Truffle cream
- Mozzarella fior di latte
- Prosciutto cotto alta qualita (high quality)
- Shredded truffle
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Fresh basil
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