There are three things I dread most:
1. Swimming underwater—Yes, I am an aquaphobe even though I live across the street from the beach.
2. Being cold—-Seriously, I don’t take my winter coat off until July 4th, and…
3. A Pizza-Night-Kitchen-Takeover! —- I refer to them this way because my family hijacks my kitchen, moving furniture in and out, clearing all the counters- making way for a night of mayhem.
They set the stage for food, fun, friends and family. Yet, despite the mess, Pizza Nights have become a favorite tradition with everyone coming together to share our common love for an airy Neapolitan-style pizza, German-imported beers and rustic Italian wines! (Of course, an Eagles game with them winning is always a great side dish!)
My husband Phil, also known as “Philly-Cheese,” is the instigator…he designed and built the pizza oven.
(See the back-story on my previous blogpost, “Made from Scratch”).
The take-over begins an entire 24 hours beforehand, with Phil breaking out the Farina 00 flour, which will coat every surface of my kitchen – even the kitchen drawer handles – will have a millimeter of “fresh powder.”
Phil, like a mad-scientist in his laboratory, gets to work. He carefully measures the flour, salt, water, and yeast. Then he mixes the dough. It’s a process borne from many trips to pizzerias across Italy, many taste-tests, and years of trial and error.
The pizza dough chills over night, but my Virgo-mind certainly doesn’t. I wake up to Phil and the twins not-so-secretly hauling our massive 10′ outdoor deck table into my kitchen (Apparently this makes for a more “functional” Pizza Night.)
They place the table flush against our island (our version of Il Palio festival in the streets of Siena, Italy?) My son, Gianni, mans the pizza oven, while Philly makes the pizza sauce, and my daughter Nathalie prepares all the toppings: Italian Sausage, Kalamatta Olives, Riccotta, Broccoli Rabe, homemade Pesto, to name a few!
Together, they work in a synchronized dance to Phil’s Spotify Playlist, while I hide behind a glass of Chianti trying not to acknowledge the charcoal-coated pizza peel on my marble countertop and the sky-high stack of dirty bowls in the sink. I prefer to watch Nathalie, who is well-trained, following behind the other two with paper towels and windex —that’s my girl!
Over time we’ve come to realize making many pizzas for everyone to share rather than individual pies works best. Phil stretches the dough balls into an oval (if you want a perfect circle, go to Dominos.) He layers sauce, mozzarella and other toppings before passing the pie off to Gianni, who rotates the pizza in the oven, until the dough crisps into a deep brown crust.
Recently, our tasting menu has been:
- Margharitta Pizza: Mozzarella, Tomato Sauce, Basil, one Kalamata olive in the center.
- Meat Pizza: Mozzarella, Tomato Sauce, Basil, Soperessatta, Salami, Proscuitto (if you like a spicy ‘za).Mozzarella, Tomato Sauce, Basil, Italian Sausage, Broccoli Rabe (cooked beforehand in garlic and oil).
- Gianni’s Pizza: Mozzarella, Tomato Sauce, Basil, Italian Sausage, Kalamata Olives
- Porcini Pizza: Mozzarella, Tomato Sauce, Basil, thinly sliced Porcini Mushrooms, Pesto, Ricotta.
When the pies come out, Gianni takes a two ft long pizza knife and cuts it up into 8-12 slices and pass the board down the long table. This is a no-frills meal, everyone has their own wooden pizza peel for a plate , a fork and a knife, and it works for us.
Even the tasting of the pizza is a group effort. We send compliments back to our Pizzaiolo and the occasional constructive feedback, “less sauce,” “more cheese,” or “can you make another one just like this?”
After I’ve power-washed the kitchen at the end of the night, I realize our house wouldn’t be complete without it’s Titanic-sized pizza oven. Pizza Night truly is a group effort and, in the end, a team win.
We’ve put together a video tutorial on how to make pizza in a traditional pizza oven, check it out here.
If you have questions, please comment below, and we’ll get back to you! I have linked the Pizza Tools here we can’t live without on our Amazon Old Silver Shed site. And the recipes for the dough and sauce here: