Those were the early years after the war, the years when I roamed the streets of Milan city centre, where we had our company, initially carried by my father on the front of the bicycle and then, a little bigger, I helped him with my little bicycle and looked at the few pizzeria premises where we had just installed our first pizza ovens.
I remember that in the central Via Agnello, in addition to the pizzeria “Saint Lucia” (which had already existed for a few years and was home to the first wood oven made by my father Primo Ambrogi) we had recently built the oven for the famous pizzeria “di Gennaro” for the bar “Agnello” and then later for the pizzeria “da Peppino”. In those days the via Agnello was nicknamed “the pizza street” because of the number of pizzerias.
Entering from the back, in the working area of these pizzerias, there was always a typical, slightly acrid, smell of dough.
Thus I began to observe and to listen to the speeches of the “greats” on how to make pizza.
The rise was obtained from the dough; the dough kneaders were beautiful wooden boxes (trays) where the kneading paddles were the powerful arms of the pizza maker.
The “pelati” were tomatoes first blanched then peeled and crushed by hand.
I think I am not mistaken in saying that the mozzarella used was real buffalo mozzarella, well drained of course.
The balls of dough from which the pizzas were made were very small (when compared to those of today).
The pizza dough, once stretched, may not have been even 20 cm in diameter.
In fact the pizzas were served on quite small plates.
The pizza was topped more or less as follows:
- mozzarella (about 20/25 grams)
- a decent sprinkling of pecorino and parmesan
- basil in the centre.
This was the “pizza margherita”! With the addition of anchovies, capers and oregano you had, just like today, the “pizza napoletana”.
I do not remember other types of pizza except probably a few “pizza marinara”.
It is hard to explain how good it was, but I can give an idea of how good it smelled by telling you that when I happened to walk carrying the wrapped up pizza (yes, pizza take away even then!) there were so many people who followed the trail of the scent with their nose, intoxicated by that unmistakable fragrance.
And how are pizzas today? Very large, many different toppings, an overwhelming number of choices.
And how will pizzas be tomorrow?
One thing is certain, yesterday, today and tomorrow, the pizza is enjoyed, liked and loved!