Attilio Reale has been making wood-fired pizzas for 25 years.Originally from Naples — Italy, not Florida — he grew up in northern Italy. And his pizza closely mimics his background.
"My pizza style is close to the Napoli style with an influence from the north," says Reale in his melodious Italian accent. (In Naples, there are all kinds of rules about exactly how pizza must be made.) "Not all people like the Napoli style. I've worked everywhere. I try to make a pizza that everyone likes: crispy and soft at the same time."
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Reale has worked as a pizza-man and pizza consultant all over the
world: New York, Mexico City, Panama, Connecticut. He has also picked up
some high-profile jobs in south Florida ranging from Spris,on Lincoln Road; to the Setai, Miami Beach; to Martorano's Italian-American Kitchen at the Hard Rock Casino. Now, he has taken the wood-fired pizza helm at Osteria Acqua & Farina. And he's showing us some of his secrets.
Step One: Mix the dough. Reale uses a large mixer with flour from the U.S. and Italy. According to Reale, "I have a special formula for brick oven pizza. It makes a crispy crust and nice color. No matter where I am, I always try to use some local flour."
Step Two: Let the dough rise. "I rise it for more than a day. It helps with digestion. I don't want people to feel sick from my pizza. Letting it rise properly is half of the job," says Reale.
Step Three: Regulate the oven temperature. "The temperature needs to be 375 degrees celsius [707 Fahrenheit]. But it needs to be adapted to the weather outdoors, depending on temperature and humidity. You have to keep a close eye on the way the pizza is cooking, because there is no thermometer." Osteria Acqua & Farina buys its oak from a local Italian boscaiolo [lumberjack], who chops the wood by hand, says Reale.
Step Four: Clean the oven. According to Reale, "I want to make sure there is no dust. Yes, it tastes good with the dust, but it is not healthy." Reale first seeps the oven with a steel brush, then uses a paddle to move the dust, then wipes it all with a damp rag on a pole. It would be an understatement to say this guy is meticulous with the cleanliness of his oven.
Step Five: The fun part. Knead and roll out the dough.