Just off Oxford Circus is Ponti’s, a traditional family-run Italian restaurant with a history inspired by hard work and big dreams. Walking in, I was drawn to the open kitchen reminding me of eateries I’ve visited in Italy. The pungent smell of garlic and cured meat created a little rumble in my stomach and by the time I sat to meet my other companions, I was ready to dive into good food.
I was invited to participate for a Pizza Scuola masterclass. A large table showcased our tools and toys for the day. I was more than excited to get down and dirty, there’s nothing as satisfying as making your own food from scratch and chomping it off with a good glass of wine.
But first, good ol’ Aperol Spritz, a much needed detox drink for post-work worries after a long day in the office.
Few chin chins later, aprons were passed and we were summoned to our worktable. One of the guys from Ponti’s demonstrated how to treat the pizza dough to make that perfect pizza base. It looked rather easy enough…
I looked at my pizza dough and as I started to caress it with a dusting of semolina, I hummed and talked to it like a woman in need of love. “You’re a stunning piece of work and you will be the most beautiful base on this planet.”
Chat up lines were never my forte. Hence my dough turned into this:
I started over, gently flattening the new dough ball I was given. Apparently the key to a good pizza base is using your palms instead of hammering it down like with your fists or poking the sides with your fingers. As it gets to a few centimetres thick, you have to start gently pulling the dough around into an even circle making sure there aren’t any holes.
I think I did alright in the end.
Tossing dough is one thing I really wanted to do. Once your pizza base is flat enough, you’re meant to toss it in the air to give it the best shape it can go. This is really the fun part, if only for the bets you can make about tossing and the puns you can get for tossers. Har.
Now here’s my favourite part: TOPPINGS!
FUN FACT 1: You’re only meant to put three tablespoons of sauce on a normal sized pizza.
FUN FACT 2: I love pizza sauce and think three is never enough.
Now I usually go for just two to three ingredients on my pizza but I ended up going all out.
Here’s my creation: six tablespoons of tomato sauce, a sprinkling of mozzarella, salami (really yummy), one piece of aubergine, some artichokes, olives, chilli, and basil.
It was quite cool to look at our tailor-made pizzas as they lay on the table ready for the oven. I felt like a proud momma sending off her bebe to university.
And then it came back pretty as a picture, ready for the world to tuck into.
My pizza actually tasted good. Like really, seriously good. That salami was of fantastic quality and adding huge dollops of sauce was a brilliant idea. The dough in the centre was soft and chewy and pretty decent. However, the crusty sides were slightly hard. That may be down to my hand battery skills or perhaps it was way too close to the fire. But it was still really good.
Verdict for Pizza Scuola
That said, I thought the overall experience was pretty sweet. I think it’s a nice thing to do with colleagues, like an ice breaker for when a new person comes or something. Or bring someone you like, for perhaps date #2 or #3. You get to have fun with your hands, eat decent grub, cheesy puns and a certificate to frame and hang up your walls. Boom.