Good slices of New York pizza are as ubiquitous as manhole covers. Great slices are rare.
Making superior pizza at home — well, if you live in my home, it’s a bit of a crapshoot.
Standard operating procedure on homemade-pizza night is to pick up the dough from Park Slope slice joint Smiling Pizza, get fresh mozzarella plus sauce from Italian grocer Russo’s and pull the thing together with a bit of dry pizza seasoning sprinkled on top.
But it never quite comes out as well as I hope.
So when I hear that rural-Italy native and Neapolitan-pizza expert Roberto Caporuscio and his daughter Giorgia, the pie geniuses behind the acclaimed West Village pizzeria Kesté, are offering pizza-making classes at their new outpost in the Financial District, I sign up.
In a wood-raftered back room of the shop, I join the other students.
Roberto brings us up to speed on the history of pizza — it dates back to the 1600s, he says, a time when Neapolitans feared that tomatoes were poisonous and ate sauce-free pies; the first pizza spot in Naples opened in 1786.
First, we learn to make the dough: tap water, a pinch of fresh yeast, flour and salt.
Kneading the dough by hand — a 15-minute process that the Caporuscios find to be relaxing — Roberto offers a good justification for scratch pizza: “Late at night, you can easily wind up with a slice made from dough that has extra yeast in it, so that it can rise quicker,” he says, pointing out that the extra-yeast tactic is employed by places needing to do quick turnarounds on dough because they run low as closing-time nears. “[The] next morning, you feel [that extra yeast] in your stomach.”
Kesté lets its little pillows of dough rise for times that range from 20 hours to two days. Pre-made dough, according to Giorgia, is likely to spend around eight hours maturing, which leads to heavier, denser pizza. But since this is just a three-hour course, Roberto hoists a plastic…