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Thursday, May 3, 2018

The Simplicity of the Pizza

It's dawn.  The pie maker wakes, splashes cold water on his face, drinks black coffee, and travels to the pizza shop.  The flour, salt, oil and yeast.  Jesus the special simplicity of the ingredients.  Flour permeates the air, it's breathed in like asbestos at this point, but it makes him one with the dough.  The mixing and kneading, the smooth motions, just right.  The simplicity of the ingredients.  OF THE INGREDIENTS.  And oh they are wholesome, fresh, simple, honest ingredients.  The balls of dough are laid aside to rest and ferment and rise, RISE.

Now it's later in the day.  The helper is prepping, thinly slicing fresh garlic, plucking basil leaves, but no one touches the tomatoes and cheese and dough but him.  The waitress sets up tables, the line is forming outside.  The brick oven is heating up.  Today is the day, today is the day I will make the perfect pizza.  Yesterday, that margarita I made at 7:00pm was masterful, but not perfect.  The marinara at 8:52?  Magnificent!  But again, not perfect.  Can I make the perfect pizza?  Can anyone?  If anyone can, I can.  But is it possible?  Do the conditions of the world allow for it?  This buffalo mozzarella is sublime today! Was the milk taken at just the right moment?  It's so creamy and velvety oh god this cheese is so supple with a slight tang.  Maybe today is the day.

They enter, most of them fools, none of them understanding the craft, the flavors, but most importantly the simplicity of the pizza.  Someone orders a filetti.  "Yes, can you ask the pizzaiola to not create such a predominant, puffy cornicione for my pie?"  Oh you son of a bitch!  Who are you to tell me how to make my pizza?  What do you know about corniciones?

Later, a margherita is ordered.  There is a fresh coolness outside and the air is filling the restaurant.  He takes a ball of dough, and he feels different.  Is this the eighty-thousandth margarita he has made?  He feels it doesn't matter.  He's entered a new level of instinctual action.  He pats the dough, you couldn't say he's stretching it, the dough almost follows his movements, as if it's expanding itself like the moment after the big bang.  The dough is placed on the marble, and a waddle of tomato is splurted onto the dough.  The cheese, that incredible buffalo mozzarella is placed in bits across the pie, not too much, not too much. The extra virgin olive oil is applied.  Something is different.  The concoction enters the oven.  He watches.  Is this it?  Will this be the perfect pizza?

"Damn it there's too much cornicione!" someone yelps out.

--In tribute to the re-opening of Una Pizza Napoletana in New York