What better way to spend a cold and drizzly autumn day than making your own fresh pizza from scratch in award-winning pizzeria Napizza?
The tiny pizzeria on Friars Street has only been open for a year, but has gone from strength to strength, recently winning the Dine In 2017 award in the ‘best pizza takeaway in Scotland’ category.
As well as serving up delicious pizza, the restaurant has also been offering regular classes showing keen customers how to create their own authentic Napoli-style pizza.
I had been wanting to go to one of Napizza’s pizza-making classes for ages, but its popularity meant that I only managed to book myself onto one just now. But it was definitely worth the wait.
Myself and our lovely editor Ross Brannigan were part of a large group of 12 who were sheltering from the rain in the cosy pizzeria. A few members of the group had already been to one of these classes before, and were back for another slice of the action.
The class was run by Alex Sorlei, fourth-year International Politics and French student at the university and owner of Napizza. It was clear that Alex was absolutely passionate about pizza – from its origins to its importance in Italian culture today.
He began by explaining that what makes Napizza’s pizza so good is that they import high-quality ingredients from Italy – so their pizza may not be the cheapest, but it does have that all-important authentic taste.
Simplicity is also key. The pizza bases are made only of flour, yeast, water and salt, and their tomato sauce is simply tomatoes and salt. Not only does this fuss-free approach add to the flavour, it means that it is really easy for the chefs to cater to vegans and vegetarians.
Alex explained that fast food has never really caught on in Italy, as there is so much quality food available. Everybody eats well in Italy, and he wanted to bring that over to the people of Scotland.
Then we moved on to the actual pizza-making itself!
Alex explained that we would be making margherita pizzas, which were originally created to honour Queen Margherita, as the red tomatoes, green basil and white cheese represent the Italian flag.
Making the pizza was trickier than I thought it was going to be! It was clear that the chefs had had a lot of practice, as they can whip one up in seconds. After donning a fetching blue apron, we used our fingers to stretch the dough out into a disk (this is a great stress-reliever for those having a bad day!) Next we added a spoonful of the tomato sauce and spread it around, making sure not to pierce the delicate dough.
Then with a sprinkling of mozzarella, a handful of basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil, the pizzas were ready to go in the oven. The pizza oven in Napizza is the centrepiece of the restaurant, and rightly so; it is an impressive size, and it has been decorated with artfully broken pottery.
Now for the hardest bit – we had to use a paddle to slide our pizzas into the oven, and then turn them for an even bake. For most people, including myself, it took more than a few attempts. Ross even managed to break the paddle!
Once the pizzas were in the oven they only needed a couple of minutes for the cheese to bubble and the dough to rise into a nice thick crust. Then they were ready to eat!
Alex insisted that we eat with our fingers for the true Italian experience. He said that nothing tastes better than pizza you have made yourself, and he was right. Despite burning my fingers on the hot cheese, I did feel proud when everyone was enjoying the pizza that I made. And it did taste good fresh out of the oven!
My only criticism of the day would be that perhaps 12 people was too big a group – as the lunchtime rush began the restaurant was packed with pizza-makers and ordinary customers, making it a squeeze. However, this is testament to Napizza’s popularity.
After the class Alex said: “Everyone is just amazed by the classes as they can’t imagine that there is so much to say about pizza.
“I notice that everyone who attends the pizza class comes back with their friends within a couple of days to tell them about it and show them the pizza.
“The reaction is very positive and I love to talk about it as I want people to see that pizza is not as unhealthy as they believe – though I speak about our pizza and not pizza in general!”
To attend one of Napizza’s pizza-making classes like their page on Facebook and keep an eye on their events.