Gusta Pizza, Florence.
Home to the best pizza I’ve ever tasted.
We happened upon this place while utterly lost in Florence, after having attempted to visit the Pitti Palace, which was closed unfortunately. Gusta Pizza is located in an alleyway two blocks behind the palace and the guys at Gusta Pizza unfortunately spoke absolutely no English. I had my handy dandy Italian phrasebook with me, but it was absolutely useless. I tried my hand at a couple sentences, but they only shook their heads in confusion. We resorted to pointing and gesturing wildly at the menu, which worked out wonderfully. They were extremely patient with us, and my dad was so happy he bought one of the chefs a beer. Now this pizza was a little different from the pizzas you get around here. It was cooked in less than a minute in a stone oven, and it was topped with leafy greens and parmesan before serving. It was beautiful and utterly delicious. And I was determined to make it at home.
The first thing I did when I got back was get a pizza/baking stone. Best investment ever, if you ask me. While it’s no brick oven, the temperature gets much higher than with a regular baking pan and the crust tastes much better as a result.
For the pizza itself, I decided to just make a simple pizza margherita, and top with arugula, parmesan, cherry tomatoes, and parmesan, like they did.
For the dough, I actually doubled the amount given below to make two large pizzas. The size depends on how thin you roll it out, and I prefer it to be on the thin side. First, shape the dough into a round ball (by pushing the edges into the middle of the bottom) so that it is smooth on the surface. Then, on a lightly floured surface, use your fingers to push the dough down into a flat disk. At this point, you can use whatever fancy pizza dough stretching technique you may possess, but I broke out the rolling pin. I lightly rolled out the dough, alternating between stretching it with my hands and rolling it out. No need to squish the thing to death, but go ahead and pop the large air bubbles if there are any. If the dough keeps on going back to its original shape and the darn thing just won’t stay stretched out, let the dough rest for 10 minutes to relax the gluten and try again. Patiently.
I don’t have a pizza peel, so I used the back of baking sheet with some parchment. The pizza goes onto the baking stone with the parchment, and is removed around 5 minutes into baking.
I often find that the tomato sauce made with fresh tomatoes actually doesn’t turn out that great. Instead, I like to use the canned San Marzano tomatoes from Italy. It can be found at Trader Joe’s for 3.99.
At first, I used this kosher shredded mozzarella from Costco (called Natural & Kosher) and it did not turn out at all. Somehow, the cheese just separated into a gooey mess under the high temperatures. I now stick with the ball mozzarella, which has more moisture and fares much better in the high temperature.
Classic Italian Pizza
makes one pizza
1 1/2 cups bread flour (240 grams)
2/3 cup warm water (157 grams)
1 teaspoon instant dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar into the water. Set aside.
2. In a larger bowl, or in a mixer, add the flour and salt. Stir in the water and oil a little at a time, and knead until smooth and elastic.
3. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let it rise at room temperature for 2-3 hours.
4. Roll out the dough to its proper size and now it’s ready for toppings.
the rest of the pizza
1 can of tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
pinch of salt and pepper
half a ball of low moisture mozzarella
olive oil to drizzle
5-6 cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered depending on size
parmesan, shaved or chunks
1.Preheat your oven with the baking stone inside to as high as it will go. Mine went to 550 F.
2.Blend the canned tomatoes until smooth. Squeeze the extra liquid out first, to prevent the sauce from becoming too wet. Add in the salt and pepper to taste. There is no need to make this too salty, since the prosciutto and parmesan to be added later are really salty.
3. Spread the sauce onto the dough evenly. Top with mozzarella. For one pizza, I only used up half a ball.
4. Get the pizza onto the baking stone (I used parchment paper). Bake until the bottom is at least golden brown or even slightly charred, and the cheese is bubbling. At 550 F, it takes me 7-8 minutes.
5. Top pizza with the arugula, tomatoes, prosciutto, and parmesan. Serve immediately. This pizza should be eaten fresh due to the toppings. Take it from me – it’s not very good the next day…