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Pizza from Mattachioni
Pizza from Mattachioni

What is it that makes pizza the perfect food? Add to ...

My family has been making pizza for as long as I can remember.

As a kid, I watched Mamma, who immigrated here in 1974, make her dough every Sunday morning. I’d get to punch it a few times for fun. After my mother fell ill when I was 12, Papa took up the tradition. Papa made two main types: the basic with tomato sauce and mozzarella, and his signature ’za, white (that means no tomato sauce) with olive oil, rosemary, a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and anchovies. Yes, anchovies. It’s salty heaven.

Traditionalists might try to convince you pizza can only be topped with tomato sauce and cheese. Anything else is an imposter, they’ll argue. Those people are wrong.

Pizza is a great equalizer. It’s a highly accessible food and completely elastic.

You can do whatever you want with pizza no matter your background, skill level or economic status – even my dad occasionally adds salami to his basic tomato and mozza slices. Make it cheap and cheerful or bling it out.

It’s the perfect food, really.

I checked with my friend David Mattachioni, who has been making pies professionally for more than 15 years. He’s been head pizza maker at various Toronto restaurants, including Terroni – a fixture of the city’s pizza scene – and most recently his own restaurant, Mattachioni, in the up-and-coming Junction Triangle neighbourhood.

I thought he’d be a hard-core purist, but I was wrong. “Everyone can eat pizza,” Mattachioni says. “Everyone can share it. Everyone can make it.”

I think that includes my Canadian husband, who was so enamoured by the pizza made by Papa and my aunts he decided to take up the practice. But he has unorthodox ideas. He regularly includes pineapple as a topping to complement anchovies, describing it as “salty and sweet – a wonderful combination.”

My initial reaction to his concoction was horror – the flavours were too strong, the texture in my mouth felt wrong. But I finished that first slice and thought, “Hmmm, he might be on to something.”

Still, I dreaded inviting Papa over for pizza night – he would not go for fruit on pizza, that much I knew.

But he didn’t care. After seeing my husband’s enthusiasm for making his own pizza, my father shared recipes and tips (including how to prevent the dough from sticking to the pan and the perfect time to add the mozzarella) and even gave him one of the cooking pans we’d used in our family for years.

My pizza-topping favourites have morphed over the years. Before I got married, I always thought of fruit and tomato sauce as no-go zone. But I’ve since explored figs on pizza and I had to admit the juicy explosion was a treat.

I draw the line with certain meat. Chicken wings are simply a gimmick. I saw pulled-pork pizza recently and gagged. I once saw hot dogs topping a pie in Italy and felt a little sad. Still, I won’t judge you if it’s your thing. Just don’t expect me to eat it.

Pizza is a blank slate. Make it your own. Reinvent the wheel. In my house, you’ll be welcomed no matter what you put on it.

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