Au­then­tic­ity cen­tral to Neapoli­tan dish

Kevin Mor­ris may not sound like a name that should be syn­ony­mous with au­then­tic Ital­ian pizza but this English-born piz­za­ilo (pizza chef) has the cre­den­tials to prove he’s a cut above the rest. Re­porter Jess Lee got a les­son in pizza mak­ing from the maste

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS -

When you have cus­tomers trav­el­ling more than 2000 kilo­me­tres just to grab a slice of your pizza you know you must be do­ing some­thing right.

Pizza chef Kevin Mor­ris has been serv­ing up a lit­tle slice of Italy on Auck­land soil for al­most a decade and peo­ple han­ker­ing after the taste of au­then­tic pizza make pil­grim­ages from as far as Syd­ney to grab a bite.

Mr Mor­ris’ Dante’s Pizze­ria Napo­le­tana, now based in Pon­sonby Cen­tral, is New Zealand’s only pizze­ria to be granted mem­ber­ship into the pres­ti­gious culi­nary in­sti­tute As­so­ci­azione Ver­ace Pizza Napo­le­tana.

It took Mr Mor­ris more than a year to con­vince Ital­ian of­fi­cials he was good enough to get the fi­nal seal of ap­proval which is why just 300 pizze­ria’s world­wide carry the ti­tle.

This isn’t so much a job as it is a pas­sion, he says.

‘‘I nearly gave up but I just love it. I’m on a bit of a Jamie Oliver cru­sade to re-ed­u­cate peo­ple about take­away food; it’s not al­ways bad.

‘‘Pizza is usu­ally shock­ingly un­healthy but this isn’t.’’

It all started with the young Lon­doner’s trips to Italy to visit his Ital­ian fam­ily.

Mr Mor­ris was fas­ci­nated by his Ital­ian grand­fa­ther Dante at work in his pizze­ria and on the young­ster’s re­turn to Lon­don he would pine for the taste of real pizza.

But it wasn’t un­til al­most a decade ago when he fi­nally set up shop in Kumeu that he re­alised his dream to be­come a pizza chef him­self.

Not only must a cer­ti­fied piz­za­ilo have a deep knowl­edge of the process, they must also com­mit them­selves to forgo cheaper and eas­ier mod­ern tech­nol­ogy for the time­honoured man­ual pro­cesses prac­ticed in Naples for cen­turies.

Pizza, made from in­gre­di­ents im­ported from Naples, is cooked in a brick oven for just 90 sec­onds or less; don’t be fooled this is any­thing but fast food.

Each pizza has to be hand­stretched and is made from dough which takes four days to make.

The over­loaded, greasy fare that usu­ally passes for pizza is a pet peeve of Mr Mor­ris’.

‘‘Less is more. We call those sorts of pizza cheese wheels, it’s just stodge, you don’t know what you’re eat­ing.’’

It’s taken time for Ki­wis to come around to the sim­plic­ity of his pizza but after one slice they are sold, he says.

Mr Mor­ris em­braces one of his grand­fa­ther’s tech­niques.

‘‘When you’re stretch­ing the pizza if you’re not do­ing it with pas­sion and love then the dough and the sauce will sense that and you’re re­warded with a bad pizza out of the oven.

‘‘It comes out grumpy he used to say.’’

But grumpy is what this piz­za­ilo is def­i­nitely not when he’s at work in his Pon­sonby pizze­ria.

Go to auck­land­c­i­ty­har­bour to see more pho­tos of Kevin Mor­ris mak­ing a pizza.

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