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
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 news.co.nz to see more photos of Kevin Morris making a pizza.