Rocky Maselli grew up as a West Coast kid, but his Italian roots and love of cooking, both inherited from his restaurateur mother, have led him to where he is today: A16 Rockridge in Oakland, California. As the restaurant’s executive chef, he re-creates Southern Italian specialties using seasonal Bay Area ingredients.
“A week after taking the job at A16 Rockridge, I flew to Naples to go to ‘pizza school,’ ” says Maselli. He spent mornings learning from the best pizzaioli (pizza masters) in the city, afternoons apprenticing at their pizzerias, and evenings eating even more pizza in the name of “research.” One of his favorite pies came from one of Naples’s oldest and most revered pizzerias, Pizzeria Starita a Materdei. “Their signature fried pie, the Montanara Starita, blew me away,” Maselli recalls. Known in Naples as pizza fritti (fried pizza), the golden, deep-fried dough for this pie is sparingly topped with crushed tomatoes, smoked mozzarella, and fresh basil. It goes into a wood-burning oven just long enough to melt the cheese. “Frying the dough first gives it a rich, almost caramelized flavor,” says Maselli, “and it comes out of the wood oven crisp and tender. It’s unforgettable.” Maselli decided to bring pizza fritti back to his new gig, and East Bay diners have been raving about the newly christened Montanara Rockridge pie ever since.
Get the recipe: Fried Pizza with Burrata and Fresh Basil
The method is straightforward: Make pizza dough using 00 flour, a super-soft, high-protein flour that’s the hallmark of true Neapolitan pizza. Let it rise for a while for the best elasticity and flavor—24 hours is ideal—and then stretch the dough by hand. “You’ll never see a rolling pin in a Naples pizzeria,” says Maselli. “And you don’t need one if the dough has the right elasticity; it’ll stretch forever.” Then fry the dough until golden.
Back home, Maselli has made a few changes to the toppings. Instead of using smoked mozzarella, he lightly smokes his no-cook tomato sauce and uses burrata, a fresh cream-filled mozzarella, to top the fried crust. After baking, he finishes the pie with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of coarse smoked sea salt. Delizioso!
Luckily, you don’t have to live in Oakland (or Naples) to enjoy this outrageously good pizza. Maselli adapted his recipe so that you can make it at home. 00 flour isn’t hard to get, and Maselli’s dough is a dream to work with, rising overnight on your counter without any help from you. You can fry the crust a few hours before topping and baking it, if you like, and the sauce is as simple as crushing good canned tomatoes in a bowl. You can top the fried crust as Maselli does, or use whatever other ingredients you like.
So come on, it’s fried pizza—you know you want some!
Simple method, outrageously good pizza
Dough Dos & Don’ts
- Do use 00 flour. In Italy, flour is classified as either 2, 1, 0, or 00 (doppio zero). The numbers refer to how finely the flour is ground. 00 flour is the most finely ground and powder-soft, but it also has high levels of protein and gluten, which give pizza dough a wonderful strength and elasticity. As any Neapolitan will tell you, it’s essential for great pizza dough.
- Don’t chill the dough. Humidity in the refrigerator can alter the dough’s texture, and it’s harder to stretch when cold.
- Don’t use a rolling pin. It would be very un-Neapolitan of you; also, there’s no need since Maselli’s supple dough easily stretches by hand.
- Do fry at the right temperature. A low oil temperature will cook the dough too slowly, leading to a tough, crackerlike crust; 375°F is best. Use a deep-fry thermometer to monitor the temp.
- Do fry with the right oil. Rice bran oil, which has a high smoke point and good flavor, is ideal—Maselli swears by it—but you can use canola oil, too.
- Don’t overload the toppings. A light hand will keep the crispy fried crust from getting soggy.