The Art and Practice of Handmade Pizza, Focaccia, and Calzone
by Marc Vetri with David Joachim
(Ten Speed Press, $29.99)
The best books about pizza are, in actuality, books about obsession, and that’s a good thing. If someone’s going to teach us to make pizza—real pizza—then that someone had better be stark raving mad about it. And Marc Vetri is. Trust him when he promises in the early pages of his new book to “help you make better pizza in whatever oven you have with whatever dough you want.” (By “whatever dough,” he means, of course, any one of the 20 obsessively perfected dough recipes from his book.)
Great dough is the key to great crust. And great crust, the key to great ’za. “It’s all about nailing the crust,” Vetri writes. And nail it, you will. Not the first time, perhaps, and maybe not even the second or third. Immediate gratification is not the point here. The point is to pursue a passion. Becoming a pizzaiolo takes time and practice.
Between the covers of Mastering Pizza, you’ll find all the information you need—plus step-by-step photos that demystify the process—to begin practicing and making excellent pizza at home. (Forget what you may have read or heard about it being impossible without a professional pizza oven. It is possible!)
The opening chapters are a deep dive, exploring different ovens, baking methods, types of flour, levels of hydration—i.e., the overall art and science of pizza. I highly recommend lingering there, but if you’re hungry and in a hurry, there’s nothing wrong with flipping straight to the recipes.
Vetri’s recipes are gleaned from years of research in Italy and honed in America, where he runs several award-winning Italian restaurants, including Pizzeria Vetri in Philadelphia. Far from being exhaustive, this book focuses on three types of pizza: Napoletana, with that big puffy rim and soft, chewy, foldable crust; Romana, with its thin, crunchy crust; and super-thick rectangular or square pizza al taglio, which is cut with scissors.
Vetri has some fun with the dough along the way, offering dozens of variations on his master recipes, plus loads of toppings, from classic pepperoni or margherita (tomato, mozzarella, basil) to innovative carbonara (eggs, pecorino, guanciale) and granchio (fresh crab and roasted peppers). Whichever starting point you choose, whether you nail the crust or not, the results are sure to be delicious.