I asked Attilio Reale, the accomplished pizza baker at New York’s Buca Brick Oven Pizza on West 103rd Street, if he learned to fold and tie his classic pizzaiolo hat back home in Naples.
No, the Neapolitan learned the technique working in the kitchens of American restaurants alongside Mexicans.
The major difference between these two styles is that the Mexican headgear is made with a bandanna and his, with a white cloth napkin or, if you prefer, a tovagliolo bianco.
Back in London I spotted a pizza baker at Pizza East Portobello, the new Notting Hill location of Pizza East, wearing a pizzaiolo hat nearly identical to Reale’s New York Mexican-Italian style. The main difference was that the London version was made with a tovagliolo nero.
The black hat fits suits the deconstructed workshop look of Pizza East Portobello or, if you prefer, Pizza East West. These guys could be painters, of either canvases or flats. More intimate than the original Pizza East East, its pizzas were comparable to the one I rated amongst the top 10 pizzas in London. The puffy-edged rounds pulled out of the beautifully tiled, built-in brick oven did, however, reveal some worry spots:
- The rims and bottoms of the sourdough crusts were not charred and blistered. Either by accident or design there was no black in these pizzas.
- The toppings were applied haphazardly.
- Cornicione creep – the infringement of the puffed rim towards the center, restricting the surface area available for toppings – persists.