Mamma Mia!

Three pizza chefs on how to achieve the ultimate crust.

No matter what your signature dish, summer seems to bring out the Julia Child in all of us. Even if you’re afraid the gas grill will set your eyebrows on fire and you’ve been using your ice cream maker as a planter since ‘95, summer picnics and parties make us want to experiment and up our game.

And what could be more fun than pizza?

It’s pretty easy to create something that fits the definition of pizza: dough with tomato sauce, cheese and toppings. But anyone who’s ever made a pie from scratch knows it’s never as good as that crusty slice from the pizzeria down the street.

For a little insight, we queried a few experts like Richard Florczak, author of The Private Chef Cookbook. He has served as private chef for Mel Gibson and Leonardo DiCaprio but gave it all up last summer to open Flame Pizzeria in Reseda. The New Jersey native, “where pizza is a religion,” says his secret is to use Caputo 00 flour from Naples, which is carried by most Italian markets. He is also a big fan of using filtered water and sea salt.

Chef Doc Lawrence points to technique rather than ingredients when it comes to his crust. He serves an eclectic menu at Riverside in Toluca Lake, but everyone raves about the pizza—particularly its crust. Doc describes his pizza as Neapolitan but his cracker-crisp crust is a different animal from Flame’s hearty, chewy variety.

He suggests baking the crust for a few minutes, both top and bottom, before adding sauce or toppings. He swears that pre-baking “will give you cracklin’ crust even with a kitchen oven and dough from Trader Joe’s.”

For 10 years, Chef Angelo Di Santo has delighted customers at Angelo Pizzeria in North Hollywood with his version of a thincrust Roma-style pie.

To achieve the perfect texture, Angelo shares advice from mother-in-law Gina: Let the dough rise six to eight hours. “The more it rises, the crispier it gets.” As the perfect complement, he prefers mozzarella di bufala, made from Italian buffalo milk, which carries double the fat content of cow milk mozzarella.

For serious pizza fans, if you are willing to make the investment ($2,000-$5,000) mobile or wood-fired ovens go a long way in creating a perfectly-baked crust but as these culinary talents are quick to point out, they aren’t a necessity; sometimes simplicity yields perfection.