It’s a great story, the three ingredients — tomatoes, mozzarella and basil — representing the tri-coloured Italian flag.
Like Esposito, Vancouver pizza chef Giuseppe Cortinovis was a baker in Italy in his hometown of San Pellegrino, before he moved to Vancouver and on Oct. 15 was crowned the pizza (traditional) king of Canada at the Canadian Pizza Summit and Chef of the Year competition.
Cortinovis’s award-winning pizza, which he calls The Queen, is a twist on the established Margherita.
“I like to keep things super simple, four or five ingredients at the most,” Cortinovis said, the background noise of a busy kitchen and happy customers at Ignite Pizzeria on Main Street filtering over the phone.
“There is a lot of water in my dough. It’s a new trend in Italy, putting a lot of water in the dough. The dough becomes super soft. It’s very difficult to work with, but I like the result.
“With a lot of water you can show off your skill.”
We’ll get to the watery dough in a minute.
First, Cortinovis, who moved from Italy four years ago, imports his tomatoes, juicy San Marzanos, from Naples. They’re DOP certified (Protected Designation of Origin in English), meaning they were grown and canned at the same location.
“The secret is in the soil, not just the kind of tomato,” Cortinovis said.
He foregoes using a blender and squeezes the tomatoes by hand to make the sauce, and uses mozzarella made from the milk of domestic Mediterranean water buffalo.
He adds some Maldon sea salt and mixes in extra-virgin olive oil made from olives grown and squeezed in Sicily. They too, naturally, are DOP certified.
And now the dough.
A lot of pizza chefs will use a ratio of 600 or 650 grams of water to one kilogram of flour, Cortinovis said.
He uses 750 grams of water per litre of sourdough to make his crust.
“When you throw the dough the water tries to escape,” he said. “As it cooks, the water evaporates and you’re left with all these bubbles. It’s similar to the Roman style, but baked at higher temperatures so the final result is all these bubbles but the dough is a lot softer.”
The faster it cooks, the softer the crust so he bakes his pizzas in a gas oven at 370. That’s 370 Celsius, or about 700 Fahrenheit. Prize-winning pizza’s done in three minutes.
Cortinovis, who has baked all over the Lower Mainland and who teaches pizza-making and consults, beat out eight other master pizza chefs to win the Canadian title in the traditional-pizza category, a contest hosted by Canadian Pizza Magazine.
The event, held in conjunction with the Canadian Pizza Summit, where pizza-parlour operators get advice on subjects ranging from how to hire temporary foreign workers to adapting to the changing delivery landscape, was judged by several former national pizza champs.
In March, Cortinovis heads to Las Vegas for the 12th annual International Pizza Challenge, where there are four other categories besides traditional: Pan, non-traditional, pizza Napoletana and Roman.
“I’m very excited,” he said. “I’ve been there five times, one year I finished third in pan pizza, but have never won.”