Bringing a Taste of Italy to Montereau

Executive Chef Richard Applegate is busy tossing pizza dough! The highly anticipated new restaurants are brimming with uniqueness and flavor – including a new wood-fired pizza oven that produces hand-tossed, made-to-order pizzas.

In February, Chef Richard traveled to Chicago for an intense week-long pizza training course at the North American Pizza and Culinary Academy, one of only two schools accredited by the oldest pizza school in Italy, Scuola Italiana Pizzaioli. Although Chef Richard’s background in cooking is extensive, he admits to learning a lot through this hands-on training session. The class included 40 hours of curriculum with eight hours of pizza-specific training each day, and he says it was one of the best and most fun experiences he’s had in the industry! How did he do on the written exam at the end of the week? You’ll be happy to know he scored an “A”!

Chef Richard’s mornings were spent in a classroom environment learning the history and theory behind making a good pizza. Afternoons involved hands-on pizza-making in the chef’s kitchen. His roll-up-your-shirt-sleeves-and-get-to-work attitude kept him focused on learning the best ways to make the perfect pizza. He studied variations from different parts of the world, including styles from New York, Chicago, Naples, Sicily and California.

Interestingly, because making dough is a complex undertaking, the dough consists of just five simple ingredients: flour, water, yeast, salt and fat. “I never realized so much went into making dough,” Chef Richard commented. “It’s more of an art [than a recipe].” So many details go into making excellent dough! For example, it is important to know how long to let the dough mature before it’s used. Why? Richard explained that our bodies aren’t meant to break down complex carbohydrates, so by letting the dough mature, the yeast naturally helps with the breakdown process. Your body can tell the difference because the pizza does not feel “heavy” on your stomach.

Upon returning home, he ordered a jewelry scale that accurately measures amounts in grams. Proper dough formation is an exact science. For example, .16 grams of yeast will be used to make the dough for each pizza. This ratio allows the dough to mature much faster. Even temperature and humidity will be taken into consideration to ensure every bite is incredible.

The pizza kitchen features a special pizza oven that decreases cooking time compared with traditional oven baking. The result offers dough cooked to perfection - a crispy outer crust that is soft and airy inside. Gourmet sauce made from scratch using tomatoes imported from Italy and locally sourced mozzarella are featured, as well.

When asked about his favorite pizza, Chef Richard noted it’s one of the oldest pizzas around – Margherita – with fresh basil and mozzarella. It’s so basic, yet it’s pizza perfection! And yes, the restaurant will serve this beloved option.

You can now watch Chef Richard in action as he tosses dough in the air and spins it into a gourmet masterpiece! And once you taste this pizza, you’ll be saying, “Mamma Mia, this is good!” ■