Master pizza chef Franco Pepe on the makings of the perfect slice
By Jessica Koslow
Eataly devotees, hold onto your hats! This weekend the Century City location of the beloved Italian marketplace hosts the international chefs’ forum Identità Golose for the first time in Los Angeles. Think of it like a superheroes’ convention, but with Italian chefs. And you have the chance to rub elbows with them during three culinary seminars.
Italian dessert wizard Corrado Assenza and pizza provocateur Carlo Cracco team up on Friday from 6 to 8 p.m., while the pride of Tuscan cuisine Marco Stabile joins forces with artisan pizza master Franco Pepe on Saturday from noon to 2 p.m.
Friday’s noon session with internationally celebrated chef Massimo Bottura is already sold out, but you can still reserve tickets for the culmination of these two days — an epic five-course meal at Eataly’s rooftop restaurant Terra from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday.
Chef Pepe, a third generation pizza-maker revered for his dough-making techniques, gave us a sneak peek of his seminar and insight into what makes the perfect pizza.
What’s the secret to delicious pizza?
I don’t like to call them secrets. I come from a long line of bakers, and I’ve worked a lot on the evolution of pizza making. From the past to today, with passion and research, I’ve continued to work the dough always by hand. I have now also taken in agronomists and nutritionists as part of my staff, who work with me in the creation of the recipe, ensuring the right balance between nutritional intake and taste, which, in the end, is what makes the pizza enjoyable.
How did you learn so much about pizza-making?
From my family, since I was practically born in a pizzeria. I spent my childhood inside one alongside my father. I soon realized that he had passed down the tools I needed to create my pizza.
What do you love about pizza?
I like the path that the dough must take. Just from the smell, I can understand what raw materials can go with it and how to enhance it.
Where does the best pizza come from?
Pizza has a different identity wherever it is found, even in Italy. We have many different ways of making pizza, and each one of them is good. It’s hard to say which is the best. A customer once told me that my pizza was delicious — the second-best he had ever eaten. We all have an idea of our favorite pizza.
What do you plan to teach in your seminar with Marco Stabile?
An important message which I’d like to express: how a chef can interact with his pizza maker. If what I do today is admired, it is because I’ve always worked alongside these chefs and been inspired by their cuisine. I take this inspiration and creativity and turn them into pizzas that customers have never tasted before.
Fire is the overarching theme of the L.A. edition of Identità Golose. How do you plan to incorporate fire in your seminar?
Fire is my life partner. I often don’t feel right when I don’t see it. I grew up next to wood-fired ovens, and as a child I learned to understand, respect and interpret the fire. It is the fire that allows me to make my dishes. Fire never fails in my life.
Culinary sessions start at $150. To sign up, visit eataly.com.