Our Pizza Obsessives column continues this week as we talk to Gianluca Rottura, who you may know from the comments here as "nextgospel." I know Gianluca's opinionated about pizza, so I was eager to talk to him. Let's go! —The Mgmt.
Name: Gianluca Rottura
Location: Manhattan, NYC
Occupation: Wine store owner (In Vino Veritas), wine book author (Wine Made Easy), and author of an upcoming cookbook and a children's book ... (I know, I know, even NFL linebackers write kids' books)
Do I even have to ask this? But, for the record, what type of pizza do you prefer?
Would you believe it if I told you? I love ALL types of pizzas. Yes, I prefer Neapolitan and Salernitana, BUT growing up in the real New York (which I said was officially over in 1999, and no one believed me, now they do), you could find a good NY–style pizzeria almost everywhere. It used to be, as my friend and best food critic ever, Arthur Schwartz, also says, that if you weren't "near the pizza you love, you could love the pizza you're near."
But then it all went terribly wrong somewhere, and if there are good places to get a good slice, it actually comes up as a topic of discussion, because it's rare. As for style of pizza, I wrote Pizza & Coffee just as a rant. Obviously the original, and I believe best, pizzas are Neapolitan, but as long as the other variations are made well, then I love those, too. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the crispness of Roman-style pizza al taglio. Some Neapolitans hate it. For me, as long as it is made well with good products, it's all good.
And why Neapolitan above all others?
Everything is intertwined. The way people talk and gesticulate goes with the flavors. There are thousands of years of blending environment, attitude, style, and flavors to get there.
Do you ever eat any other types of pizza?
All the time. I love good NY–style pizzas by the slice (the few left). They remind me of the old days of a city that used to be fun. But they are hard to come by, and I know for sure many people stretch the pizzas poorly. I feel it in my stomach after.
The Pizza Cognition Theory states that "the first slice of pizza a child sees and tastes ... becomes, for him, pizza." Do you remember your first slice or pie? Where was it from, is the place still around, and if so, does it hold up? On that note, has your taste in pizza evolved over time?
I probably have no idea. Food is so big in my life and in my culture that you are enslaved to it. It would be impossible to figure out when. I was very lucky to be born into it. It would be like asking a fish about their first experience with water. And no, my pizza taste never evolved.
What's your favorite topping or topping combination?
I generally prefer tomato, mozzarella, and basil. But for toppings I have always loved zucchine flowers. And if I ever were to open my pizzeria (a dream since childhood) I would make pizzas with borragine. I pray to God I did not just give someone that idea. Well anyway, you heard it HERE first! :)
Where do you go for pizza in your area?
Pizza in my area isn't great. It used to be. I usually get out of my neighborhood for it.
Do you make pizza at home?
If I made pizzas at home, Homeland Security would shut me down. They would be horrible.
What's most important to you: crust, sauce, or cheese?
Anything you'd like to get off your chest?
FIRST AND FOREMOST, the unbelievable amount of hair. I'm half gorilla, so I'm cursed.
Second, can people PLEASE sneeze, cough, and breathe heavily AWAY from me? It's 2010, you still don't believe in germs?
Third, can we stop with the bullshit of adding cheese first and THEN the tomato sauce. It just does not make sense.
Fourth, garlic and mozzarella simply do NOT go together! The sharp garlic is too much for the soft taste of mozzarella. You can cook with garlic, then remove the pieces and then add mozzarella, but not cooked together. Unfortunately, it has become so common that complaining about it will just make you look crazy! You may like the two flavors, but, to prove my point, imagine if I added watermelon and meatloaf to cereal. EVERYONE would say that's disgusting because all those flavors simply do not go. And they would be right. BUT that automatically assumes that there is a limit and SOMEONE has to draw the line, no? That being given, please trust me when I say that garlic and mozzarella is not a great idea. Not as extreme as watermelon, cereal, and meatloaf, but the same principle applies.
Fifth, if most people in the pizza world knew the dirty little secrets I know of the very people and places they talk about, I would be dragged in front of the Senate. No one would believe me. Just remember: Things ain't always what they seem.
Sixth, when people say "Wow this is the best (pick: Neapolitan, NY, whatever) pizza!", I would like to know...is it maybe because it's either your first? Or fourth, tops?
Seventh, I would never say Neapolitan is the ONLY pizza. My website was to prove a point....just don't get me wrong....but while we are at it...
Eighth, Please don't classify your pizza as Neapolitan when it clearly is not. It may be way better than Neapolitan, but it still may not be Neapolitan.
Ninth, Speaking of Neapolitan, as I knew it would, it is becoming overbearing, I hate even talking about it.
Tenth, why do people with the most annoying ring tones let their cellphones ring a lot before answering it?
Eleventh, Mozzarella is NOT supposed be, nor ever was, "creamy and tangy." Please stop that as soon as possible, because I am going to call the cops.
Twelfth, when people say "San Marzano, San Marzano, San Marzano," please stop! We get it. You want to insist on something to establish your identity. The dirty little secret is it's almost impossible to find the San Marzano VARIETY in cans imported here. The closet you're getting to San Marzano is the Roma variety grown in the soils of San Marzano. Still great, but different. Knowing that, it kinda changes things doesn't it?
LAST BUT NEVER LEAST, My philosophy (political, moral, whatever) is this: You can do WHATEVER you want, as long as :
A) Don't bother me or anyone else
B) You pay for your own shit and don't ask me or anyone else for money.
Follow those two rules, and the world really would be a much better place. It's the only fair way.
What one thing should NEVER go on a pizza?
Weirdest pizza you've ever eaten?
I wouldn't view anything as weird. Just "makes sense" or not.
What's the farthest you've traveled for pizza? Naples?
I guess. I honestly never thought of it like that.