At a pizza making class at 1889 Pizza Napoletana, old world technique meets eclectic style, and fun and learning mingle like basil and mozzarella on a Margherita pizza.
Our family arrived at the Kansas City, Kansas restaurant on a Saturday evening and met with Jason Kolich, who opened the restaurant with his wife, Kelli, three years ago, both inspired by the food and culture of Italy during their college study-abroad experiences.
We gathered around a rustic family-style table at the center of 1889 Pizza’s colorful dining room, where Jason laid out simple, authentic ingredients. Flour, salt, yeast and water, proofed for five days, became the dough for our pizza crust. Sauce consisted of San Marzano tomatoes crushed with salt. Balls of fresh mozzarella and basil grown in the restaurant’s booth-side herb garden awaited us as toppings.
Each person started with about a 5 oz. ball of dough on a floured surface. My kids, who love anything to do with texture and sensory play (aka getting their hands into slime, glue, dough, you name it) were in heaven as they stretched the dough under Jason’s instruction.
There are several different methods for stretching the crust out, he explained. Hold the piece up with hands at 10 and 2 , like a steering wheel, and allow the weight of the dough to stretch the crust downward. Or, like the professionals, try tossing it up in the air.
Whatever method you choose, remember to be gentle with the crust so as to not tear a hole in it, Jason instructed. Once you have a round piece of dough resembling a pizza, lay your dough down on the table and use your thumbs around the edges of the dough to define your crust, as border to hold in the sauce and toppings.
The large flat spoons used to ladle sauce onto the crust at 1889 Pizza are imported from Italy are the flour, tomatoes and the pizza oven itself used at the restaurant. Sourcing of authentic products is integral to the quality and taste of the authentic Neapolitan-syle of the pizza served at the restaurant. In the case of the spoon, it holds just the right amount of sauce to top a pizza and not overwhelm the crust.
Next came the toppings, for a traditional Margherita pizza – a ball of mozzarella and a scattering of torn basil leaves. The red, green and white of the sauce, basil and mozzarella are not only the perfect flavor combination but a fun story as well, hinted at in the name of the restaurant. As the tale goes, Neapolitan pizzamaker Raffaele Esposito created the pizza in the colors of the Italian flag in 1889 to honor the queen consort of Italy, Margherita of Savoy.
Our pizzas complete, we carefully transferred them to a wooden peel and made our way to the kitchen, where head pizzamaker, Roberto Timotei, helped us slide them into the 800 to 1200-degree? woodfire oven. We watched our pizzas bake and emerge in under two minutes, perfectly crisp and cheese melted, thanks to the incredibly high heat of the oven.
This marked the end of our class, and we were ready to dig in! Our pizza paired perfectly with a large chopped salad, just one of the many shared plates on the menu.
While I know we won’t be able to exactly replicate the Neapolitan pizza process at home, our family had a great time building our own pies, and I foresee many more homemade pizza nights in the future.
1889 Pizza Nepoletana offers different pizza and DIY classes throughout the year. Private classes are also available for groups of 8 or more. See here for more information!
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