If you are lucky enough to have tasted one of the more than 700,000 pizzas Chef Anthony Mangieri has made in his lifetime, you’ll see why the New York Times called the pizzas he produces at Una Pizza Napoletana the best pizza from a sit-down restaurant in all of New York City. Just think about that for a moment. The best. Pizza. New York City. You could say that’s like finding the best baguette in Paris or the finest Texas ribs, but frankly it’s even higher praise than that.
How does Mangieri manage to make such amazing pizza? He started young. Born and raised in New Jersey, the Italian-American chef was already making pizza when he was a kid, inspired by his regular family trips to Italy. In the early 90s, he opened up a bread bakery in his home state.
“Wood-fired, all hand-mixed dough,” Mangieri tells The Manual. “Then I opened up my first Una Pizza not long after that.”
The rest is the stuff of history. And television shows, as it happens, but we’ll get to that later. For now, although you may not be able to go back in time and start making pizza in your childhood, what you can do is benefit from the lifelong experience and skills Mangieri has honed, because unlike many chefs, he’s not jealous when it comes to his methods.
How to Make a Great Pizza from Scratch, According to the Master
Pro tip #1: You need heat. A lot of heat. If you’re passionate about pizza, invest in a pizza oven or get yourself a great range that can create the super high heat needed for great pizza. Now let’s walk on through.
Create the starter
“We make our starter with just flour and water,” says Mangieri. Combine equal parts flour and water, mix them vigorously, and then let the starter sit, partially covered, for 24 hours. “It’s naturally leavened, there’s no yeast, and it sits at room temp.”
Make the Dough
Once your starter has sat for a day, it’s time to make the dough. “I take the starter, and I add it into flour, water, and sea salt. Then that’s mixed, and once it’s all mixed, I ball [the dough] and then that sits for about another eight hours,” says Mangieri. Again, this will be done all without refrigeration or yeast.
Stretch the Dough
Once your dough is ready, put it on the bench and gently flatten with your fingertips. No need to flip it in the air. “That usually means the dough was refrigerated, and I’m not a fan of that,” Mangieri says. Instead, gently open up the dough, and try not to push too much of the air out of it so that the pizza, Mangieri says, “can do its own thing, to have its own life, and to come out kind of crazy looking, with a crazy shape and air pockets and all.”
“For my favorite, our marinara pizza, I use San Marzano tomatoes,” says Mangieri. “They just have a more complex flavor.” He tops the pizza with crushed tomatoes, and then advises simple toppings, like oregano, fresh garlic, fresh basil, and extra virgin olive oil.
For the record, the marinara pizza mentioned above does not use cheese. But you probably want cheese on yours. So add it now, and use a good, fresh mozzarella if you can, and don’t overdo it. When in doubt, use less cheese than you think you need rather than risking going over the top.
Bake it Hot and Fast
Ideally, you want to generate between 700º to 800º degrees Fahrenheit to bake the perfect pizza, and if you can get it that hot, you’ll only need to bake for about three or four minutes. Otherwise, get the oven cranking as hot as you can and bake for 10 to 12 minutes.
Learning to Make Great Pizza Takes Time. Fortunately You’ll Make Good Pizza in the Meantime
Anthony Mangieri makes pizza so good that he and his restaurant have landed recurring roles on the Showtime show Billions. His Una Pizza chain has opened three successful pizza haunts, including the one in NYC, one in New Jersey, and one he ran for nearly a decade in San Francisco before returning to the East Coast. This spring, he is collaborating with multiple chefs to create pop-up restaurants around the greater New York metro area, including several in New Jersey. And beyond.
So look, your first few pizzas might not be quite on his level. “Just keep trying, keep working on your dough, try different ingredients,” he says, and soon you’ll find the take on the process that leads to a pizza you love.
As for Mangieri, pizza is a great love of his, of course, but it’s not the only one. He also spends as much time as he can on a mountain bike, having grown up racing BMX bikes in his childhood. In fact, mountain biking is the reason he moved to California and largely what made it so hard for him to leave the state. “I love it out there so much,” he says. But pizza and New York just go together.
At the time of this writing, the NJ Una Pizza Napoletana is open, while the NYC restaurant is closed, so unfortunately it’s harder than ever to get a taste of these legendary pies. If you can’t get to one of the primary restaurant locations or to a pop-up, you can still own a piece of the pie, so to speak, with some distinct “Una” apparel, like hoodies, hats, and tees. And those are great to wear whether you’re on a bike, eating a slice, or working on making your own pizza from scratch at home.
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