Even the baking process is different in a 900-degree brick oven compared to a 550-degree deck version, he notes. And using a Neapolitan-style cooking method doesn’t result in a Neapolitan pizza.
Felice Culucci, Marra Forni’s culinary director, says several of the company’s customers had not worked in the pizza business before buying their ovens and needed help in the pie-making arts, including the right kind of ingredients to use.
“If you grow up in a place and don’t know the real cheeses, the good sauces, the good toppings, it makes a difference,” Culucci says. “Once you taste the best, you can tell the difference.” But quality is not exclusively tied to Italy, he adds, noting that a number of exceptional products are produced stateside.
As a result, Pizza University has created courses that start with the basics, from how to make excellent dough—including identifying the right type of flour and the impact of hydration levels—to great baking techniques, using master pizzaiolos from both Italy and the U.S. Classes include both theoretical textbooks and practical learning, making hundreds of pizzas.
Among the guest instructors at the suburban District of Columbia operation is pizza champion Tony Gemignani, VPN America president Peppe Miele, and restaurateur and consultant Giulio Adriani.
“A structured school is very important,” says Adriani, who, like the Marras and Culucci, is a native of Italy. “There’s been considerable confusion about the pizza-making process.” He adds that it is in part due to the proliferation of different pizza styles and techniques, as well as the expanse of information available through the Internet.