“I do this every day, since I was 13, and I still love it,” says William Baffoni.
He’s talking about making and eating pizza. Baffoni has spent the past 20 years pursuing his passion for great pizza across the globe: first Roman-style, the kind he learned to make as a teenager; then, Neapolitan; and now the crisp yet perfectly chewy version he creates as head pizzaiolo at Sydney’s Fratelli Fresh.
Talking to the ever-smiling Baffoni and it’s clear the passion that started as a young culinary school student in his hometown of Porto Sant’Elpidio still burns bright. He’s still experimenting, still learning – and still eating pizza every day.
Part of it is his passion for striving to make the best pizza he can. And part of it is because it’s a taste of home.
“That is one reason why I eat it every day: I miss my country, I miss my family, I miss my friends and pizza reminds me of my nation,” he says. And it has been a way to connect, too: During coronavirus lockdown, Baffoni made a pizza-making video to share with family back in Italy.
Baffoni’s pizza journey started 20 years ago, as a 13-year-old working in a local restaurant during weekends and holidays while enrolled in culinary school. From there his journey took him to London, Spain, and the United States. It was also a journey through pizza styles.
“When I start making pizza, I start with a Roman style. Flat, crispy. Because the region I came from, which is like 200 kilometres from Rome, so the centre of Italy, we have this type of pizza. Roman style, crispy. But when I start to travel around the world, I understood that they see pizza as a Neapolitan style.” There were places and people who liked the crisper Roman style, he says, but he realised that most people were making pizzas following Neapolitan principles. “During those years I start to like more and more and more the Neapolitan style. From dough, from work, and also for eating.”
There are, in fact, two main Roman styles, he explains.
“There is the flat one where you top it and cook it, like Neapolitan-style. The temperature of the oven is lower because you want to have a crispy dough. And there is the Roman style where you can have pizza in the trays, and you can have your slice, your square slice. … in Italy at three o'clock, four 'o clock, you going to the pizza place and you can have a slice of pizza. Two euro, you get it, and you go. In Australia when you have food you always want to sit down. It's a different culture.”
The pizza Baffoni makes at Fratelli Fresh (he’s usually at the Entertainment Quarter branch, though he sometimes spends a shift tossing dough at other Fratelli branches) is a Neapolitan style, but with one big difference to most of the Neapolitan-style pizza we see in Australia: the use of a sourdough starter.
The Fratelli pizzas are made using a combination of sourdough and fresh yeast, with flour imported from Italy. The two-day dough process is a key part of the flavour and texture of the final product.
“I always say, when people ask me, ‘Is it a Neapolitan dough? Is it a Roman dough?’ No, I say, It's Fratelli dough and it's unique!” Baffoni says.
"The style of the pizza we make is a reinterpretation of Neapolitan. We don’t follow exactly the traditional process of the Neapolitan pizza making - over the years we have tried to perfect our recipe and create our unique style. The fermented sourdough process is what differentiates Fratelli Fresh pizzas: we use our own natural fermentation. Our fermentation takes 36-48 hours, which creates a very light base."
He learned to make sourdough Neapolitan-style pizzas (sourdough is one of three types of yeast allowed by Italy’s Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana) while working at Sodo Pizza in London, before leaving England to move to Australia in 2014. Since 2016, he’s been bringing his passion for pizza to Fratelli Fresh. Here, you might find a disc – thinner in the centre and thicker on the crust, Napoli-style – topped with mushrooms, bresaola and watercress; spicy salami, capsicum, olives and mozzarella (the daviola, says Baffoni, is one of the traditional pizzas that will always have a home on the Fratelli menu – “we always want to keep on our pizza menu the traditions of pizza in Italy”); or a new addition to the menu, mortadella.
“Another pizza that we introduce this new menu is pizza mortadella. This is a big trend in Italy in the last two years. Mortadella is a pork charcuterie that we have in Italy. Everybody loves it. We combine this mortadella with a few more ingredients, always fresh. Provolone and lemon zest and pistachio. We finish with a bit of raw kale and lemon. Very, very nice.”
“And I really love the Basilico and Pomodoro. We create our fresh pesto. We mix it with fresh ricotta so you have a very smooth green cream on the base, which is also nice - when you look at the pizza you see, the first impact you see is how this pizza looks. You have the green, then you have the cheese, white, then you have cherry tomato, red. When it's cooked you put some fresh ricotta and some fresh basil leaves on top, and olive oil. Beautiful. Fresh.
“Every single detail is important on a pizza, from the look to the final taste.”
“I love pizza because pizza gave me the chance to travel around the world, meet many people. But since I arrived in Australia and I started to work with Fratelli, my passion grows, because they gave me more responsibility. They gave me the chance to express myself on pizza, to be creative.”
Baffoni says he is always thinking about pizza, and ways to make it even better. “Always learning. You never stop learning. Especially inside the kitchen,” he says.
And every day, he eats a little bit of home.
“Every day,” he says. “Every day…I love it.”
Inspired to make pizza? Explore our pizza recipe collection.
Baking your pizza in a super-hot cast iron pan will give a beautiful, golden base and crust, though it's hard to mimic a true Neapolitan pizza, which has been named a national treasure of Italy.
This pizza has flavor on top of flavor! Pesto, red sauce and a melty mozz sauce on top. Plus, cherry tomatoes that roast right into it (use multicolored ones if you can find them) and fresh basil leaves to complete your entire world.
“Melbourne pizzaolo Johnny Di Francesco has been perfecting pizza his whole life in Australia and in Naples, and in 2014 he won the huge Best Pizza in the World competition in Parma, Italy against 600 competitors from 35 countries. The key is using the best ingredients, mastering the art of rolling the balls, stretching the dough, creating the cornichone or crust, using simple delicious toppings, having access to a wood-fired oven and getting the temperature just right – the optimum is 400°C (750°F).” Maeve O'Meara, Food Safari Fire
"There’s a world of difference between a good pizza dough and a perfect one."