Thursday, February 04, 2010

An Interview With Diane Morgan, co-author of pizza with Tony Gemignani

The following interview was first published in Pizza News.

I was very apprehensive when I received my copy of pizza by Diane Morgan and Tony Gemignani.

"Oh no" I thought "not another pizza book." I tore the book out of the package and immediately read the back cover. There on the back, was an endorsement from my friend Peter Reinhart, author of American Pie. ( Well I thought, Peter Reinhart, does know pizza, this book can't be that bad.

As I read through the book and recipes, it was quite evident, that Diane Morgan and Tony Gemignani know pizza, too. I love this book. It contains many great recipes and exclusive pizza techniques.

I asked Diane if I could interview her for Pizza News. Luckily for me, she said yes.

Albert: Hi Diane, thanks for agreeing to do an interview for Pizza News. First of all I want to congratulate you on your fantastic pizza book! Your book pizza was co-authored with Pizza Tossing Champion, Tony Gemignani. Can you explain briefly how the book came about? Had you known Tony beforehand? Why did you decide to write pizza ?

Diane Morgan: I already had a contract in hand to write a pizza book when I read an article in Sunset Magazine about Tony, and how he teaches folks to toss pizzas like a pro. I thought, how cool would that be, and contacted him. Tony wanted to write a book and had lots of great ideas but he didn't have the writing experience. So, at the time I met him, I thought it would be a great partnership and it has been!

Albert: Roberto Caporucio (Roberto's Pizzeria, Pittsburgh, PA) seems to be your mentor in making Neapolitan pizza. He is featured prominently in pizza. How were you able to get Roberto to divulge his pizza secrets and secret pizza recipes?

Diane Morgan: I grew up in Pittsburgh and all my family is there. Again, it was a bit of serendipity, as Roberto was written up in the Pittsburgh paper and the article was syndicated. I read about him in the Portland, Oregon paper and contacted him. I spent two days studying his technique and learning the Neapolitan pizza style. Roberto was very generous with his knowledge. There are many rules and regulations as to what constitutes a true Neapolitan pizza. He taught me and I followed his method and ingredients to a "T." Using the true flour, Caputo flour from Naples makes a sublime crust. No other flour came close to duplicating the crust.

Albert: Alright Diane, I must admit publicly, I am having a hard time getting down how to toss pizza. (But, 2006 is my year to learn! I have been practicing with my Pro Dough!
There is a section in pizza where Tony G. gives step by step directions to toss pizza. Come on Diane, honestly, do you toss your own pizza? Can you give Pizza News readers some tips?

Diane Morgan: I would love to be as good as Tony at tossing dough, forget all the dance routines and over-the-shoulder moves, I want to just be able to toss it up and have it come down wider and flat. But, alas, I am a
beginner even after quite a few one-on-one lessons with Tony. If you can bend your wrist back to a 90 degree angle with your palm facing up and flat, you are on your way. Do stretches to increase the flexibility of your wrist--that's part of the process!!

Albert: You feature over 60 amazing pizza recipes in pizza. You not only cover basic Neapolitan pizza but also Chicago deep dish and even throw in some dessert pizza. I am always interested in how pizza recipes come about.

Were these pizza recipes you and Tony had developed before hand or did you create them especially for the book? Was there a lot of trial and error when you created your pizza recipes?

Diane Morgan: Tony brought many great pizza recipes to the book, as did I. I have taught cooking classes for years, including pizza classes for both Chicago-style and grilled pizzas. I lived in Chicago for almost
6 years, so had a strong background with eating and making deep-dish pizzas. Tony, of course, is an expert in California and New York style pizzas. We really both brought complimentary strengths to the book. I developed all the quick and easy pizzas for the book. The dessert pizzas were something Tony had been doing at his pizzeria--a heart-shaped pizza for Valentines; the cannoli pizza as a salute to the fabulous Italian dessert, etc. Several we developed together for the book. Every recipe in the book was developed at least twice. It was the year of eating pizza!!

Albert: Another important fact cited in pizza is, flour does indeed make a difference. You explain that both you and Tony, made the exact same dough recipe using different flours and noticed there was a marked
difference in taste. Can you explain to Pizza News readers which flour worked best? What flour do you recommend?

Diane Morgan: We make flour recommendations for each style of pizza. Of course, we use Caputo flour for all the Neapolitan pizzas. We did a lot of experimentation to find the right flour for each type of pizza. Tony uses commercial flour at his pizzeria which the home-cook can't buy. I experimented a lot to find the right flours. We had a lot of success with King Arthur's unbleached bread flour with 12.7 percent protein. Our grilled
pizzas work best with a combination of bread flour and rye flour.

Albert: Talking about flour, you reveal a secret supplier of Caputo Flour (type 00), which is a certified flour by the Association of Real Neapolitan Pizza. How were you able to find your supplier of this flour?

Diane Morgan: With Roberto's help I was put in touch with the importer for Caputo flour. In fact, Roberto called Naples and I spoke with Mr. Caputo himself. Since the book has come out I have found another source for Caputo flour. Your readers will be able to buy smaller quantities at the website:

Albert: You picked Roberto's Pizzeria as having the "Best Pizza in the World". I noticed Pepe's (New Haven Ct.), Al Forno (Providence R.I.) and Pizzeria Bianco (Phoenix, Arizona) also on the list. The "Big Three" in Chicago (Gino's East, Pizzeria Uno and Lou Malnati), Lombardi's in New York and of course Pyzano's in California are all referenced. You also mention many other favorite pizzerias. How did you choose your favorite pizzerias? Were you able to visit them yourself or did you send out lucky staff members to sample the pizzas?

Diane Morgan: Tony and I worked hard to come up with our favorite pizza places. I have eaten at many but not all on the list. I'm still working at it! Between the two of us, I think we have eaten at all the pizzerias listed in the book!

Albert: Finally Diane, do you have any pizza tips you can share with Pizza News readers?

Diane Morgan: I divulged everything I know in the book, as did Tony. Get the book; throw a pizza party and have fun. There is nothing more satisfying than playing with dough and turning a lump of risen, slightly sticky
dough into a big orb that turns crispy and crusty and bubbly as it bakes.

Albert: Thanks very much Diane. You are a true Pizza Therapist!

You can get Tony and Diane's book, here:

Here is another of Diane's books;

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