Pizza. Can you believe we haven’t written a full post exclusively about pizza yet? Pizza appears to be Italy’s passport around the world and it is one of those few instances in which national pride trumps national stereotype every time.While being quintessentially Italian, pizza is also global. In fact, it is hard to imagine a more universally celebrated type of food. The art of pizza making, like all things, is best learnt from the professionals and Berlin currently boasts the world’s biggest school of pizza. We interviewed Gianluca Simonato, whose job it is to train scores of future “pizzaioli” in the ancient art of making flour, yeast, salt and water taste like paradise. The Berlin Pizza Academy is an internationally recognised institution and it has maintained its unmistakeably Italian character, while growing in and adapting to an international environment.
Let’s start with your background: how long have you lived in Berlin and what’s your role in the Academy?
I came to Berlin about 3 years ago. I grew in my profession within the Academy, starting from their basic course, which I took when I first started working as a pizzaiolo. I went on to complete their master diploma to become a qualified pizza-making trainer. This is how I came to work for Pizza Academy Berlin.
Tell us about the genesis of this project: how did the Berlin Pizza Academy come to be and to which countries was it exported first?
The project was founded by the president of the Italian School of Pizza (Accademia Pizzaioli), Enrico Famà. He created the first ever school of pizza and taught several pizza chefs all over the world. Accademia Pizzaioli has over 60 schools in Italy and has opened academies in Brazil, Germany, Croatia, Slovenia, Scotland, Russia and Greece.
Is there much demand for pizza makers abroad? In which countries is our national dish most successful?
Italian manpower, particularly in this department, is enormously valued everywhere. In Berlin, Australia and America the demand for pizza chefs is particularly high.
In your opinion, what makes the art of true Italian pizza so attractive to non-Italians?
Food culture is growing bigger and bigger and people are more aware of its importance. More and more events are create to promote quality sustainable food. The 2015 Expo in Milan was one such: its theme was Feeding the planet, energy for life”. Italian cuisine has an established historical and cultural background, which is appreciated all over the world. This is what everyone loves about our pizza and our cuisine. Our simple and traditional Italian diet has been internationally envied and sought after forever.
Your Berlin offices offer the courses for which the Academy is famous, but it also attaches great significance on sustainability. What prompted you to favour organic ingredients?
We are particularly sensitive to these issues and that’s what prompted us to adopt this policy. In this regard, the collaboration con Holzmarkt25 in Berlin was also instrumental: our activity is part of the “Pampa” project, a botanic garden created to uphold biodiversity in its flora and fauna. Holzmarkt25 related to our own project’s vocation for sustainability. They also grow their own tomatoes, basil, tyme, cherries, they have their own production of eggs and several other products. All of this falls within a comprehensive collaboration with Mörchenpark, an association that takes care of the green areas included in the “Pampa” project.
What’s the average attitude of someone approaching the art of pizza, coming from a wholly different culture?
If someone approaches the art of pizza making through professional training courses, they are usually people with a strong preexisting interest in gastronomy and what we call “the white art”. Nowadays, all cultures are within reach and can be assimilated and ours is no exception. All those who showed interest in our courses so far showed genuine interest, respect and curiosity for our culture and culinary tradition.