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docsconz

The Adriás Dig Pizza

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According to this article in the L.A. Times, Ferran and Albert Adriá are in Italy studying the art of pizza making with the thought of opening a pizzeria in Barcelona. Some Italians are proud, while others appear to be taking umbrage. Some fear that ferran will make a pizza "foam". Nonsense. What many people don't realize about the Adriás is the deep respect they have for traditional food. elBulli is elBulli, but not everything they do is elBulli.

From the article:

Vincenzo Mansi, a world-champion pizza maker from Capri, is skeptical. Despite the successes that Mario Batali and Wolfgang Puck have had in the U.S., in Italy the idea of a fine-dining chef suddenly turning into a pizza maker is not just foreign -- it's preposterous.

"The secret of the pizza is inside the blood," Mansi said. "You don't wake up one morning and improvise yourself as a pizzaiolo. I've been doing this for over 18 years, and I still don't feel like I've mastered it. You need to know how to touch the dough. You need to know how to deal with the ingredients. You don't become pizzaiolo, you are born pizzaiolo."

If this is true, who is to say that the Adriás were not born pizzaioli? I, for one, wouldn't doubt it.

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I suppose they are reacting in the same way Ed Mitchell might react if Ferran and Albert Adriá said they were going to open up a whole hog barbecue place, or perhaps the way Asturianos might react if Alain Ducasse (or, better yet, Grant Achatz) announced he was going to open a restaurant dedicated to fabada.

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I suppose they are reacting in the same way Ed Mitchell might react if Ferran and Albert Adriá said they were going to open up a whole hog barbecue place, or perhaps the way Asturianos might react if Alain Ducasse (or, better yet, Grant Achatz) announced he was going to open a restaurant dedicated to fabada.

The difference is that the Adriás have successfully done traditional foods, albeit not yet pizza. Perhaps they can't or won't do it well or right. I wouldn't bet on that.

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Thinking about it further, Sam, if those people were to make serious efforts at the kinds of foods you mentioned, I wouldn't bet against them either. The reason that they are as successful as they are doing the complicated things they do is that they take the time to study, understand, involve the right people and generally do things right.

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I'm not saying that these people wouldn't be successful at doing those traditional foods. I'm just saying that there would be a healthy amount of skepticism from the people working in those culinary areas. And I'm also saying that it's not automatic -- not by a long stretch -- that Ferran and Albert would ever be good enough at whole hog barbecue to compete with Ed Mitchell. I mean, for goodness sake, give these other guys some credit for the decades of experience that made them this good at what they do.

Is it possible that the Adriás could make brilliant pizza? Sure. Of course. They're good cooks, and I have no doubt that if they approached opening a pizzeria with the same rigor that they employ in their work at ElBulli, it could possibly be very good. But, at the same time, I have a hard time imagining that this pizzeria is going to become Ferran and Albert's new post-ElBulli restaurant. So how much attention are they really going to be able to give it, when they're doing ElBulli-type stuff with such intensity for so much of the year?

Of course, if it were just some schmo in Spain who was going to open a pizzeria, no one would care to comment. I think that people are saying something because there are going to be automatic assumptions as to the "greatness" of such an undertaking simply because it is associated with Ferran and Albert Adriá. And make no mistake, this pizzeria is going to have to be absolutely outstanding in one way or another, or it will be considered a failure. The reputation of the Adriás desn't afford them the luxury of opening a "pretty good" pizzeria any more than it was okay for Luciano Pavarotti to sing a "pretty good" high note.

To me, it's a bit like when Shaquille O'Neill proclaimed years ago that he thought he could be a pretty good professional football player in the NFL. On the one hand, you look at the guy and you think that he's got a pretty good body type for football, he's clearly an elite athlete in peak physical condition, he used to play football back in high school and had some success, so why not? On the other hand, I would expect such a move (i) would generate huge media attention and an automatic assumption by plenty of fans that he would translate into an elite football player; (ii) would be treated with a certain amount of skepciticism by working NFL players; and (iii) wouldn't necessarily mean that he'd be the next Reggie White and have anywhere near the success in the NFL that he was having in the NBA. It's not surprising that the Adriás are getting a similar reaction from people who have devoted careers to a culinary niche in which the Adriás have yet to dip their toes.

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Your points are all valid, Sam. One thing that sets the Adrias apart is the time they have and take to devote to special projects. It is also not like they would personally be cooking the pizze. They will, however, employ people who can. It is not like them, however, to undertake something without an understanding of what goes into it and to have a direct hand in the recipes and how the techniques. You are so, correct, though that expectations will be high and possibly can not be met. It will be interesting. I still wouldn't bet against them.

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There's a DVD about three starred L'Ambroisie and chef Paccot. There he tells about he was doing a risotto until he crossed the street and had risotto in the restaurant of an Italian neighbour chef. From that moment on, he tells, he never did risotto again. I don't doubt he could do it perfectly - but why bother? Paccots strength are somewhere else.

So sticking with you circle of competence is not the least thing you can do. And preparing dishes which nobody ever tasted before can technically be easier - but of course much, much more challenging from the creative side - than doing dishes which have been aorund for a hundred years or more and where customers are terribly competent about the stuff they are eating.

I don't doubt that the Adrias can do pizza very well, and I think it's great if they stick to authentic pizzas and bring this globally most succesful fast food to Barcelona, where obviously a good pizzeria doesn't exist. How else can they feel challenged to start such a venture about one of the world's most classical food?

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I don't doubt that the Adrias can do pizza very well, and I think it's great if they stick to authentic pizzas and bring this globally most succesful fast food to Barcelona, where obviously a good pizzeria doesn't exist. How else can they feel challenged to start such a venture about one of the world's most classical food?

Very good point, Boris. bringing a good pizza to Barcelona is a lot different than going in and trying to open a pizzeria in Naples. Actually the lack of a mention of Naples in their quest is the one thing that has me flummoxed about the situation. Why wouldn't they go there to learn?

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I'm not saying that these people wouldn't be successful at doing those traditional foods.  I'm just saying that there would be a healthy amount of scepticism from the people working in those culinary areas.  And I'm also saying that it's not automatic -- not by a long stretch -- that Ferran and Albert would ever be good enough at whole hog barbecue to compete with Ed Mitchell.  I mean, for goodness sake, give these other guys some credit for the decades of experience that made them this good at what they do.

Is it possible that the Adriás could make brilliant pizza?  Sure.  Of course.  They're good cooks, and I have no doubt that if they approached opening a pizzeria with the same rigor that they employ in their work at ElBulli, it could possibly be very good.  But, at the same time, I have a hard time imagining that this pizzeria is going to become Ferran and Albert's new post-ElBulli restaurant.  So how much attention are they really going to be able to give it, when they're doing ElBulli-type stuff with such intensity for so much of the year? 

A few thoughts (based on the article and comments):

The "El Bulli" empire is far more than one restaurant. They operate a hotel and other restaurants as well as consulting and product businesses. El Bulli (the restaurant) may be a loss leader, but it is probably the icon that drives the Adria brand and allows him to generate a lot of money from the range of diversified businesses.

I ate at his Tapas bar and thought it was very traditional. Adria has a lot of respect for heritage and delivering quality. If they decide to open a pizza place it will be good.

Part of the MG (I hate the term) ethos is to understand how dishes become the famed dishes they are. A good example is Heston's "In Search of Excellence" book and TV show. How to take a classic dish, deconstruct it, reassemble using different techniques and then offer an improved or different take of a dish. Are they really going to open a pizza place, or is this research into a style of cooking?

I love the nurture/nature idea. Obviously having the ability to cook pizza in your blood or soul is preposterous, but is the years of experience article not equally flawed? I understand that it takes time to learn how to cook a dish, it then takes a little time to refine it and become very adept. But this isn't a linear gain; you don't get 100% better each year, i.e. after 10 years you are 1000% better. So in theory (simply as an example) it may be a geometric progression i.e. you may actually get 80% better in the first year; another 80% in the next year, so now 96% better than when you started; then another 80% improvement so now 99.2% better than when you started. Thus after quite a short period of time you get pretty close to as good as you will get. Unless of course you are very inquisitive, go back to basics and deconstruct a dish and then put it back together. That would be an interesting step change. But I wonder if Ed's Hog BBQ was as good as it was going to get a couple of years after he started or has it really been a product of decades of experience? (after all a lot of chefs peak in the mid-careers).

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Barcelona, where obviously a good pizzeria doesn't exist. How else can they feel challenged to start such a venture about one of the world's most classical food?

Who told you that? Let's face it - pizza is neither nuclear physics nor haute cuisine nor a deconstructed conundrum. A city with as much fine food as Barcelona or Madrid obviously has good spots for pizza already - the peculiarly named Genova-Milano, for instance. Let's face it: Naples, Manhattan and Chicago are no longer the only places in the world where you can have a decent pie...

Spain has been swamped by Italian cooks, pizzaioli included, over the past few years. The level of Italian cooking now found in Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia is uncommon in Europe outside of Italy. Italians love to live in Spain. As a result, the pizza situation has greatly improved, to pizza fans' great relief.

Ferran loves street food and doesn't ever attempt to re-invent it. He's been serving rather good burgers (including a nice Italian burger, BTW) in his Fast Good joint venture for years. That doesn't mean there aren't other, and even better, burger joints around, which doesn't deter him from doing his own version.

BTW, that unlikely British success story, Pizza Express (Pizza Marzano, on the continent), has contributed to the improvement of the pizza scene in Barcelona.

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Victor, is there a particular style of pizza that has taken hold in Spain or in different regions of Spain? Pizza is not something that I have ever looked to eat when in Spain.

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Ferran is also a big fan of pasta, as you can see in this video interview with Spanish TV "La Sexta" (in Spanish, sorry), visiting our stall in the Boqueria market  :biggrin:

Forward to about minute 15 into the interview.

http://www.misexta.tv/home/1_0/0/433943

Congratulations! You couldn't really ask for a better endorsement than that...

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Barcelona, where obviously a good pizzeria doesn't exist. How else can they feel challenged to start such a venture about one of the world's most classical food?

Who told you that?

Alberto Adria (linked above): "But pizza, Alberto Adrià said, is another thing. "Ferran likes it too much. So we asked ourselves: 'Why can't we have a decent one in Barcelona? We should be the one to try.' "

But I think you are right: there must be decent pizza in Barcelona already. It's not that difficult. OTOH: learning about pizza in Turin is a bit like travelling to Salamanca to learn about a good paella. You can do that, but what's the point?

Anyway, one can find an extremely detailed description and recipe for "Real Pizza Napoletana" (Marinara or Margherita) on the net:

Vera Pizza Napoletana. This should already help every talented cook to make a decent pizza.

Of course, the right flour and oven equipment is crucial to consistently make great pizza.

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is there a particular style of pizza that has taken hold in Spain or in different regions of Spain?

Well, it's interesting that no one even thinks of eating anything but Spanish cuisine - whether traditional or Adriaesque - when in Spain! It's a tribute to the newfound international respect for Spanish cuisine, certainly, and that's a positive sign. But sometimes there are some non-Spanish places of great interest around. They can be interesting and sometimes even exciting (particularly if one is here for more than a couple of days and in no need to cram 'the Spanish culinary experience' in a couple of meals).

But of course I'm thinking of more personal places, like Dos Palillos in Barcelona or Sudestada and Diverxo in Madrid, not of pizza, which will always be pizza... with one great exception: Fabián Martín's pizza mecca in Llivia, on the France-Spain border in the middle of the Pyreneees mountains, which is to modern pizza what Etxebarri is to modern grill techniques...

Spain's international restaurant scene is much richer these days than it used to be, and it includes a number of cuisines that are difficult to find elsewhere in Europe, including very good Peruvian, southern Mexican, Filipino, Moroccan, Cajun/Creole, New Californian places and, yes, even noteworthy burger joints.

We have all kinds of pizza here now, including the cheese-heavy Argentine-style pizzas that are little-known in the US, and of course Chicago deep-dish. But the classic, thin-crust Naples style dominates. Sometimes they come from wood-fired ovens. Best places in Madrid (which is the main center for international cuisines in Spain) are Maruzzella, Pizziccheria, Sicilia in Bocca and Ouh Babbo! By the way - the excellent pizzaiolo at Ouh Babbo! is Iranian and his colleague at Pizziccheria is from Gorizia, in Friuli on the Slovenian border - again, proof that you don't need to be from the Vesuvius' hillsides to be good at this! :wink:

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Worst pizza that I ever saw -- never had -- was Telepizza's German pizza. It had brats and -yellow- mustard on it. Yikes.

I've even had BBQ chicken pizza in Madrid. Granted, it was at Gino's, a Spanish chain.

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...  you don't need to be from the Vesuvius'  hillsides to be good at this!  :wink:

Recently, there was a television report about pizza, about the best pizzaioli from Naples and how they showed a lot of respect for Japanese pizzaioli. In Genova, there's a competition about pesto making every year, and in 2008, the winner was a Japanese guy, as far as I remember.

I think for traditional food, the public, its knowledge about their local food and the resulting competition among the cooks is a more decisive factor than the cooks themselves. It's not that it's not possible to make good pizza even if your are not from the Vesuvian hillsides. It's more the lack of competition that makes exported traditional food somtimes, um, adventurous and great quality a random find.

Of course, when it comes to hard to find or hard to transport ingredients, everything changes in this picture.

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