Think you know all about pizza? Well, think again. What you're being fobbed off with is utterly alien to the real thing - crisp, expertly baked and topped with the finest fresh ingredients
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Next time you pick up the phone to dial a pizza, hang up and think again. Unfortunately, like other staples in our modern diets, pizza has been relegated to the fast food section of our menus. Like macaroni cheese and numerous other catastrophic English school dinner interpretations before it, pizza - an honest simple dish - has fallen victim to the fast food curse and has lost all its character, style and flavour along the way.

Pizza is actually a type of foccacia and was invented by the Neapolitans as a means to make more interesting the staple diet of the peasants, which was mainly bread at the time.

Made using any available toppings, it was also a way of using up any vegetables, cheese or meats that were left over. These days, however, it's more like a last resort for many of us who are either too tired or need a bit of absorbent carbohydrate after an evening in a bar.

If your idea of a pizza is something resembling a sloppy mess of tasteless, elasticated mozzarella and sludgy tomato puree, then you need to think again. Instead, imagine a crispy wafer-thin base, Parma ham, a mountain of rocket and a few milky slices of buffalo mozzarella. Yes, real pizza is returning to its back-street Neapolitan roots.

Wood-fired ovens are the first requirement of any authentic pizza. A pizza needs only a couple of minutes to bake in one of these ovens whose temperature averages around 450 degrees. A pizzaola's (pizza-makers) expertise lies in rendering the pizza base crisp and flavoursome - but not burned.

The second most important factor is top quality raw materials. Proper cheese (not some foul substitute) and good tomatoes and whatever else takes your fancy.

There are, thank goodness, quite a few new pizza restaurants springing up that are determined to let you dine in the traditional Neapolitan fashion on the genuine article.

If you think you are ready for a real experience and can't quite take the time out to dash over to Naples, take a trip to Zucca, in Westbourne Grove, west London, or Spiga, in Soho, who both have ovens at the ready and can do it the real way.

You won't regret a visit to either - it will be one of those occasions when you really will taste the difference. Plus, the ingredients will be a cut above anything you'll find in a fast food outlet.

Oh, and one other point: cheese crusts a la Pizza Hut are a bit like asking an Italian for a cappuccino after midday - it isn't the done thing.

l For the best in traditional pizza excellence call: Spiga 0171-734 3444.

Zucca 0171-727 0060.