We set out – and this is neither an exaggeration nor some flight of fancy – to create the best pizza in the world. Really. If we were children, it would be the equivalent of becoming Superman or Spiderman. As grownups, we want to create the best pizza in the world.
Yet, this is not like a piece of coding software – you need to do something that is quantifiable and measured in zeros and ones. This is a very subjective thing. So how do we go about defining our goal? Well, we said to ourselves, let us go back 130 years when the first pizza was created. What did it look like? What did it taste like? What was it made of? Surely, the first one must have been really good because it became so popular.
So from those early days we have imposters like the junk food companies who would have you believe that their pizza is the best, invoking god and some living quarters, just to mention a few.
See, a pizza is a healthy food. It is not junk food. We were in a bar in London a few years back and we met this girl in the bar who claimed she was the brand manager of a food company. Draycott Avenue, London is a posh place. So we asked which company that might have been. The first part of the name was pizza. So one of us said, "oh, so you deal in junk food!!".
OK. Not the best chat up line and she did throw her drink in his face. But you get the picture.
An entire Margo’s pizza has the same amount of calories as a slice of the junk-food pizzas.
Everything on our pizza is natural. It is healthy. It is good for you; it is a balanced meal.
Browse through our ingredients and see for yourself how hard we work to create the finest ingredients just to make the best pizza imaginable.
We are the best because we did not try to reinvent the pizza wheel. We simply went back to the roots and said, "this was the best; ours will be just like this one".
Thank you for supporting us.
Everything is meticulously selected from a plethora of options available to us – from the cheap to the prohibitively expensive, from the common to the rarest – we leave no stone unturned when we are looking for the raw materials to create the perfect pizza.
Do not get us wrong, it is not just the ingredients that make a perfect pizza. It is the temperature, the heat, the handling of the dough, the eco-management of the entire process (OK, there are still some consulting DNA in our bloodstream; it will be bred out eventually, we hope).
Yet the ingredients and their fine quality makes the process and the challenge of creating the perfect pizza all that much easier.
Some people ask us, "are you serious?", meaning, do you really do what you say you do?
Why would we say otherwise? What benefit have we to cheat? In any case, the proof of the pizza is in the eating. To create such a super pizza, without being whore-y, you really have to put a lot of hard work behind the scenes.
Organic Water Buffalo Mozzarella
We usually get treccie – that plaited mozzarella, but when we give Ponte Reale too short notice, we get 500g balls instead. See, it takes two ladies to make the treccie – one to hold the strands and the other to pull; so when one of the ladies is not available, we get the balls; those require only one person to produce. Cute, no?
It took us so long to get the perfect mozzarella. To find good, honest water buffalo mozzarella you have to go through a market of fakes, imposters and (especially with mozzarella) criminals to get to the divine. To find good Organic Water Buffalo Mozzarella is nigh impossible.
We still remember the first time we tasted it: we kind of went gaga, weak at the knees, lost in the bosom of .... OK. Screech. Enough of that.
Maestro said that the last time he tasted such mozzarella was when his late grandfather made mozzarella; and that was a long time ago because, let us face it, he is no spring chicken.
When we get the mozzarella, we take it out of the water, let it drip dry in special trays we have designed for 24 hours. In this process, it loses 30% of its weight. We then chop it up and prepare it to put on top of the pizza.
Believe us, some top restaurants do not even use such amazing mozzarella to serve in their salads, let alone on their pizzas.
Some of the mozzarella we leave as balls and we smoke whole.
We dare you to find tastier, more lush mozzarella. The guys at Ponte Reale are seriously fanatic about their mozzarella. For us, knowing that the animals are respected, traditional methods are retained and the product is of such high quality reassures us and you and makes us very proud. Visit their website to learn more about their work.
San Marzano Tomatoes
A tomato is a tomato is a tomato . . . not.
To have an authentic Neapolitan Pizza, the pizza has to be topped with San Marzano tomatoes. There are hundreds if not thousands of tomato varietals but only one San Marzano.
Until we successfully start growing our own San Marzano tomatoes on a large scale we use Solania Organic San Marzano tomatoes, from San Marzano, of course.
Why San Marzano? The first thing that hits you when you bite into Margo's pizza is, "wow, the tomatoes taste so good". It is all in the balance, the texture, the acidity, the water content, the intensity of flavour, the lack of excess seeds, the overall composition of the tomato that makes it ideal for the task.
Unlike the Roma tomato, the San Marzano is slightly thinner yet longer in shape, it has less seeds and less water and more flesh.
In our first year of growing San Marzano tomatoes on our estate in Mistra we were quite successful; In our second year we decided not to grow the tomatoes since there was a disease spreading throughout the tomato harvest and we did not want to use pesticides. Our goal is to be self sufficient with organic San Marzano tomatoes.
The Grains aka the Flour(s)
Manitoba, North Dakota, Viola, Strong, Soft, 0, 00, Wholemeal, Spelt – welcome to the complex maize of grains and flours that we use in our kitchen. Originally we tried blends of flours that are made by others for us, like Caputo and San Felice, as recommended by the Association of Authentic Neapolitan Pizzas but then we realised that this was simply a marketing ploy by the various people involved to sell the inferior product; such flour dovetails nicely with the lack of expertise that the "Masters" actually possess these days.
In a world where machines replace humans, depth of knowledge is a hard skill to come by. This can leave one exposed to other people’s marketing traps. Hence, we blend our own flours.
We, on the other hand, are the epitome of the Doubting Thomas. Raise one eyebrow, twitch the mouth and scratch the head while asking "why?". We want to see the grains, we want to mill the thing ourselves, to our own exacting specifications, depending of course on the weather: the atmospheric pressure and the humidity.
We practically design every bubble that you see in the dough: big bubbles from the coarse milling, small bubbles from the fine milling.
Nothing beats fresh milling of grains. Nothing comes near the quality of fresh flour. Compare it to freshly ground coffee, freshly milled pepper. Flour is hygroponic and loses its freshness very quickly.
The Fire, the Heat
No heat, no Pizza.
So it is super important to find the ideal heat source, not only to produce the perfect pizza but to minimise our environmental impact and reduce our carbon footprint. We wish we could find some solar powered system to cook the pizza with; alas, no such thing.
In practice, we juggle between three sources of heat – gas, unwanted wood and harvested wood. How do we do it?
We collect discarded and unwanted wood as well as wood cuttings from trees from our neighbouring farmers and our own estate. We use these to keep the oven warm when we are not using it, usually after a bake or overnight.
Prior to service, when we are baking the perfect pizza, we fire up the oven using gas. We use gas to bring the temperature of the oven up to the optimal level. That is when the dome inside the oven is white hot. An hour or so before service we switch to harvested and cultivated beech. We use beech from sustainable sources.
Beech has the perfect characteristics for the purpose. It does not spit, it is constant in temperature and burns constantly and slowly.
But this is not all. We make a second use of the by product of the beech. Beech emits a wonderful, really wonderful aroma and smoke. So the chimney of our ovens feeds a smokehouse. The smoke from the beech is used to smoke the pancetta, the bacon, the mozzarella, the fish... anything really.
That smoke, for us, is precious. Taste the wonderful flavours of food smoked using beech. It is extraordinary. Some of us can’t even remember the last time we had something smoked in the traditional way, without chemicals.
The flour is only a significant ingredient of the dough; but it is not the dough. What you do with that flour, how you handle it, how you treat it, what you add to it is what makes or breaks a dough.
We do not use yeast, so it is up to us to find a method to make the dough rise. We do not use yeast because yeast is not good for you; at least you are better off without it. It bloats you, it upsets the balance in your stomach.
In order to make the most delicate, full flavoured dough (and we make more than one type of bread) we use a system referred to as "impasto indiretto". We basically use sourdough. We create the sourdough (otherwise known as the "Madre") and feed this live beast every day, propagating and continuing the fermentation process.
We do not do this for fun. Sourdough, despite being more complex, more difficult to work with and much more delicate to handle, is much better for you. It has a superior taste, a more complex, intense and richer taste than the outright sweetness and yeasty taste of other breads. Once you eat sourdough bread you realise what you have been missing out on.
In the old days, all bread was made using sourdough. But that is too inconvenient. So today, 99.9% of all bread produced is made with powdered yeast. Chemicals make life for the food producers that so much easier and convenient.
Buy a loaf of commercial bread and take a loaf of our bread. Leave them out for a week. Seven days later go back and test them. See which one has survived the experiment, which one is the edible one, which one you can eat, which one has not got mould on it, which one tastes good.
Time and time again we have our bread at home for two or three weeks. Once you wrap it in a cloth, it is still edible, it still tastes good. That is because there is nothing chemical in it, nothing artificial to make it rise more, to artificially make it crisp on the outside and moist in the inside.
Don’t you think it is time you start thinking a bit more about what you eat? Don’t you think it is time to address the issues of consuming unhealthy stuff and start healing thyself with genuine and honest nutrition?
Proper food is your best medicine.
Start with your bread.
The Bread and the Pizza Bases
White or Brown? A white pizza base or a wholemeal, brown pizza base?
The choice is yours, but we encourage you to eat healthily.
We created the wholemeal base because 150 years ago when pizza was made for the first time, they did not have white flour (bleached white flour is a post war American invention).
We wanted to create a really authentic Neapolitan Pizza like no other. Furthermore, wholemeal is that so much better for you. first of all, it tastes better. It has a more complete taste, less sweet than white flour, more malty. Wholemeal has half the calories of white flour. It is lighter than white flour. To top it all up, wholemeal flour has so much more vitamins in it (white flour has only about 3-5% of the vitamins left in it.
Any which way you look at it, it is time to change for the better. If you have never tasted a wholemeal base pizza, then you should really try it.
For us, it is more difficult to open a wholemeal base, but believe us, it is worth the extra effort.
Our bread, like our pizza dough, is exceptional. Baked using beech wood fire, we usually prepare the bread towards the end of the day; then in the morning, when the oven is still hot from the night before (but not scorching), we throw in a log of beech, light it up and put in the bread to bake gently.
It is almost romantic.
Potassium Nitrate, Sodium Nitrate or even Potassium Nitrite – how much of these do you consume every day? You do not know? Nitrates are not suppose to be that harmful, nitrites are linked to cancer.
Most cured meats, most salami, most smoked meats have large quantities of these chemicals in them because life is like that – you cut corners, you pay the price. You use chemicals, then you have to use more chemicals to neutralise the original chemicals in the first place. A vicious and evil circle that we have to avoid at all costs.
We love smoked foods like anyone else, but you are probably like us and cannot remember when was the last time you had something that is properly smoked.
What do we mean?
"Smoked" today means anything but smoked. Today we buy liquid smoke and inject it in food stuffs and make them taste like they were smoked. Kind of.
Whom are we kidding?
Our smoking process is the antithesis of the fast moving, commercial, fake stuff.
We do not inject anything into anything.
We use sea salt, laurel leaves, beech smoke, made from burning beech slowly and a lot of time.
To produce a sausage it takes us six weeks.
To produce a piece of pancetta, it takes us 12 weeks.
We clean the meat, we leave it in salt for a day or so, we clean it again, we hang it up in the smoke house, we smoke it, we take it down and hang it in our wine cellar for weeks. There it stays hung in a constant 18C temperature with low humidity.
The result is a truly remarkable product.
Whether it is Amalfi sausage, bacon, pancetta, smoked fish, smoked meats, cheeses, we have turned back the clock a few decades because we believe that not all "progress" is good.
Of course it is cheaper and easier to use that water logged bacon you buy from your local supermarket, but believe us, our pizza would not be half as good as it is if we did.
We do not cut corners.
We do not shy from work.
We know what is right and what is wrong.
We know what makes us the best.
OEVOO (Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
Surely we can use the same oil you can buy from the supermarket. But does it make sense? Of course not.
Most commercial EVOO only contains a small fraction of real EVOO; usually around 3% or so. By law, an oil that has some olive extract in it with an acidity of 3% or less can be called EVOO. Our OEVOO has an acidity of 0.0002%.
So the big commercial companies buy our oil, add a few litres of rapeseed oil to it, bring the acidity to 3% and still call it EVOO.
Sad, no? But true.
On a good year we produce our own OEVOO; on a poor year we simply harvest the olives and serve them fresh on the pizza. Now that is something to behold. What an experience. Such a short season, but worth experiencing eating fresh olives prepared like this.
Our own OEVOO is not certified organic because we can’t be bothered to go through all the palaver of getting it. After all it is for our own use, and we know that we do not spray the trees with anything nor feed them anything that is bad (or anything at all, for that matter).
Yet the most we get out of a harvest is maybe 20-30 litres. That is hardly a large amount. When you consider that we drizzle the magic potion on almost every pizza, that barely lasts us a month.
So when we run out, we go to Ms. Sillitti in Sicily who supplies us with this amazing OEVOO. She has bothered and certified hers organic.
We have done some tests. We tried blind tasting, rubbing the oil on our skins, drizzled over salads, cooking . . . Nothing we tried, even more expensive olive oils, come anywhere near it; this is a truly amazing oil.
You can also buy it from all Margo's restaurants.
It is a wonderful skin conditioner, great to fight cholesterol. You have to have one of these bottles at home. They can change an ordinary dish into an extraordinary treat.