This part of the semester always plays the toughest tool on me emotionally. I haven’t been home since January, and so a little bit of homesickness starts churning inside me. I miss my parents, my friends, my dog, my grandma, my bed. But what I miss most, perhaps, is my family’s homemade pizza.
Five years ago, my family built a brick pizza in our backyard, to mimic the ones used by my family in Italy. We named it “Zio’s Pizzeria,” after my father’s uncle who acted as a father figure to him when he was younger and taught him everything he knows about cooking pizza. Almost every weekend in the summer, you can find my family in the backyard, covered in ash as if we just emerged from a coal mine, tossing dough in the air and putting toppings on the personal pizzas that take only three minutes to cook in the 600 degree pizza oven.
This isn’t the easiest process in the world, but for this pizza, it is so worth it. The day starts early in the afternoon, when the fire in the oven needs to be started and tended to for several hours. It’s always a good day when you finish this part of the process without any burns on your arms. After several hours, the oven is heated and ready to be used. My mother lays out a plethora of pizza toppings on the table, including various cheeses, sausage, onions, olive oil, pepperoni, tomatoes, prosciutto, homemade sauce, peppers, arugula, and even figs. The list goes on! I am always in charge of rolling the dough. Often we buy dough from a local pizzeria to save time, but on special occasions, we pull out the recipe passed down from my father’s Zio, the namesake of our pizza oven. I roll out each dough ball, tossing them in the air a few times to both thin the dough as much as possible and to just show off. Then each person in attendance gets to apply their creativity and make their own personal pizza with whatever toppings they choose. My personal favorite combination is a white pizza with prosciutto, taleggio, arugula, and fig. Finally, each pizza is sent into the oven for about three minutes until the crust is browned to perfection and its bottom side is spotted as if it were a cheetah’s fur coat. Then, you get to taste the pizza that I crave every semester when I am away at school. My favorite pizza in the world. The pizza from Zio’s Pizzeria.