For the last couple of months, I've been trying different pizza dough recipes, but what I've really been waiting for is the new book, in English, from Rome's phenomenal pizza master, Gabriele Bonci. Called "Pizza" — what else? — it's subtitled "Seasonal Recipes From Rome's Legendary Pizzarium."
Now Bonci's pizzas are not round, but large oblongs, part of the tradition called pizza al taglio — pizza cut to order. And they are gorgeous, though co-author Elisia Menduni describes Bonci's crust as "rough and slightly drab in color ... crunchy on the outside, almost crispy, and the crumb is soft and springy."
Bonci is wildly inventive with his toppings, which are seasonal and change from day to day and week to week. In eight years of research, writes Menduni, he has created thousands of pizza. "In more than one year working on this book, I've counted (and, I confess, tasted) more than 1,500 variations."
The book begins with "Pizza School," taking the reader through the making of several doughs. The photos are good, and essential to showing how the dough should look and move. No wood-burning oven for this pizzaiolo. He works with standard deck ovens, cooking most pizzas at 450 to 475 degrees.
OK, for the toppings. The first one I'm going to make is potato pizza, with mozzarella and boiled Yukon gold potatoes. Finished with a drizzle of olive oil, it develops a deep golden crust on top.
Summer pizzas include pizza with figs and rosemary, pizza with roast pork, tomatoes, apricots and peppers, and also pizza with green tomatoes, mango, baccalà and bitter greens. Even a shrimp cocktail pizza.
And for autumn, there's a gorgeous mushroom pizza lavished with porcini, white button mushrooms, chanterelles and something called black poplar mushrooms. Ah, I've got my eye on pizza with ricotta, persimmons and 'nduja, that spicy Calabrian sausage spread.
Some of his toppings don't sound as appealing, like chicory with rabbit and grapes or chestnut, porcini, squab and radish. Maybe too much of a meal on a slice. I'm convinced, though, without yet trying, that the pie topped with orange squash, grana or Parmigiano and amaretti cookies would work — those are the ingredients, after all, in Mantova's famous tortelli di zucca.
Bonci's book offers almost too much to explore. Best to get started right away with the dough making and then ease into the myriad toppings. I can see pizza parties every weekend as I work my way through this enticing book.
"Pizza: Seasonal Recipes From Rome's Legendary Pizzarium" by Gabriele Bonci with Elisia Menduni (Rizzoli International Publications, 2013, 256 pages, $30.)