Pizzeria Sapori’s Distinguished Dough

The Newport Beach wood-fired pizzeria’s airy, thin crust sets it apart in a crowded field

When Newport Beach Italian favorite Sapori added its Pizzeria Sapori annex a few months ago, it joined a crowded field of Orange County Neapolitan-style pizza restaurants. This is something to file under Not a Problem—I look forward to the day when every neighborhood has its own wood-fired thin-crust purveyor.

Sapori’s a little different, though. Chef-owner Sal Maniaci isn’t striving to replicate true Neapolitan, and indeed, his pizza isn’t at all like the wet-in-the-middle, cultivatedly-floppy-type common to that genre. The Sapori crust is thin, crisp, and preternaturally light. Mere microns thick inside a nicely puffed edge, a cut piece displays remarkable integrity, not even sagging at the point. All good pizza crusts are the sum of a combination of dough composition, oven temp, and baking time—though Sapori’s seems to have a dose of necromancy as well.

And indeed, watching Maniaci make a batch of dough the other day, expounding on ingredients, temperature, and hydration, among other things, he admitted there was a lot he wasn’t going to tell me. Demonstrating with a single kilo—2.2 pounds—of Italian 00 flour, a powdery, super-fine grind, one big difference was scale: A usual batch at the restaurant starts with 25 kilos. After flour, the only other ingredients are water, yeast, and salt (Sicilian sea salt, at Sapori). For demonstration purposes, Maniaci used the direct mixing method, as it’s called, where all the ingredients are mixed straightaway and the dough allowed to rise.

Sapori’s daily dough, the aforementioned light, crisp, etc., is made by the indirect method, which starts with a pre-ferment requiring a portion of the flour, yeast, and water to be mixed and allowed to activate before the remainder is added. It sounds simple, and in a way it is, but in the 72 hours that the dough ages before use a lot goes on, some hands-on like folding, and some passive, like resting under refrigeration. All the steps, executed according to Maniaci’s own formula, contribute to the unique result.

Maniaci gave me a ball of the demo dough he made. I’m sure it’ll be very good—I’m always working on my at-home pizza, and I certainly picked up some pointers I’ll be applying going forward. But I harbor no fantasy that it’ll turn out like the crusts blistered in the white-oak-burning Italian oven at Sapori. For that, you have to go to the source.


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