Pizza perfetto

Food guru Alessandro D'Ubaldo's passion for Italian food inspired him to create 800PIZZA. His pizzas are considered the best in the city.

DUBAI-JUNE 1,2008 - Chef Alessandro D'Souza  cooking one of his special pizza at 800 Pizza restaurant,Dubai. ( Paulo Vecina/The National )  *** Local Caption ***  PV D'Souza 8.JPGPV D'Souza 8.JPG
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Alessandro D'Ubaldo has been in Dubai since 1999, working as a businessman dealing in everything from real estate to cigars. But just over a year ago his true passion for real Italian food inspired him to create 800PIZZA, and he hasn't looked back. His pizzas are now considered by many pizza aficionados to be the best in the city. James Brennan dropped by his tiny Al Barsha restaurant for a couple of slices and a word or two about pizza.

I absolutely believe so. I could talk to you for a day about this pizza. There's so much behind it. Italians will know the flour we use - it's Pizzuti flour made in Napoli. It's not made by machines. It's ground with stones. It's a unique process, a special flour. The buffalo mozzarella is Italian from Caserta. The olive oil is Italian and the tomatoes are Italian. Everything we use is Italian. The only thing that isn't from Italy is the wood we use in our oven - it's from Finland. And we spend $1,000 (Dh3,670) a month on wood.

It's a wood-fired oven from Modena - where they make the Ferrari. It's a stone oven. In many Arab countries they use metal ovens, but this one is stone. It gets very hot. When we turn the oven off at night, it's still hot in the morning. In Italy, the bakers make the bread overnight in these ovens. It doesn't have a temperature control, so you have to have an eye for it. We know when the oven is 450 degrees because you can see the stone on the dome - if the oven is not ready it will be all dark inside. The pizza must be cooked from the top and the bottom, so we move it closer to the flame. It's becoming rare to find these ovens even in Italy now - you have to go into the countryside. It's a very unique oven; it cost me Dh40,000.

t's about going back to the basics and using the real ingredients. What we put on a Margherita pizza is real Parmesan. It's Parmigiano-Reggiano, aged for 36 months. It's not Grana Padano cheese - that's too dry. And it's not just Italians who know the difference, other people do, too. When I first started this menu, I didn't know what this market was looking for. I wondered whether people were going to like the real thing, or whether they wanted thick crust pizzas, full of oil. So I took a chance here in Barsha - and back then it wasn't very nice around here. But I found that if the product is real, the people will come. In Italy, the best places are hidden, but the people come and find them.

Yes, I had plans for another one in Al Wasl, but there's a new Dubai Creek extension project up there so they have decided to demolish everything. I was really happy with the timing and construction and everything, but now we can't go through with it. They are working on the compensation - hopefully the money will come. Now I've found another place by Dubai Marina. It's really nice. It will come at Dh500,000 a year rent, but it's twice the size of the restaurant we have now. We can barely move here. If you came here tonight, you'd see four guys here plus myself, one lady cashier, two ladies on the phone - it's crazy. We had three motorbikes when we started, now we have 15. We cannot cope.

The traditional Italian pizzas - the Margherita con bufala, the pizza caprese with cherry tomatoes and basil; the patatosa with potatoes, beef hot dog slices and rosemary, and the quatro formaggi with Gorgonzola - my wife loves that.
800PIZZA, Abdullah Meheiri Building, off Sheikh Zayed Road, Beside Mall of The Emirates, Al Barsha, Dubai.