Visit the Empire State Building? Been there. Stroll through Central Park? Done that. If you’re looking for something different to do on your next visit to New York City, the head to Pizza a Casa Pizza School in Lower Manhattan. There’s nothing like a New York slice (it’s a NYC food icon, after all!) and self professed pizza nerd and owner Mark Bello will passionately teach you how to make your very own at home.
Mark and his wife Jenny, operate Pizza a Casa Pizza School from a cozy store front on Grand Street, just a few blocks from Little Italy and some of my favorite NYC foodie stops. The shop itself is fantastic with pizza icons covering the checkered red and white wallpaper and exposed brick walls. The front of the shop sells a variety of pizza making tools from stones to Mark’s favorite pizza cutter, which is dangerous for a kitchen gadget addict like me.
Before long I left ogling the pizza making tools behind and got down to the business of pizza making. We started from scratch and made our own dough by mixing flour, water, yeast, and a bit of sugar. Though the classes are kept to small groups, if you’re short like me you might not always have the best view. Mark thought of that though, and his cameras help everyone to easily see his technique as he instructs on the tv monitor. Smart!
He’s also got some videos he plays (and which are included in the DIY Pizza Pie iPad app if you want to learn Mark’s recipes and can’t make it to NYC for a in-person class) and that helps him to make the rounds to check on his pizza making students.
After the dough rises, we gently peel it out of the container and quarter it. Each student makes four pizzas and you’ll definitely have some left to take back to your hotel with you (it makes an excellent late night snack!). Now it’s time for soft bongos, Mark’s special anybody-can-roll-out-pizza-dough technique. “People are usually most worried about putting a hole in their pizza dough,” Mark tells me. Not to worry. If a hole happens, just stretch the dough over it and press down to fix it.
We mix up a surprising simple, yet delicious Secret Sauce that takes just 60 seconds to make. Met with a few raised eyebrows, Marks proves it by setting a timer as he mixes up the sauce. I’d tell you what’s in this 60-Second Secret Sauce, but then I’d have to kill you. Just kidding – the sauce recipe is also in the DIY Pizza Pie app and in the recipe and instruction booklet every student takes home.
As I pick out my toppings from the topping bar, Mark reminds us that less is more. Heaping on toppings just makes the dough, well doughy when it comes out of the oven. We start out with a margherita with fresh Alleva Dairy mozzarella, 60-Second Secret Sauce, fresh basil, and a drizzle of some extra virgin olive oil. I use the wooden pizza peel to put my pizza on the stone and in just about 7 minutes, my pizza is ready.
The awesome thing is Pizza a Casa’s ovens aren’t a special pizza oven no one can actually afford at home; it’s your average oven that you can pick out from any appliance store. “I chose a regular oven because it gives people confidence that they can really take these recipes and make a perfect, piping-hot pizza at home,” Mark explains to me.
Of course I had to also make the New York slice with mozzarella, 60-Second Secret Sauce, pecorino cheese and their homemade sausage (recipe also included in your take home recipe booklet). The margherita was delicious, but the New York slice was my favorite.
Know Before You Go
- Pizza a Casa Pizza School offers a hands-on class, couples class, and private events. Check their calendar for availability. Classes last 4 hours.
- The hands-on class is $165 per person and the couples class is $295 for two people (spouse, partner, or even your BFF welcome).
We were guests of Pizza a Casa Pizza School in order to bring you this story. As always, all opinions about the course itself and delicious pizza are entirely our own.