This season we’re going back to our roots in California’s wine country, where the first Williams-Sonoma store was opened. Along the way we’ll be spotlighting the local chefs, artisans and producers who have made the region a top culinary destination and continue to inspire us, in the kitchen and around the table.
When Napa residents have a hankering for wood-fired pizzas topped with local, seasonal ingredients, they head to Azzurro Pizzeria & Enoteca, Michael and Christina Gyetvan’s beloved pizzeria. Open since 2001, the restaurant specializes in thin-crust, Neapolitan-style wood fired pizzas that change combinations based on seasonal produce.
We chatted with Michael during our delicious lunch at Azzurro about how living in the Wine Country influences his cooking, his favorite pizza combinations and his dough-making tips.
Our tip: leave room for dessert, specifically soft-serve ice cream from nearby Strauss Creamery.
Go here for Michael’s pizza dough recipe.
I moved to California in 1988 from the East Coast. I was intrigued by the food movement that was taking place in California and was offered a job in St.Helena, at Tra Vigne by Michael Chiarello.
I love the fact that the Napa Valley is an amazing wine producing area and wine goes with food! In my off time, I enjoy cycling and skiing, the region is beautiful and close to the ocean or the mountains.
Describe what “Wine Country” cooking is–are there specific ingredients involved, or is it more of a cooking philosophy?
To me “Wine Country” cooking is more a cooking philosophy that utilizes ingredients that are available locally and that are at their perfection.
Do you incorporate Wine Country cooking style/ingredients into your pizzas?
At Azzurro Pizzeria we utilize locally sourced ingredients for our pizzas as well as seasonal additions that showcase ingredients that are at the height of their season.
Can you list some pizza toppings or combinations that showcase the ingredients from the region?
We have an amazing sausage producer named Richard Caggiano. We use his sausage on our Salsiccia and Pollo pizza. Skyhill Goat Cheese is locally produced and we make an amazing asparagus pizza with goat cheese in the spring. During the summer our Pomodoro pizza is on the menu and features local cherry tomatoes and pesto.
Do you have any tips for making dough?
When making dough accuracy is paramount. We use 00 flour, dry active yeast, Napa tap water, sea salt and extra-virgin olive oil. We mix the dough, shape it into balls, cover and refrigerate overnight. We bring it to room temperature an hour before using it. When rolling it out, it’s important not to over-handle the dough as it can get tough.
Roasted mushroom with garlic paste and tallegio cheese, broccoli raab with potatoes, fresh mozzarella and chili flakes, butternut squash with speck and ricotta salata.What are some of your favorite toppings?
Any other advice for home cooks wanting to make pizza at home?
Have fun cooking and try different combinations and toppings that you like. Try grilling a pizza.
What are you favorite pizza and wine pairings?
I love a nice juicy Syrah with a salsiccia pizza or an amazing Italian varietal called Ribolla Gialla produced in the Napa Valley with our Verde Pizza.
Are there any other dishes at Azzurro that are influenced by Wine Country ingredients and styles?
In addition to our regular menu we include seasonal additions of salads, pastas and bruchette.
What is your favorite pizza on the menu?
I have two favorite pizzas. The first is a pizza with carmelized onions, rosemary and gorgonzola dolce. During summer we add roasted figs and in the fall, pears. The second is our Salsiccia pizza. My son is a fan of our Pollo pizza with an egg added. My daughter loves the Verde and my wife the Margherita.