I was knuckles deep in a wad of dough during my first Inizio Pizza Napoletana experience at Providence Commons. I poked and prodded the mess during a media event before their tentative March 10 opening, trying to mold it into a sphere, until executive chef Peter Falcon peeled it out of my hands to show me how it should be done.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to earn your piece of pizza at Inizio. You just have to understand how Falcon, owner Grant Arons and the rest of the Inizio team are trying to craft a unique pizza experience for Charlotte.
(1) They use “00” flour from Italy.
Meaning they use the finest-ground flour to hold less water for a light, silky feel. So fancy.
(2) They make the dough with imported Italian water.
Arons used a total dissolved solids reader to prove that Italian water has higher mineral content – 230 parts per million – than Aquafina water, which read 1 ppm, and Charlotte tap water, which read 48 ppm. Arons, a self-proclaimed dough nerd, uses filtered water to bring Inizio dough down to 200 ppm.
This facilitates ideal fermentation, to get the dough just right – not too stiff, not too slack.
(3) Adherence to the Napoletana style.
According to Arons, the style requires the aforementioned 00 flour type and water with high mineral content, as well as a credit-card thinness in the middle of the dough and no oil or sugar added to the dough until right before it goes into the oven – at which point one adds high-quality, extra-virgin olive oil.
“We try to follow pretty much all of those rules,” Arons said. “Our dough is very authentic.”
(4) The use of a pure, wood-fired oven.
The two ovens in the kitchen were, of course, imported from Italy. They burn red and white seasoned oak and cook the pizzas at high temperatures for just 90 seconds.
How you know it’s done right: When you see this “leopardizing” on the crust of the finished pizza.
Yes, Inizio is even approaching salads the “proper” Italian way. Example: The Caprese salad incorporates Buffalo mozzarella imported from Italy.
“Buffalo milk is more nutrient-dense than cow’s milk,” Arons said. “It has a little bit higher fat content, it’s got a little bit more mouth feel.”
(6) Inizio uses a temperature-controlled dough room.
The room is set at 65 degrees to allow for a more consistent product.
“We use technology to help us, but we still kind of do it the old-fashioned way, by having a lot of rest periods for our dough so that we reduce the oxidation,” Arons said.
The dough rests there for about half a day for a warm rise, then is placed in the refrigerator for another day or two to slow down the yeast and help develop texture and flavor. When it’s ready to be cooked, the chefs pull it out for a couple of hours to bring it to room temp.
(7) My favorite part: community seating.
You’ll notice long wooden tables when you walk in – embrace it. This set-up is intended to make you rub elbows with strangers.
“You’re forced to talk to them,” Arons said. “I love that.”
Ditto. Just don’t ask me to share my meal.
Inizio Pizza: 10620 Providence Rd, Ste A, Charlotte. 704-846-8909.
Photos: Katie Toussaint (Note: All photos are from a media event, so space is somewhat rearranged.)