Margherita pie at Pizzeria Vetri Credit: Danya Henninger

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Phoenix-based chef Chris Bianco knows a thing or two about pizza. His three-decade-old restaurant, Pizzeria Bianco, has been repeatedly cited as best in the country. If you’re thinking, “Wait, that title belongs to Philly’s Pizzeria Beddia,” well, know that Joe Beddia credits Bianco’s wood-fired pies as one of the main inspirations for his Fishtown shop.

On Tuesday, Bianco will be in Philly to host a special dinner with another pizza aficionado, Marc Vetri, where he’ll be talking about his new cookbook, Pizza, Pasta and Other Food I Like.

Like Vetri’s Mastering Pizza and Beddia’s Pizza Camp, Bianco’s new book leads you through the steps needed to make great pies in your very own home. “A delicious pizza is no more mysterious or magical than the omelettes you make on Sundays or the grilled cheese sandwich you’ve been perfecting for twenty years,” he writes in the intro.

Hrmmm. We caught up with the wild-haired chef (he looks kind of like Einstein crossed with Robert De Niro) to ask what, in his estimation, makes a perfect pizza.

Chris Bianco (left) and Joe Beddia at the 2015 Vetri Great Chefs Event Credit: Danya Henninger

After starting with a caveat — that what he thinks is perfect may not be what you think is perfect, because “recognizing how you like things sets you free” — and noting that “Pizza is a study in balance and harmony” Bianco divulged his own opinions on pizza perfection.

Per Bianco, the perfect pizza crust:

  • Is crisp but pliant and strong enough to support ingredients
  • Has a toothy chew, helped by adding 13 to 14 percent higher-protein wheat
  • Uses wheat grown “as close to home as possible” and milled with skill

In preparing the dough, Bianco believes in:

  • High hydration
  • Long fermentation
  • Being open to adjusting hydration level and fermentation time to to suit cooking method
  • Understanding the benefits and/or challenges presented by each method — whether wood, fire, gas or electric

When it comes to toppings, he just wants the rest of the pie to live up to the standards applied to the crust. “I always say, whether it’s a tomato or a rumor,” Bianco said, “consider the source.”

Marc Vetri at Pizzeria Vetri, May 2017 Credit: Danya Henninger

Vetri is more concise with his pizza-perfection thoughts. “Great ingredients [and] perfect crust and oven temp,” he said. “If one of those things is off, the whole experience is ruined.”

If you’re dedicated to the cause of perfecting your pies — or are looking for a mid-week dining splurge — you can get more pizza wisdom from Bianco and Vetri at the Nov. 7 dinner.

Held in the gorgeous upstairs private dining area and show kitchen above Vetri Cucina, there are only 16 seats total, and we hear a few tickets are still available (disregard the note that says “Sold Out”). The price, as noted above, is not cheap, but the $300 does include all the food, wine, gratuity, a copy of Bianco’s book and a chance to hobnob with some pizza royalty.

Who knows, maybe Joe Beddia will even stop in to say hello.

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Danya Henninger

Danya Henninger is director of Billy Penn at WHYY, where she oversees the team, all editorial decisions, and all revenue generation — including the...