By Andrea Arredondo

What is the first thing you think about when you hear the word Italy? For me, it’s pizza. Imperfectly circular, cheesy, and saucy, a simple pizza is one of my favorite things about Italy. Lucky for me, while I was abroad, I had the opportunity to learn how to make a classic Italian pizza. Now, the instructions I am about to explain won’t give you a multi-topping Domino’s style pizza. Italian pizzas are (usually) stripped to their fundamentals. Instead, I will be sharing a no thrills, tasty and Italian-approved recipe.

Before going further, let me explain how I even learned the recipe. This journey started out when one day I received an email announcement from Accent, the program in Florence that helped organize my study abroad outings. Sharing that they would be hosting a pizza making class during lunch, I decided to sign up.

As the date approached, I looked at the list of other students that signed up and didn’t recognize a single name. In fact, all the other students were from different universities. But, determined to enjoy a handmade pizza, I went anyways.

At a small pizza shop near Accent, fifteen college students turned toward our instructor, a brawny Italian man. Excited to have students from different countries, he quickly gave us an overview of the process and pilled pairs of students into the kitchen for more detailed guidance.

As I waited for my turn, I met tons of students from UC Santa Barbara. Bonding over our hunger, we talked about everything we wished we were eating. Croissants. Burgers. French fries. Salmon. But most of all, pizza. It was great having the opportunity to meet students from other schools that like me, loved being in Florence but felt misplaced at times. We bonded over all the times our phones died and we somehow made it back.

Eventually it was my turn to head to the kitchen and I couldn’t have been more excited. After pulling my hair out of my face and washing my hands, I waited for instructions. Handed a lump of dough, I was told to add a little flour and stretch it out. If you have ever stretched dough, then you know that it can quickly get messy. Add too much flour and it flies everywhere. Add not enough and your dough sticks to the table. Lucky for me, my instructor added more flour when he realized that I didn’t add enough. I didn’t use a rolling pin to stretch out the dough. Instead, I stretched it on the table and eventually did the cool thing where you spin it on your hand.

Dough stretched, I then added a light layer of sauce and swirled it around. One important detail to remember is not to add the sauce too close to the edge to make sure your crust is big enough. Then, I was handed some pepperoni and mozzarella cheese which, I liberally spread on my pie (remember, I’m an “extra cheese” kind of girl). It is worth noting that unlike I thought, pepperoni goes before the cheese.

Seconds later, my instructor came out with a giant shovel like contraption which we used to scoop up my pizza and slide into a fire over. Do you know long to bake a pizza? One minute and thirty seconds. That is how long it takes to bake a pizza in a fire oven. So, shortly after leaving my pizza in the over it came back out again.

Perfectly toasted, I let me pizza cool before slicing it up and taking a big bite. Without a doubt, this was my favorite lunch during the program.

Andrea Arredondo studied abroad in Florence in Summer 2019.