It's not every day a master pizza maker reveals his secrets, but Joel Tropiano from Monte's Pizza in Blaxland has done just that.
He's demonstrated over video some of "the little tricks in the trade" his father showed him, filmed from the kitchen of their 30-year-old family pizza business in the Lower Mountains, in a bid to bring some joyduring the COVID pandemic.
It's all part of Blue Mountains Council's latest Love Local Lessons - free online tutorials on everything from permaculture to pizza making - released in time for the school holidays.
The seven tutorials released on YouTube on Monday [September 28] also feature environmentalist Tom Covell from Hooked on Nature; science and technology educator Kerry Pyle from Build-A-Mind in Winmalee and permaculture enthusiasts Emmanuela Prigioni and Pan Purvey from Lyttleton Stores in Lawson.
Making the perfect dough is an art the multiple award-winning pizza restaurant owner washappy to share when approached by a customer who works for council. The video shows a dough recipe adapted for at home pizza making and their popular pear and proscuitto pizza - a recipe gifted to him by friend and former Darley's chef Hugh Whitehouse, with "the secret ingredient the macadamia oil and roasted walnuts".
Growing up in Thredbo with his southern Italian father, Nick, and Austrian mother, Brigitte, Joel watched "in awe" of his dad at work in the village's first Italian pizza shop in the late 1970s. The seed was sown.
"I remember I would be out skiing all day and I couldn't get in [to the pizza shop]. It was a really tiny shop, like a shoebox, the skiers used to jam in like sardines.
"I would stand at the window, watching him throw these pizzas in the air. I was in awe. And I would ask him for a small cabanossi pizza and a hot chocolate. It's in my blood, it's always there."
The business moved to Blaxland in 1988. Mr Tropiano bought the business from his dad a decade ago, adding the dine-in and alfresco elements. His parents have retired to the Central Coast.
He has made "close to a million pizzas" in the shop - regularly making 700 pizzas over Friday and Saturday night with his team."My dad always said you're only as good as your last pizza."
His business survived well during the pandemic, but with only takeaway, customer demand was so high they had three hour waits on deliveries of their pizzas despite "an army of drivers".
"It was insane. It probably forced me to re-think a lot of things, work more efficiently. You are working harder for less money. More people were at home, everyone was eating earlier, soyou got smashed [early] but were starting and finishing earlier."
He's looking forward to "giving people a bit of normality back, with the re-opening of the alfresco Monte's dining in the middle of October."
Mayor Mark Greenhill said: "While COVID-19 restrictions have forced many Blue Mountains' businesses to change the way they operate, initiatives like Love Local Lessonshave given us new ways to showcase the diverse array of local talent.
"If you are wondering how you're going to fill in time with your kids these school holidays, I'd strongly recommend watching."
The Love Local campaign was launched earlier this year to help Mountains businesses recover after the bushfires and then COVID-19. It encourages residents to 'shop, play and stay local'.