Do-it-yourself pizza from Hot Italian


The Fiori pizza is taken out of the 800 degrees Fahrenheit oven after 5 minutes. 

Elizabeth DeCicco

On the corner of Q and 16th Streets stands Hot Italian, a product of an Italian immigrant’s dream of opening a pizza restaurant in California.

Co-owner Fabrizio Cercatore knows what makes a tasty, tempting pizza. Compared to an empty calorie American-style pizza, he said authentic Italian pizza is prepared with less meat, more vegetables and a thinner crust.

At Hot Italian, the pizza oven heats up to 800 F, cooking pizzas one-by-one in just minutes. The dough is made with organic flour imported from Italy and stored for at least 24 hours.

“The longer the dough rises, the easier it is to digest,” Cercatore said.

Making your own authentic Italian pizza simply requires using fresh ingredients and the right preparation methods.

Cercatore gracefully demonstrated the stretching and tossing of the dough from a ball without any rolling pin needed. The tossing action helps stretch the dough, but it’s not as necessary as flattening manually. The pizza chefs use semolina, a coarse flour resembling cornmeal, on the surface to prevent sticky dough.

Homemade Thin Crust Pizza

Makes two 12-inch pizzas


For the Dough:

3/4 cups (6 ounces) of water

1/2 teaspoon of active-dry yeast (if using instant yeast, you don’t need to dissolve it during the first step)

2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp kosher salt

optional: 1/2 tsp italian seasoning (or any dried herbs of your choice)

For the Toppings:

1/2 cup marinara sauce (1/4 cup per pizza), either homemade or store-bought

3 cups of mozzarella cheese (1 1/2 cups per pizza)

1 cup of mushrooms

16 slices of prosciutto parma

1 cup of arugula greens


Making the Dough:

About 30 minutes to one hour before baking, preheat the oven to 500 F. If you have a baking stone, put it on a rack in the lower-middle part of the oven before preheating.

In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, heat the water until it feels barely lukewarm when you test it with your finger. Add the yeast to the water and use a fork or whisk to stir it into the water. Set this aside for a few minutes and allow the yeast to dissolve. The yeast doesn’t have to bubble, but it should be entirely dissolved.

Measure out the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the salt and dried italian seasoning/herbs (optional) and use your hand or a whisk to combine.

Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the water-yeast mixture. Use your fingers or a wooden spoon to combine everything together.

When a cohesive ball is formed, transfer it to the counter along with any extra flour in the bowl that hasn’t been worked in.

Knead the dough for about five minutes or until the flour is mixed in and the dough is smooth and elastic to the touch.The dough should still feel moist and just slightly tacky. If it’s sticking to your hands and countertop like bubble gum, work in more flour one tablespoon at a time until it’s smooth and silky.

Divide the dough in two halves.

Shaping the dough:

Tear off two pieces of parchment paper roughly 12-inches wide. Work one piece of the dough in your hands and form it into a large disk. Lay the disk of dough on the parchment paper.

Working from the middle of the dough outward, use the heel of your hand to gently press the dough outward until it’s about one-fourth of an inch thick or less.

You can also use a rolling pin for this part. You can make free-form pies, or if you’d like a circular pie, you can trace a large circle on the back of the parchment to use as a guide.

Repeat with the second piece of dough.

Note: The dough will stick to the parchment paper, making it easier for you to roll out. You’ll bake the pizza right on the parchment paper. As it cooks, the dough will release from the parchment and you can slide the paper out before serving.

Topping and baking the dough:

Spoon only the sauce into the center of each pizza and use the back of a spoon to spread it out to the edges.

Using a bread peel or the backside of a baking sheet, slide your pizza (still on the parchment) onto the baking stone in the oven. If you don’t have a baking stone, use the baking sheet.

Bake for about five minutes, then rotate the pizza 180 degrees (most ovens have ‘hot spots’ and your pizza will bake unevenly if it’s not rotated).

Bake for another three minutes, then sprinkle the cheese and mushrooms over the top. Bake for another two to three minutes until the edges are golden brown and crispy. If you like your cheese browned slightly, broil for a minute or so.

Remove your pizza from oven and let it cool on a wire rack. At this point, you can slide the parchment paper out from under the pizza. Add the prosciutto and arugula greens last. Repeat with second pizza.

Let both pizzas cool for about five minutes and serve.

From its lengthy menu, La Fiori is a common favorite pizza at Hot Italian. It has tomato sauce made from locally grown tomatoes, mushrooms, mozzarella cheese, prosciutto parma or dry-cured ham and arugula greens on top.

For a vegetarian alternative, broccoli and roasted yukon gold potato pieces complement well to add texture and create a flavorsome pizza.

Mascarpone cheese, garlic, basil, cherry tomatoes, olives and pepperoni are some of the endless possibilities to garnish a homemade pizza.

Cercatore and other pizzaiolos, or pizza makers, at Hot Italian said they eat pizza every day, always changing the combinations of meat, cheese and vegetables.

(Recipe from fearless homemaker.)

Elizabeth DeCicco can be reached at [email protected]