Is this the most perfect pizza in Suffolk?
- Credit: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis
“Come. Come and try our pizza,” came the clarion call from Chiarina and Paolo Pragliola, who started their mobile business Reggia Pizza last March, just as a nationwide lockdown was announced.
Well, who was I to argue? And so it was I found myself, with a friend, stretched out on a picnic blanket on the manicured lawn of Hadleigh Cricket Club, with a Thermos of wine, and a couple of boxes of tantalisingly scented Italian food.
Sorry to the home team. I think we accidentally sat with the away supporters, cheering in unison with them – even though we haven’t got a clue about the sport - but our attentions were more firmly fixed on the pizza in front of us.
We’d booked a slot for 7.30pm, and when we rocked up five minutes early, Paolo was already hard at work, in the sweltering heat might I add, turning our pies in 600C flames, inside the couple’s tiny, cutesy trailer.
It was ready, almost to the second, on the dot, and delivered into our greedy hands with a clutch of napkins.
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Opening the boxes, we knew these were going to be good. The crust had puffed up and charred beautifully at the edges. The mozzarella was molten, melding into the toppings. And the smell!
I’ve eaten pizza extensively in Italy and the UK and can hand-on-heart say that what Paolo and Chiarina have created is a little piece of dough heaven right here in Suffolk. Up there in my top three.
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The dough was light, crisp and full of the kind of flavour you can only achieve with maturation. The sauce sweet. And the toppings of the highest calibre. Mine was laden with spicy, oozing Calabrian nduja sausage, and my friend’s was a seasonal affair, with datterini tomatoes, olives and artichokes. Faultless.
And yours to try at any number of events this summer, with pop-ups across mid-Suffolk.
Speaking with Paolo, the passion he has for pizza is utterly clear. He’s thought about and dissected every element to ensure perfection – from the type of flour for the base, to the process for making the sauce, and the quality of the toppings. He and Chiarina have even tried to make their pizzas as eco-friendly as possible too.
The couple (Paolo from just outside Naples and Chiarina from Stowmarket) met as students in Reading, travelling over to live and work in Siena after graduating, before moving to London in 2012, and to Suffolk in 2020.
While his day job is in insurance, pizza has always been in Paolo’s heart and it wasn’t until last year he realised it could become something bigger in their lives.
“At high school my first job in my home town was as a waiter,” he says. “But I got more and more fascinated by the guy making the pizzas, so I moved to the back and learned everything I could. I always had this passion for pizza. When we put a pizza oven in our garden and invited friends over, they said ‘this is really good, you need to sell it’ and we thought, you know what, maybe there’s something behind this. Maybe we can start a business. Lockdown hit and it made us prioritise what we wanted to do with our lives.”
All good pizza begins with good dough. Reggia’s is crafted with Italian 0 (not typically used 00) flour and fermented for 24 hours, the raw ingredients and process lending themselves to a light, crunchy and more easily digestible dough.
Tomatoes for the sauce come from San Marzano, raised in the rich soils of Mount Vesuvius. Here, Paolo is quite meticulous. “I hand mill all the tomatoes. I never use a blender,” he reveals, blowing my mind with a cooking tip I won’t forget in a hurry. “In the tomatoes the seeds, when crushed, might leave a taste of bitterness. That’s why some people have to add sugar. I have this little mill with holes in that won’t crush them.”
Choosing the mozzarella to drape over the sauce has been thought-out too. “We only use fior di latte. In Italy they would also use buffalo mozzarella but fior di latte is the most traditional. It uses milk high in fat, which means when it goes into the oven at 400 plus degrees it doesn’t burn. Sometimes pizzas in supermarkets use grated cheese and that immediately goes brown because the fat content is so low and all the water evaporates, burning the top.”
Creamy fior di latte, which I notice stays melted on my pizza throughout eating, not seizing into one big lump, is paired with Pecorino cheese on each finished dish, adding a touch of salinity (there’s no salt in the sauce), without the sharp, sour note you might get from using Parmesan.
Paolo and Chiarina work with local suppliers (such as Thurston Butchers) to bring together their toppings, supplementing these with homegrown produce.
“They change with the seasons and we always have a seasonal special,” says Paolo. “We grow all our own basil - we have one greenhouse dedicated to basil. Every time I go in the smell is just amazing. Now we’re being overloaded with courgettes so they will be on our next special pizza – maybe with blue cheese.”
Growing their own, forms just part of Paolo and Chiarina’s dedication to being as eco-friendly as they can. Wood (largely ash and beech) comes from a supplier near Stowmarket, and all boxes are recyclable, with a nifty insert inside. “You’ll see there’s a little corrugated white lining. That allows us, firstly, to recycle the boxes as the pizza is lifted off the bottom, and the shape also allows the air to flow, so the base of the pizza doesn’t go soggy!” See, they really have thought of everything.
Reggia Pizza will be at the following places over the coming weeks and can be found at Buxhall Village Hall once a month:
July 30: Prima Donna Festival, Stowmarket
August 13: Museum of East Anglia, Stowmarket – for their beer festival
August 21: At the beer and music festival in Wyveston near Bacton
August 27: Buxhall Village Hall
August 28 and 29: Stow Fiesta in Stowmarket
September 5: Bildeston Festival
For timings, menus and to pre-order or enquire about a private booking, find Reggia Pizza on Instagram and Facebook or go to reggiapizza.co.uk