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This Is Northern New South Wales

Pizza Volante

Kirra Pendergast-140301If anyone is in doubt that pizza is serious business, just ask the Italian government who passed a law recognised by the European Union that is solely, and comprehensively, dedicated to the art of making a Neapolitan pizza.While cries of “pizza police” could be heard throughout the country when the specialità tradizionale garantita law was passed in 2004, many applauded authorities for protecting what is considered to be one of the most ancient and significant gastronomic traditions.

The art of pizza making involves a carefully crafted fusion of history, culture, ingredients, equipment, experience and expertise – something Sandro Falzolgher knows only too well. Born on Italy’s east coast in a town called Fermo, Sandro apprenticed with some of the region’s finest pizza chefs and studied the subtleties, skills and knowledge of della pizza perfetta: the art of the perfect pizza.

After working as an auto electrician, shoemaker, mechanic and plumber – “I’m good with my hands but pizza is where I create perfection” ­– ­the then 21-year-old barista accepted a traineeship after his boss saw a promising pizzaiolo in the making. Following extensive training in some of his hometown’s biggest pizzerias, Sandro headed to Australia to visit family and work on his uncle’s banana plantation in Helensvale. This is where, perchance, he would meet his “amore” at a party.

“I didn’t speak any English and Mel was enjoying singledom,” Sandro said. “It was a perfect match that was only supposed to last until I went back to Italy… but I never went back. That was 14 years ago.”

After launching Pizza Volante in 2007 while living in Brisbane, Sandro and Mel decided to import a Di Fiore wood fired pizza oven from Italy to retain the integrity and authenticity of the pizza making process.Hand-made on the Adriatic Coast in the small town of Cupra Marittima, three generations of the Di Fiore family have been producing this premium wood-fired oven for over 60 years.

“Di Fiore pizza ovens have been made in my region for generations,” Sandro said. “I first trained with a Di Fiore Forno and from then most of the pizzerias I worked at used Di Fiore ovens.“They are made of the same earth I grew up on,” he continued. “We have a connection. A wood fired oven has a life of its own with ‘moods’. My oven and I speak the same language.”

Capturing the heart and soul of a traditional Italian pizzeria, Sandro spent four years building one of the largest mobile dome ovens in the world.“I added specialised airbag suspension to cushion the oven when we travel, which also helps to level the trailer on rough suffices,” Sandro explained. “If the oven isn’t flat the cheese melts off the pizzas.” While most mobile pizza makers struggle to keep up with the demands of hungry partygoers or busy pop-up patrons, Sandro and Mel are capable of making more than 1000 pizzas in a day.

“We love doing festivals like Woodford where one of our most popular pizza is the Vegan, or Soundwaves where the Diavola (she devil) is the winner,” said Sandro.

Seven years after building their successful Pizza Volante business, which was awarded an impressive 4-star food safety rating from Brisbane City Council, the couple has returned to Byron Shire with their children Stella and Rocco.

Mel, who went to Byron Bay Public School and graduated from Mullumbimby High School, said they both have a deep connection to the area.

“Sandro’s uncle Zio Luciano moved from Italy to Mullumbimby in the 1950s to cut sugar cane and work as a chef for the cane workers,” she explained. “He then owned and operated Mullum’s Empire Cafe and was famous for his homemade pizzas and wine, grappa, cured meats, chickens, prolific vegetable garden, banana plantations, and all things that make the Italian lifestyle so rich and full of heart.”

Despite growing up 16,000-kms apart, Meli said her childhood experiences were surprisingly similar to Sandro’s.

“We want our kids to be able to go to the beach after school like we did,” she said. “We also want them to grow up with a sense of community and be surrounded by our families.”

Whether it’s feeding guests from the driveway of a house party, the masses at a festival, or family and friends at a pop-up restaurant, Sandro and Mel say they get a great sense of soddisfazioni (satisfaction) from what they do.

“We cater an event the way we would like to have it catered so we keep it delicious, fun and affordable.”

Visit www.pizzavolante.com.au or look for the flying pizza on Facebook Pizza Volante.
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