As anticipated, Mark Bello will open his pizza self-sufficiency center this week on the Lower East Side. On Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, the amateur pizzaiolo turned caterer will teach students how to home-bake pizzas inspired by coal-oven pies like his favorite, the one at Totonnos (Im a big fan of pizza with the bubbles and blisters and the charred bits, Bello tells us.) So is Bello someone you want to learn from? Well, he tells us one of his students is now working at Pulinos and he was also hired as a consultant by a retired cop and his brother-in-law, who last month opened a Harlem slice joint, Pizza on Lex (2021 Lexington Avenue near 123rd Street). As for opening a place of his own, Bello says it could happen sometime in the next five years, but for now hes strictly a caterer and guru, to the disappointment of the neighborhood types whove been asking him when hes going to start selling pies. Bello says: Im contemplating getting a neon sign in the window saying We Do Not Sell Pizza.
As you can see in our slideshow, Pizza a Casa will consist of a retail store in addition to a classroom in the front, Bello is selling his products of choice, starting with bottled La Bella San Marzano tomato passata, which has the best viscosity among all the sauces hes tried out. For mozzarella hes loyal to Alleva Dairy of Little Italy, and he makes his dough by combining King Arthur all-purpose unbleached flour with sea salt, water, yeast, and olive oil. Also for sale: a pizza wheel thats rarely sold in retail stores, and a pizza peel (or paddle) thats small enough for your crappy apartment oven. Bello tells us hes planning to offer specialized classes in the future, but one thing he wont be teaching you to do is to make a deep-dish pizza. Despite having lived in Chicago, the native New Yorker lives by a motto that hes inscribed in bracelets: "DEATH BEFORE DEEP DISH."
Pizza a Casa, 371 Grand St., nr. Norfolk St.; 212-228-5483; www.pizzaacasa.com