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 Totonno’s (“I’m 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 Pulino’s — 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 he’s strictly a caterer and guru, to the disappointment of the neighborhood types who’ve been asking him when he’s going to start selling pies. Bello says: “I’m 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 he’s tried out. For mozzarella he’s 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 that’s rarely sold in retail stores, and a pizza peel (or paddle) that’s small enough for your crappy apartment oven. Bello tells us he’s planning to offer specialized classes in the future, but one thing he won’t 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 he’s inscribed in bracelets: "DEATH BEFORE DEEP DISH."
Pizza a Casa, 371 Grand St., nr. Norfolk St.; 212-228-5483; www.pizzaacasa.com