There’s no place like Leo’s, truly, in the capital. No place which does pizza, only pizza, and does it so well. They’re woodfired in the gigantic oven you see as you walk in, and all handmade by Amol himself. One bite, and we’re living out all our Italian nonna dreams. They’re everything pizza should be: Italian, authentic, wonderfully light, fluffy, and topped with oodles of flavour. We find ourselves going back over and over, and it’s not just for the dogs and the delish food. The space lends itself to easy mealtimes and lingering to read some of the books on their bookshelf, or to play the games they keep handy. Everything at Leo’s is a labour of love, and like any good recipe, it is equal parts warmth and comfort.We caught up with Amol to talk all things food and philosophy.Why ‘Leo’s’?
I dedicated Leo’s after my dog and named it after him. It was important for me to name it Leo’s because of how much I’ve learnt from him, and my other dogs Max and Twix (who come round and visit, sometimes). Dogs are so loving and empathetic and my dogs have taught me so much. They remind me not to attach value to material things, and the kind of love they give, it’s so pure and unconditional.
Where does your love of pizza come from?
The love for pizza comes from way back, when I was a kid. As a picky kid, I ate pizza all the time, at home, or on vacation. It was often the only thing my parents could get me to eat. I guess all that pizza eating gave way to this. I was also fascinated by the process, watching people making the pizza, serving the dough up, tossing it in the air, cooking with fire. So I was also really drawn to that. It’s only now that I realise that I admired it as an art form, that you create and share with people.
Eventually, I did a course on pizza making in Italy (at ICIF, in Piemonte), actually even stayed with an Italian family who owned their own little pizzeria. Coming back to India, I realised how few options there are for authentic, truly Italian pizza. I opened Leo’s to fill that gap. And more than that maybe, I opened Leo’s for myself. On the days I did cook, I was happier, in a better mood. And I realised it does a lot more for me than I thought, it’s a lot more than just cooking, or just a business; it’s my therapy, my meditation. I’ve never had such a high sense of fulfilment in my life-making and serving pizzas leaves me feeling the happiest I’ve ever felt in my life. You’re on your feet all day- what d’you do to unwind after a long day?
I try and spend time with my dogs when I get back. I also play tennis (I’m a huge fan) and playing makes me just as happy as making pizza. Fitness, too, is important for me; being fit, bettering yourself each time you play. I have a long workday, but I try to make time for special friends, and I try to read as well, as much as possible. I enjoy reading philosophy- Russell and Foucault (a difficult read) are recents I’ve read. Maus, Shantaram, and Papillon would be top picks for books. Favourite pizza topping?
For the longest time, I was a pepperoni guy, but now I love a good margherita. It’s original, hard to get right and the first thing I try when I go to a new place.
Technical aspects of pizza making?
I set the dough to rest for 48 hours before baking it. It has yeast which ferments it, and makes it rise. This is pretty scientific- different factors like flours, timing, yeasts, weather, water temperature- all make a difference. For example, pizza can dehydrate you, if not rested properly. I also make my own sauce, skin and slice my own meat. But I’m still learning, because there’s so many factors, and really playing around and experimenting with stuff. Tips for people trying to make pizza at home?
The recipe is really important. An overnight rest for the dough is very important, irrespective of if you use dry or wet yeast. This allows the dough to develop flavour, it improves digestion of the food itself. Hydration also, the amount of water you put in, is important; I find a 60-70% water to flour ratio works really well.
What’s next for Leo’s?
I want to make my own cheese: buffalo mozzarella. That means sourcing the best quality milk (maybe even later get my own buffalo). Making my own cheese will add to the uniqueness, and make the pizzas even more ‘Leo’s’. I want to do a couple more desserts, salads- but stick to the original pizza. Doing a pizza journey across Italy would be cool as well.