One of Caritas' intrepid pizza students shows off the fruits of his labour. Credits: Hough/Caritas

One of Caritas’ intrepid pizza students shows off the fruits of his labour.
Credits: Hough/Caritas

By Michelle Hough

Take some flour, water, yeast, tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and a pinch of salt.
Add 15 immigrants from around the world.
Mix them together with a Caritas Roma course…

The fire’s stoked up, the ingredients are ready and for 15 immigrants in Rome, today is exam day.

They’ve gathered at a cooking school in the suburbs of the Eternal City to show what they’ve learned on a 200-hour pizza-making course run by Caritas Roma.

“One of the most difficult things about making a pizza is trying to get it into the centre of the oven,” says Saeed Anwar from Afghanistan. “You have to make sure it doesn’t drop off the spade as you shovel it in. You also have to make sure it doesn’t go too near the edges so it doesn’t get burnt.”

For the exam, students cook not only pizza but also mouth-watering starters such as rice balls, stuffed olives and potato croquettes. Once they’ve completed the practical exam they’ll do 150 hours work experience in pizza restaurants around Rome to hone their craft and test their skills on the Italian public.

“A good pizza you judge by how it tastes when it’s cold, not when it’s hot. All pizzas are good when they’re hot,” says Maurizio Capodicasa, one of the course teachers.

The students come from Afghanistan, Indonesia, the occupied Palestinian territories, Cuba, Tunisia and Chile. Some have already had experience as chefs.

“Pizza making isn’t so difficult for me as I used to be a cook in Pakistan and India and I made nan bread,” says Saeed.

As they lay out the final pizzas to be judged by the examiner I start to feel hungry. There’s cheese and tomato pizza, sausage pizza, courgette pizza, vegetable pizza. It all looks very good. I’m offered a piece of courgette and cheese pizza. Delicious!

So what will the pizza makers do once they’ve completed their work experience in Rome’s pizzerias?

“I’m hoping that peace returns to my country,” says Sha Subair, 22, who left Afghanistan because of the war. “ If it ever gets easy to go back to my country, I’ll go back home and open a pizzeria in Jalalabad.”