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Pizza Portraits: The Food Trend You Never Saw Coming

Chef Domenico Crolla

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When SHAPE staffers came across Bella Napoli pizza chef Domenico Crolla's Instagram account, we couldn't help but ogle over his impressive artistry. After all, he perfectly sculpted the Pope’s face out of only cheese and sauce. We had to learn more and find out how he developed such a unique and amazing talent.
 
“It started by accident when I was trying to create a dish with cheese and it didn’t work out,” Crolla says. “Later that night I realized I could use the process that didn’t work to create designs on pizza, so the first one was the Mortal Kombat logo."
Crolla’s employees convinced him to post a picture of the pizza to Facebook and it immediately went viral. Since then, he's designed pies that feature celebrities such as Victoria Beckham, Queen Elizabeth, and Vogue editor Anna Wintour that have garnered International acclaim. And he's just getting started! In the next few months, Crolla will host exhibitions in Dubai, Miami, and Hong Kong.
 
Crolla crafted this empowering pizza exclusively for SHAPE to deliver all the rich flavor you love for fewer calories than traditional pies. Click through for an inside look at the artist in action!

Photo: Domenico Crolla

Trace Image

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“I trace the image onto baking paper with pencil,” Crolla says. “Some images don’t work because I need bright points and dark points. You need the patience to understand the drawing because it’s almost like a black and white image. You have to turn the image monochrome.”

Photo: Domenico Crolla

Create the Cheese Slice

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“The whole system that nobody realized until recently was the creation of the cheese slice,” he says. “I flip the baking paper over [so the pencil traces aren’t touching the cheese], melt the cheese for a few minutes, and allow the cheese to cool for a few minutes.” 

Photo: Domenico Crolla

Prepare the Base

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“I add sauce and half-bake the base. Those doing this at home can make their pizza with a ready-made pizza base or ask for a half-cooked pizza base from their local pizzeria,” he says. “The secret to a good pizza dough is that it’s been allowed to mature for a long time, maybe two or three days as opposed to a recipe book that will tell you to let the dough rise for 40 minutes. To make a skinnier base that has half the calories, I use half the crust and make it thin.”

Photo: Domenico Crolla

Add Cheese Slice to the Base

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“I put the cheese slice on top of the half-baked base and start to cut using a surgeon’s scalpel,” Crolla says.

Photo: Domenico Crolla

Cut the Design

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“When I first did these, I’d end up cutting the wrong piece out, but with practice you learn what to cut and what to keep,” he says. “But it takes a good, steady hand to cut fine detail. I’ve even done a fingerprint, and that took a lot of patience!”

Photo: Domenico Crolla

Fill in with Sauce

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“I always add more sauce. And I also have the sauce in a plastic squeeze bottle,” he says.

Photo: Domenico Crolla

Finish the Product

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“I re-bake the pizza to soften the edges and add some color to the cheese,” Crolla says. “Once you bake it, it’ll look nice for about one hour so it’s quite frustrating when customers phone me and ask for it to be shipped. I’ve yet to discover a way to preserve them.” 
 
For more on Domenico Crolla, check out his website and Instagram.

Photo: Domenico Crolla