According to Raimondo Rosmini, the two most important ingredients in making a pizza are chemistry and passion. "I love pizza. I love pizza," he says with life-or-death gravitas. When discussing his career, the Caserta native (just north of Naples), who prefers to go by Mr. Ray, gets so riled up, his English sometimes fails him. He speaks about pizza in a combination of hand signs and pidgin English so colorful, it can be hard to believe he isn't putting on a Benigni-esque show.
Welcome to the world of Mr. Ray. He remembers clearly that he arrived in Houston from London on August 14, 2014. Back in Blighty, he had long been chef at the original Mascalzone, in London.
The centerpiece of the menu both in England and at Houston's two Mascalzones, is a calzone-pizza hybrid that Mr. Ray says he invented "14 years ago, just for the funny." But it turned out that what he called a "calzone pizza" had legs.
It wasn't the first invention that got Mr. Ray notice. In 1997, at age 21, he unexpectedly won a national Italian pizza-making competition with his "Pizza Mr. Ray," which he describes as "a big calzone I put in the oven and forgot."
He still occasionally serves the puffy pizza, which resembles an Indian poori covered with prosciutto di Parma and filed with buffalo mozzarella, arugula and cherry tomatoes.
He plans to head to Barcelona in October to compete in the World Cup of Pizza. Luckily, he's continued to innovate. His latest recipe recently made its off-menu debut at the Westheimer location of Mascalzone, where Mr. Ray spends most of his time, cooking and training young pizzaioli who come from Italy to work with him. It will be added to the next edition of the official bill of fare, he says.
When most of us think dessert pizza, Nutella often comes to mind. Mr. Ray's is lighter and more summer-appropriate with a base of yogurt and a topping of frutti di bosco—strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. The chemistry of carefully chosen ingredients and perfect proportions for Houston humidity that result in a chewy crust with a backbone of crispness is in full force in the dessert pizza as well. A dusting of powdered sugar lends a subtle sweetness to the acid of yogurt and berries. And just like that, it looks like Mr. Ray might have yet another winner.