By Peter Dewar
Sere Mangano – aka Miss Dough – now lives in West Footscray; however, she grew up in the north Italian seaside city of Rimini. Looking back, it was only a matter of time before Sere started her own traditional wood-fired pizza business.
As a toddler she’d prop on the floor, soaking in the warmth of an old-style wood-fired oven. Nearby, Nonna was busily mixing flour, water and yeast into a malleable paste. Sere watched on, mesmerised.
Her mother opened a pizza shop, also selling lasagne, arancini and piadina, a traditional flat bread. The kitchen became Sere’s playground, where she’d spend all of her time. As far as venturing outdoors, Sere would have none of it: ‘No. I want to stay here, and play with dough,’ the determined girl insisted.
Sere quickly learned how to make mouth-watering pizza, a careful blend of science and art. ‘Time and temperature are the secret,’ Sere whispers, as I watch her hands dusted in flour pummel a ball of dough. The mix is stretched out on a tray, and moments later after being laced with toppings, placed in the brick oven beside an open flame.
A good pizza base, although thin and charred, should be fluffy and easy to digest. An experienced chef will slice open a freshly-baked pizza to test their cooking. They are looking to see air bubbles inside, an appearance not unlike honeycomb.
But for a complete understanding of traditional Italian cuisine’s appeal, look beyond a recipe book.
‘Mangia. Mangia.’ Two words that fall easily from an Italian grandmother’s lips communicate much more than, ‘Eat up.’. Nonna is saying to loved ones around the table: ‘If I give you food, I care about you,’ Sere explains. ‘By respecting the food and how it is prepared, you are respecting your guests.’
Watch Miss Dough at work. In her meticulous care for every detail of the pizza-making process; accommodation of a customer’s particular tastes; and even perpetual, cheerful smile, you are witnessing the same philosophy in action.
One bite of Miss Dough’s pizza was enough to convince manager of the Blondie Bar to invite Miss Dough to the Ian Potter Centre in Southbank and set-up her benches, gazebo and brick oven.
Normally, the terraced area in front of the Melbourne Recital Centre transforms into a veritable Italian piazza at the end of the week. In the evening, patrons gather for meals and drink while live music plays.
When COVID-19 hit, bars and restaurants closed, but Miss Dough continued on. And from Thursday to Saturday each week during lockdown, Sere made pizza for a growing number of inner city customers in search of a takeaway treat.
Restrictions have lifted. It’s time to celebrate. Miss Dough and assistant Tamy will travel anywhere in the metropolitan area to make pizza at your function. She caters for children’s parties, and shows young ones how to roll dough and add their own toppings.
You can discuss your party needs with Miss Dough. Her standard menu changes each season, and with summer months approaching will include more garden extras with eggplant and zucchini expected to make a popular return.
That brings us to a matter of some controversy: pineapple. ‘In Naples if you ask for that on pizza, they kick you out,’ Sere says, laughing. Be reassured Sere is easy-going, and her only care is to have her customers smile. Yes, Miss Dough will enthusiastically cater to your request, regardless of what you like on your pizza.
For more information go to: missdough.com.au
The west is my lifelong home, and I love writing about its people, history and places of interest.