Stripped back to its very infancy, pizza is one of the most simplest concepts around. Flatten some dough, chuck on a few toppings, bake. Easy.
Conversely, though, it's also one of the easiest ones to get wrong, too. At least for me, someone who's been tagged as something of a connoisseur of pizza - something my body shape hardly leaves me in a position to deny.
It's not some innate arrogance, that I know the secrets to a good pizza and anything that doesn't meet my standards is inferior. I just know what I like. Is that so wrong?
It's horses for courses for me, is pizza. Sometimes, the heart-attack-inducing goodness (if you forgive the oxymoron) of a base thicker than the earth's crust from the local takeaway is exactly what the doctor ordered (if that doctor intended to kill you, rather than keep you alive).
Other times, for the more civilised occasion, there's the other end of the spectrum; the wafer-thin offering with artisan toppings, wood-fired and hand-stretched and not even cut. Different strokes for different folks; in between, there's Pizza Hut - a sort of middle-ground that exists in the shades of grey between black and white, and does very well out of it indeed.
I've had pizzas that have made me feel a complete fraud, declaring 'this is truly the taste of Italy!' without ever having even been to Italy, never mind taste it. I've gravely offended chefs by asking for chicken on my pizza - tip, that's apparently a real no-no - and my loyalty to my former favourite takeaway disappeared when it changed owners. We tried it, it took hours to turn up and was frankly rubbish. Never again.
Still, we soldier on and the search for perfect pizza is always worth undertaking, so our next stop on the doughy journey took us to Proove's newest opening in the chain-heavy metropolis that is Sheffield's Centertainment complex. Proove is an interesting one, a local company that began life offering mobile pizzas before opening its first restaurant in Broomhill. Centertainment is its third, adding to one in West Didsbury and 'kitchens' in Leeds and Manchester.
Opening up at the thriving retail complex should, in theory, be a no brainer, but the cautionary tale of Prezzo - which vacated this unit after shutting 94 of its UK restaurants in an attempt to stave off liquidation - looms large over restaurants and a £150,000 investment isn't exactly pocket change for an independent, albeit an obviously successful one.
Handcrafted, authentic pizza ovens, made bespoke and shipped directly from Naples, don't come cheap, though. Proove has two of them. Ingredients, like the fior di latte mozzarella, is handmade just outside Naples and the Proove team worked closely with Gaetano Genovesi, who's apparently one of the top ten pizza chefs in the world. You'll be amazed to hear he's from Naples, too, so it's little wonder to see Proove's website exclaim that they 'make [pizza] the Napoli way (which we think is the best)'. I've never been to Naples, so I'm relying on their interpretation of the 'Napoli way'. But it's good.
We started with starters, which seems to be the culturally accepted method, and plumped for arancini and crocchè, a dish I had absolutely no idea how to pronounce and not much more idea what it contained. Turns out it's a dish from Naples (!) and a version of Italian streetfood; mashed potato and egg, covered in breadcrumbs and fried.
Both were good, served in portions that didn't seem much when they appeared on the table but soon became enough. As we digest, a good look round the place; it's tastefully done, with copper features throughout and comfy booths that give the impression of a more upmarket American diner. Then, the pizza. My Americana, with pepperoni and thick, luscious peppers, is apparently a popular choice and it's easy to see why. The toppings were strong but the pièce de résistance, as they probably don't say in Naples, was the crust itself. Difficult to put into words. If you try it, you'll know.
Unfortunately the other pizza missed the mark somewhat. We were upsold buffalo mozzarella on a simple margherita but any flavour was completely overpowered by that unmistakable taste of burn. Sections of the base were completely charred and although the issue was eventually rectified with an apology and a replacement to take away, the initial explanation was that because of the higher water content in the buffalo cheese, the pizza had to be wood-fired for longer. Fair enough, but a menu explainer on that would have been welcomed. Perhaps under the line which states 'the centre of the base should be soft and not crispy.'
"Our head chef, Alberto, is really passionate about dough and goes to length of putting thermometers in the dough itself, and testing the water in the air in the kitchen," says Ian France, Proove's operation manager as we leave. "We specialise in pizza so it has to be spot on where possible, and if not we rectify the error where we can. We don't want to dilute the product or become a chain, so we won't change something just to get the sale. We want people to come for the pizza."
The replacement pizza, by the way, was excellent so, on balance, this place gets our recommendation; two out of three ain't bad, after all. Meatloaf knew his stuff. He might even, unlike me, have been to Naples.