ESSEX is awash with pizza parlours, but there is only one place where you can acquire authentic Sicilian pizzas – held by many, and not just the Sicilians themselves, to be the best in all Italy.

La Pizzeria, Richard Burzotta’s Westcliff restaurant, is the result of a long-held dream.

He has always wanted to offer Essex people the full Sicilian pizza experience, without the need to travel to the toe of Italy.

Richard, 35, admits he is prejudiced. Although a fully-fledged Southender, he spent the first 14 years of his life living in the sun-baked, food-mad Mediterranean island.

“Everything about the Sicilian pizzas makes them the best,” says Richard.

“The ingredients. The stove. The recipes. They are not like other pizzas and certainly not like the ones from a takeaway chain.”

At the heart of the operation is La Pizzeria’s specialised oven, unique in Britain, outside London.

It was made by a small family firm in Sicily, to Richard’s exact specification, at a cost of £9,000.

“I could have paid a lot less for a pizza oven, but it would not have been the same,” he says.

Every pizza that emerges from this oven is brushed by the Sicilian landscape – it is lined with volcanic stone from the island.

The other key factor, of course, is Richard himself, who makes and bakes the pizzas with his own hands, pouring love and devotion into every doughball.

Richard also makes the sausages and the meatballs himself, along with another Sicilian speciality, panelle.

“They are chips, but made from chick pea flour, not potatoes,” he says.

For the first time, Richard Burzotta has been kind enough to share the secrets of his Sicilian pizza base recipe.