The first weekend I came to L’Aquila, in 1994, I discovered two places that have been making my mouth water ever since. Ju Boss, the city’s oldest wine bar, and the slightly spicy hot pizzette, or mini-pizzas from Pane e Lavoro.
Ju Boss is still off limits in the “red zone” that was the city I loved so much, and it’s fans have to wait, destroying their livers elsewhere. But Pane e Lavoro, in the Torrione neighborhood, is open again.
I never have asked them the details about their bakery or their pizzette, I just buy them and, more importantly, I eat them with conviction. It’s not the city’s most renown bakery, but I’ve never heard any ill spoken of it either.
The come in two sizes: round pizzette that could cover your outstretched hand to the fingertips, and smaller round pizzette that would rest in the palm of your hands. Just pizza dough and a generous dash of chunky tomato sauce. Especially the chunky kind.
Torrione is the neighborhood Silvia was born in. It’s name comes from the “tower” that is actually the last remaining leg of the Roman aqueduct that carried water from sources on the Gran Sasso, the Apennine’s tallest mountain, to the baths and fountains of Amiternum. (The ruins of Amiternum are visitable near near one of the largest post-earthquake housing projects the government is building for the thousands of us still homeless. But more on that another time.) The tower today is half what it was at Christmas, its ancient bricks littered around like shavings from a hyperactive child’s crayon.
The Torrione neighborhood was built following World War II and is today a gateway to the old city. It was full of shops as well as apartments and schools. Very few people have been able to moved back but like grass after a forest fire, shops are sprouting again.
The Pane e Lavoro bakery is one of them. As is a branch of the Pane di Prata bakery. And Il Buongustaio, one of the best little butcher and specialty food stores in town is making the best of things. They are now an affordable but for unbeatable quality take away and have set up a few picnic tables under a tent outside.
“Pane e lavoro” means bread and work. What can be a more fitting starting point for the reconstruction of L’Aquila than the bakery and what’s still standing after 2000 years of Roman bricks and mortar.
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