Category Archives: Pizza

A Slice of History – Pizza Where (They Say) it All Began

Enjoying the oldest tourist trap in naples.

There are two things that Neapolitans all seem to be experts on: espresso and pizza. I have known people from Naples who brought their own tap water north to Italy’s fashion capital because they were convinced that it’s just not the same without their water.

The water idea is a bit overblown, but in the right place, I have tasted some of the best espresso in the world here (Bar Mexico in Piazza Garibaldi across from the main train station is one of the best http://wp.me/pfkhI-70 ). The real question is, can we really tell the difference between an excellent neapolitan pizza and a sublimely excellent neapolitan pizza? And if we cant’ get the best, is it really such a tragedy to settle for excellent?

Pizza at Brandi......

For some people living under the shadow of Vesuvius, it is. Which is why they frown on Brandi.

Brandi, on a side street of via Chiaia, not far from the San Carlo opera house and the Royal Palace, claims to be the place that made the first pizza named for Queen Margaret of Savoy, Italy’s queen in 1889. The “pizza margherita” is pizza at it’s most basic and essential – dough, mozzarella, tomato sauce, a drop of oil and a few basil leaves to give it the three colors of the Italian flag. Choice ingredients are one of the reasons why it can be so good: buffalo mozzarella from the town of Aversa and tomatoes gown in soil embedded with volcanic ash from Vesuvius are a large part of it. The art of the the few pizzaioli (pizza-makers) who know the exact mixture of flour the best timing for the yeast according to the weather can take whole mix over the top to pizza heaven.

Pizza and fried antipasti at Brandi, Via chiaia

Brandi, despite the history, is not considered the pinnacle of pizzerie like olther famous places like Da Michele, Starita and Sorbillo by the pizza lovers I know here.

In fact, among many it’s reputation in town is not very good. It appears for years it rested on the laurels of history and the convenience of its location and forgot the pizza part. But other friends her have reminded me they got their act together and have talented pizza makers again.

Which is good because the last time my girls were in town with me we happened to be around the corner from Brandi in Piazza Plebiscito just when our sore feet and grumbling stomachs caught up to us. It was early – only 8 p.m. – so we were able to swing the impossible on a Saturday night: the last of the eight little tables outside on the street. We ordered a plate of fried antipasti and four Pizza Margheritas. The two old men singing and serenading the guests had the place as their official territory, making their presence more friendly and less imposing and, of course, we sang along. The atmosphere was both touristy and authentic, and above all fun.

PIzza Margherita yum

Were we missing the best pizzas the world has to offer? Probably. But as we nibbled away at our our excellent pizzas in the cool evening air, we really didn’t care.


Antica Pizzeria – Ristorante Brandi, Salita S. Anna di Palazzo (on the corner of via Chiaia) http://www.brandi.it, Tel 081- 416928
Brandi dates back to 1780, but under another name.

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How Not To Lose weight – Aperitivi at Caffè Venezia

There’s no more free lunch they say, but are they right?

Today Italy celebrates its 150 year anniversary as a unified nation. So everyone had a day off. This weeks forecast of week of constant rain was wrong for the first half of the day at least, so the four of us walked down town to look for an Italian flag.

And of course, around lunchtime, we got hungry. But not enough for dinner. So we decided to toast in Unity Day at Caffè Venezia.

Caffè Venezia prosecco cocktail


I first heard about Pescara’s Caffè Venezia in the months after l’Aquila’s earthquake. It was late April 2009 and tens of thousands of us were dazed April guests in summer hotels and apartments up and down the Adriatic. Our hotel-refuge, “Nel Pineto” was in Montesilvano, a northern suburb of Pescara separated from the sea by a sandy strip shaded by centuries old pine trees. It was much better than the tent cities our former neighbors were enduring back home but, as anyone who has ever visited a major summer sea and sand tourist stop in winter can tell you, it can feel pretty isolated. Evening visits to modern downtown Pescara (Abruzzo’s largest city) was the closest escape from the lobby we had.

Caffè Venezia snackplate

During our first weeks there the legend of the aperitivo at Caffè Venezia had already started to spread, at least in our hotel. And there was one reason – the snack plate. When you’ve been shaken, getting a huge plate of pizza and fried snacks with your drinks can feel like fresh water after a dry desert trek.

Caffè Venezia and Love

Bar Venezia is the city’s downtown food service juggernaut (steamroller). Other places may be cozier, closer to the sea, serve more creative food and cocktails or have a better wine list. But the Venezia wins in size and scope while somehow also being good. Nothing amazing, just good. On the inside there’s a pastry shop with amazing ice cream and chocolates as well, it also has pizzas by the slice and a cafeteria serving local dishes and seafood enticing enough to make me hungry while walking through on a full stomach

Caffè Venezia aftermath

I still, however, have not yet gone beyond eating and drinking what makes it to the sea of tables outside. The cocktail list is long but I usually end up with the fruity house cocktail with a dash or prosecco or an Aperol spritz, but my main goal, like that of my post-earthquake companions almost two years ago, is the complimentary food plate. A mountain of pizzette, miniature panzerotti (little deep fried pizza pockets) and a dozen other fried and oven-baked delights. Not good for the waistline, but comforting.

Work and parenting make my pre- lunch or dinner aperitivo escapes few and far between (Although my teenage daughters do agree to a non-alcoholic escape with there dad from time to time).

But it at least when we want to celebrate after a walk to downtown Pescara we know where we can sit oustide all year round and toast the day.

Pescara’s Caffè Venezia

Caffè Venezia, Pescara

For those of you reading this on Facebook or elsewhere, it was first published on carbonara.wordpress.com

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Pizzette in the Land of Pizzelle

What to do in Pescara when it’s a sunny Saturday in November and you don’t want to get the dishes dirty

I’ve been spending most of the last few months in Naples, the city that gave pizza it’s name and fame, so it would appear odd that I’m writing about Pescara’s pizzette first.
The reason is simple, pizzette on the Adriatic coast are a part of the landscape, and at least from Vasto to Pescara, Numana, and Rimini a couple of oven-fresh pizzette have been part of my life for at least 20 years. And my main focus here is not cooking, or food, but life in Italy through an edible lense.
Pescara’s pizza are very different from their bigger neapolitan cousins – they are breadier, crunchier, oilier, they come out of modern (not wood) ovens in individual pans fused together by the dozen like a primordial cupcake pan. What they have in common is an unspiced tomatoe sauce in which you can still taste the sun, and dashes of mozzarella in which you can savour traces of fresh cream.

Pizzette in Pescara!

Pizzette in Pescara!


Until Pescara became our home, and not just a summer day-trip from L’Aquila, it’s unique pizzette were just a special prize after a relaxing post-afternoon swim.
The Trieste beach concession is by far the town’s most famous pizzetteria in town and they seem to excel in keeping summer alive in our tummies and our minds as we pass from one season to another. At least three times in the last month, if the sun is shining on our faces as we were leaving Sunday mass or picking up the girls after school on Saturday* we would magically forget that lunch was waiting for us at home and we would instead steer our bikes down the beach to the river that cuts this city in two. Like donkeys insisting on a rest they would brake in front of Trieste.

If it wasn’t for the long pants, coats and scarves it feels like it’s still Summer; the tables in front are full of people in sunglasses nibbling pizzette and watching their neighbors stroll by. In back it’s even more laid back, same sunglasses but they’re there to soak up what’s left of the afternoon sun. The plastic castles and mazes and swings are still mounted in the sand just behind, and the smaller clients are enjoying the giant plastic toys so much it makes me jealous.
One word of warning, I suspect that one of the secrets to Trieste’s pizzette is that they adhere to Henry Ford’s idea of customer satisfaction: you can have any pizzetta you want as long as it’s a margherita.** The menu does give other choices, basic white (foccaccia), white with sausage, anchovies, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, etc. Only the first two are real possibilities, but mostly in their inland evening joint in the Portanova dining and pub district..
If you really do insiste on anchovies they will make it for you but be willing to wait a while. Except, of course,during the summer; when the beach umbrellas are in full bloom they will look at you like you’re from Mars as they prepare racks and racks of margheritas for the throngs in sunscreen and flip-flops.
Trieste, however, is not about choice, it’s about instant gratification. If you want variety you can choose between wine or beer, Fanta or Coke, still water or bubbly water.
And trust me, the only real choice you will want to make as November’s last rays beat upon your brow, is if you will be eating two, or three, or four……

*In much of provincial Italy school goes from about 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
** Margheria = mozzarella and tomato sauce. Mr. Ford is famous for saying that his clients can have any color car they want as long as it was black.

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