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Pizzera Grand Sasso – A Historic Pizza-by-the-Slice Shop Reopens in L’Aquila

A sign that this year Spring brings more than flowers to post-earthquake L’Aquila

Today I walking towards Piazza del Duomo along the only street something caught my eye – Il Grand Sasso was open again.

Pizzeria Gran Sasso, C.so Federico II, first pizza re-opening after the quake, April 1 2010

When I first came to L’Aquila the Grand Sasso was one of the pizza by the slice places on my map. Each one was different from the other, even though they came from the same rectangular black metal pans. Three of them – San Pietro, Marcheggiana and Gran Sasso were active since Silvia (my wife) was little. It’s a good sign, like the first flower of Spring, that Gran Sasso opened today
Gran Sasso’s opened in 1969 and has been run by the Sferrella family since 1974. The place is simple, they only make good pizza and baked single-portion calzoni. Nothing more but more then enough. Their pizza is a bit oilier than the others, and the crust is fluffier. I had my favorite of theirs: a square of white pizza with mozzarella, mushrooms and sausage.

Gran Sasso Mushroom & Sausage - L'Aquila 1 April

A great way to celebrate Spring. Now between Corso Federico II and the upper half of Piazza del Duomo four shops are open: Bar Frattelli Nurzia (coffee and homemade candy), Ottica Centrale (eyewear), Giolleria Armenia (jewelry) and the Pizzeria Gran Sasso (pizza by the slice!).

PS: I’m writing this from Piazza del Duomo. The sun has come down so my fingers are freezing. More photos to come.

– Joshua Lawrence

Pizzeria Gran Sasso, reopening in downtown L'Aquila April 1st 2010, a year after the quake

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

Emily and her slice of margherita, Gran Sasso reopens April 1st!


Places, habits, memories

There’s a colleague I’ve been meaning to call for a while. Diego’s agency developed the visual image and promotional materials for Vinalia, an intimate restaurant with an amazing wine cellar and tasting bar that was just near Palazzo Margherita in the heart of l’Aquila. I had a lot of favorite places to eat and drink in L’Aquila, and Vinalia was where I went when I wanted something intimate, elegant and refined (and was in the mood to pay for it). Marzia Buzzanca, Vinalia’s mind, heart and soul was somehow able to transmit her rich knowledge of wine and her attention to detail, but also make you feel at ease and somehow in control. Of course she was playing with a stacked deck. It was all good. And the nights where dinners were combined with wine tastings guided by representatives of some of most renown winemakers in Italy and France became relaxed sumptuous dinner parties among friends.
I still have one of the last messages she sent out to Vinalia’s followers:

“All the bottles in the wine cellar are now on sale. Please look at the website. If you are interested please write me with what you want and where to send it now.
Please pass this on.
A big Hug”

When I started this blog, I started out with a brief piece on Vinalia, finishing with a promise to write again about what Marzia and her people were able to do. Now I have to work from blurry memory.
When I lived in Venice as a student twenty years ago I first began to feel that cities were far more than the sum of their streets and buildings and the people animating them. What counted was how you would interact with the people and places there – and your relationship with the city itself.
It’s not a question of not being able to go for wine in Vinalia or Il Bar Garibaldi or Fenice or Ju Boss, or go for an espresso at Caffé Polar or the Frattelli Nurzia. Or no longer being able to have a last minute neapolitan pizza at Bella Napoli for Friday lunch with my girls, or sneak a slice at one of a dozen different places around town, or even just reading the shared newspaper at the bar in Piazza San Pietro in front of Silvia’s university office.
The people behind what made these and other places so enjoyable are still alive and that’s what counts most. Many have already reopened bars and eateries elsewhere in town. When something this big and bad happens you discover that rebuilding your life comes naturally.
But what what was part of my life and thousands of others is gone. Thirty seconds was all it took to transform one of Italy’s lesser known but more beautiful historic centers, a place where tens of thousands of people would live, work, shop, study or just hang out with friends, into a vast, mostly inactive, construction site.
But I think my youngest daughter Emily was more eloquent. At the beginning of this Summer when she was saying goodbye to her cousin who had come to visit us at the hotel that housed and cared for us in Montesilvano. “Your are so lucky that you can go back to your everyday and habits”