Tag Archives: pescara

Stubborn September Summer

Good Gelato Goes Well With Anytime

Mid-september is when they start taking down the umbrella farms that cover the long sandy beaches that stretch up and down the Abruzzo coast. The crowds of people tempting skin cancer, like many of our fake-palm tree neighbors or hiding in the shade (me) are giving way leaving behind the few of us who insist on ignoring Fall home chores to keep their feet in the salty sand.

It’s dusk today and although the shadows are long the sun still seers, forcing me to turn my shirt-collar up. The waves are just strong enough to compete with the din of scattered card players getting in one last game of Burraco or Briscola before the games must be moved indoors until Spring.

I’m allergic to cards, so I have to fight against the coming Autumn my own way. The choice fell, of course, on the best gelato on this part of Pescara’s northern riviera.

Plinius has always been one of the neighborhood’s more consistent beachfront concessions and it’s seafood restaurant, unlike many in this tourist town, is open all year round. This year they teamed up with downtown Pescara’s upstart artisanal gelato and espresso bar “L’Altro Gelato e Caffe”. The mother store, in Piazza Salotto in the heart of the main evening passeggiata street and square (look up “Piazza della Rinascita”, the square’s official name, if checking on a map) goes out of its way to make tasty, rich gelato with local fruits, Sicilian almonds or pistachios or chocolate and vanilla from Madagascar. The coffee is arguably the best in town, although only one varietal at a time makes it the mile-or-so up the Adriatic coast to the Plunius.

Tell me then, who is enjoying this September Sunday evening more: my friends and family playing cards around the beach cot to my left; or me, with my feet in the cool sand as I gaze towards Dalmatia (too far away too see across the soft waves) and slowly savor Italian ice cream with ingredients from the Indian Ocean?

Or does it really matter?

Follow me on Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/JoshuaLawrence

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

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Carbonara-by-Joshua-Lawrence/291542554139?ref=ts

20120923-182031.jpg

20120923-182138.jpg

20120923-182148.jpg

20120923-182156.jpg

20120923-182204.jpg

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

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Carbonara-by-Joshua-Lawrence/291542554139?ref=ts

Follow me on Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/JoshuaLawrence

Prosecco on FoodistaProsecco

Pizza on FoodistaPizza

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.

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

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Carbonara-by-Joshua-Lawrence/291542554139?ref=ts


Pizza

Pizza Margherita on FoodistaPizza Margherita

Tomato on FoodistaTomato

Tomatoes, Mozzarella and Basil, Oh My!

Datterini” tomatoes are in season in Italy!

Pomodori datterini

One of my fondest memories, of my paternal grandfather, was roaming Southwestern Wisconsin in search of “perfect” tomatoes for the first BLT of the summer. For those of you unfortunate enough to not know what a BLT is, it’s a sandwich made with bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise.

Grandpa Miles, bought the bacon from a butcher in the town of Plain, the lettuce came from a grocery store, or someone’s garden –– it didn’t matter where. The bread was white and the more processed the better. But, the tomatoes had to be excellent, and locally grown. Back then, in the rural, sparsely populated Midwestern countryside, tomatoes, as most veggies like sweet corn, peppers and cucumbers were good only when they were in season and grown nearby. Come to think of it, that’s probably true today.

We had other pastimes when I visited Grandpa Miles in Lone Rock. One was fishing off of sandbars in the Wisconsin River for perch and other pan fish. The other was watching “Wheel of Fortune” –– that’s when my grandmother Genny joined us for the fun. But, finding perfect tomatoes for BLT’s is the one activity that means summer for me. Summer and tomatoes and driving from farm stand to farm stand go hand in hand in my memory.

Caprese Salad Ingredients - datterini style

Even knowing that tomatoes originated in the Americas and are relatively new to the European diet, having spread in common use in the 1800s, the variety of tomatoes in Italy is striking. Especially if you grew up, like me, with only two kinds: the baseball or softball sized, roundish tomatoes, or the smaller, cherry tomatoes. I’m still becoming aware of the varieties available here on the Boot.

When it’s hot, as it was in Pescara today, one of the great summer lunchtime fallbacks is insalata caprese – the salad named for the island of Capri, in the Gulf of Naples. An insanely simple salad, caprese consists of sliced tomatoes, alternating with sliced fresh mozzarella, a leaf of sweet basil scattered here and there, and a few lines of good extra vergine olive oil drizzled over. If you really have to, a pinch of salt, to taste, may be added. Which brings me to the tomatoes.

Silvia bought a couple of pounds of pomodori datterini, literally “date-like tomatoes,” the other day. Pomodori datterini are about the same size and shape as dates and as

Lunch today: datterini tomatoes, abruzzo mozzarella, basil, salad

intensely sweet. But, their color, flavor, and aroma are all Ferrari red. They were a great substitute for the larger varieties usually used in caprese. We added a green salad (the “soncino” variety) with a dressing of the same olive oil and balsamic vinegar from Modena. Along with a few slices of local bread, the lunch turned out to be a meal that Sofia, and I agreed, was light, filling and very, very wonderful. Grandpa Miles would have approved.

Pomodori datterini begin appearing in early summer. Buy them up.

– Joshua Lawrence

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

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Carbonara-by-Joshua-Lawrence/291542554139?ref=ts


D&D (Datterini tomatoes & De Cecco olive oil)

Diced datterini tomatoes and basil

Grape Tomato on FoodistaGrape Tomato

Tomato on FoodistaTomato

Basil on Foodista


Mozzarella Cheese


Caprese Salad

Insalata Caprese on Foodista

Eight Great Pizza Places in Italy

Joshua’s Ongoing Search for Great Italian Pizza.

If Italy is the birthplace of pizza, then Napoli is its crib. Pizza, as we know it today––a round flatbread topped with tomato sauce and cheese – was already a popular dish in Naples in 1889, when Raffaele Esposito, a local pizza maker, made one for Italy’s Queen Margherita di Savoia.   He had only to add a few petals of basil, and the Pizza Margherita was born!

It’s only natural that a food as tasty and simple as pizza would be replicated, to the extent that it can be.  Which is why pizza, in one form or another, can be found almost everywhere on this earth. I still remember skipping the organized lunch in Vilnius, Lithuania, when I was seventeen on a school exchange to the Soviet Union, to have lunch at a place with a sign that read “pizza” in Latin letters. I’m sure that the pizza I ate there, as well as much of the other food in the USSR, helped to convince me that I should study Italian and not Russian.  My friend, Emily, had a similar experience on a quest for Iceland’s best pizza joints.   My point is that wherever you travel, the best pizza is almost always in Italy.

I am not a pizza purist.  While, I do love the original Neapolitan margherita, I am also a sucker for other forms. Silvia used to joke that I had my own little via crucis of holy pizza by the slice places in town.  She was right.

Here’s a list of my favorite pizza places in Italy, from sit down to the original slice on the go (unfortunately, I have not made it to Naples in years, so we’ll have to settle for the rest of Italy – for now).  This brief list does not pretend to classify some of the best pizza I’ve enjoyed in order of greatness––comparing the classic Neapolitan margherita to fried bakery panzerotti in Milan is like comparing aged wine and beer. It is simply the beginning of a journey into Italian pizza and is destined to evolve and, more important, to grow.

Like my waistline.

1) And 2) La Bella Napoli / Vesuvius – L’Aquila 

These pizzerie, with entangled histories, were the only true pizzerie in L’Aquila for the Neapolitan pizza purists.  Vesuvio was one of the first pizzeria downtown. When it moved out to the crowded suburbs, to a place with parking, La Bella Napoli moved into its old location near the University and town hall. The only real difference between the two is size – Vesuvio is now bigger and spacious, the little rooms at La Bella Napoli made things more intimate and you felt closer to the couple who ran it. Both make exquisite pizza, with choice ingredients and crust with just the right amount of chewiness.

Vesuvio has re-opened since the earthquake (Via Australia 1, Pettino, AQ 67100, Tel 0862 313893). I have no word on La Bella Napoli, but I know its former location is completely off-limits.

3) Pizza Ciro – Roma

Pizza Margherita (foto from http://www.pizzaciro.it)

Instinctively, I resist chains, but Ciro in Rome is the best place in the Eternal City when you just want to sit down for a quick bite with friends.  The best of the chain is located next to the Sala Umberto prose theatre. The pizza here is the kind Naples is famous for, and the addition of buffalo mozzarella is worth the small surcharge. If you’ve never had mozzarella di buffalo, order a fresh ball on the side (with a basket of wood-oven baked triangles of focaccia). If it’s rained all day, and is too humid for proper yeast rising, order one of their excellent pasta dishes.  My favorite is egg pasta with zucchini, clams and pachino (cherry tomatoes).

Via della Mercede, 43-45, half way between Piazza del Popolo and the Trevi fountain, and other locations.  www.pizzaciro.it

4) Trieste – Pescara

The Trieste beach concession has been making small round pizzette for 40 years. Each pizzette is cooked in its own little saucer, connected on racks like a crazed muffin tray. These pizzette are a bit oily (local olive oil) and slightly crunchy. Ever since a friend dragged us there, from our beach umbrella a mile away, I’ve been daydreaming about it. The owners have since opened another place in the newer Portonuovo restaurant district just south of the river (open nights only). The pizzette here are as good on a blistering winter’s evening as they are after a day at the beach   Beach concessions and pizza at Lungomare Matteotti, 102, and more recently  in Corso Manthoné 27, but only after 6pm   http://www.triestepizza.com

5)  Luini – Milan

Luini is a bakery behind the historic Rinascente department store and just a few steps from La Scala and Milan’s cathedral (Duomo). The foccaccia is good, but they are most famous for their panzerotti (fried pocket pizzas). The panzerotti are delectable and quite affordable for Milan’s fashion and banking district.  But watch out, because you risk dripping sauce or cheese oil on your tie or jacket as you first bite into one. I’ve already featured them here (http://wp.me/pfkhI-v ). No place to sit down, but Piazza San. Fedele has a few concrete benches. (Via S. Radegonda 16, http://www.luini.it)

6)  Il Canguro – L’Aquila and Pescara

There are a few other great pizza by the slice places in L’Aquila, but “the Kangaroo” is the only favorite I can still find open––at least, one has re-opened in L’Aquila near the L’Aquila Est highway exit.  Luckily, there is another in Piazza Duca degli Abruzzi near my temporary home in Pescara. The pizza is like the Rome’s “pizza rustico” only, here, you pay by the slice, not by weight. Each slice has the surface area of a brick and is crispy on the bottom and slightly chewy below the toppings. In addition to their margherita, they are also known for pizza with cherry (“pachino”) tomatoes, smoked scamorza cheese, champignon mushrooms and sausage, or mozzarella, mushrooms and black truffle paste. 

7) Lo Zozzone – Rome

Lo Zozzone, great foccaccia pannini in Rome

Hidden in a side street near Piazza Navona, Zozzone is a hybrid between a sandwich shop and a pizza on the go place. They don’t really have pizza, but make all their sandwiches in front of you using freshly baked focaccia and whatever ingredients you point out. The name – literally “the big messy one” is probably because you’ll have olive oil dripping down from the sun dried tomatoes or artichoke hearts. Street food, they only have a few chairs and tables.

Via del Teatro Pace, 32 – Rome

8) Pane e Lavoro – L’Aquila

Pane e Lavoro makes the best bakery pizzetta in l’Aquila.  Round, wide as a coffee can lid, the ball of sizzled tomato sauce in the middle had just a whiff of mildly hot pepper. We made this our last stop on our way out of town for our family road trips. The bag was usually empty before we made it to the other side of the tunnel under Gran Sasso. Pane e Lavoro was the first of my old haunts to re-open after the earthquake. (http://wp.me/pfkhI-1A )

And, we’ve just started.

Why don’t you let me know about your favorites.

– Joshua Lawrence

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

Dessert Pizza – Happy World Nutella Day

(today, February 5th)

Nutella is a national Italian icon of sweet addiction. It’s as common in the Italian pantry as peanut butter is in America. And this delicious concoction of vegetable oil, powdered milk and chocolate is addictive – at least psychologically. In Italy people tend to have smaller fridges so sneaking off at midnight to spoon ice cream directly from the carton to your mouth is out of the question.

Nutella Pizza

You do not need to keep Nutella in the freezer or the fridge. I can be hidden anywhere – in your desk, behind books on your shelf, wherever.
It’s also versatile – you can eat it raw, bake it into brownies. It’s by far the most common spread for winter crêpe vendors (Sofia has one every Saturday afternoon in Piazza Salotto here in Pescara.).
The great writers who invented World Nutella Day (www.nutelladay.com), the unofficial annual celebration this chocolate and hazel nut spread have a long list of recipes.

Homemade Nutella and M&M Pizza

One great way to end a pizza dinner is Nutella pizza. Some pizzerias here serve it (but only order it if it’s on the menu, others feel offended by the idea). Our cousin Martina had us over to her house for homemade pizza two weeks ago. She topped it off with two Nutella and M&M pizzas with crumbled cookies sprinkled on top. The kids loved it, and the rest of us pretended to be kids.

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

For a great article on Nutella: http://blogs.creativeloafing.com/dailyloaf/2009/08/10/lunching-with-nutella-and-a-recipe-for-nutella-ice-cream/

Twitter: JoshuaLawrence

Flattened, Pressed, Crispy, Addictive

Italy’s answer to potato chips

One of the joys of Italian food is that the menu is massive. A stroll through an urban food market can be as full of eye-candy as a walk through the Vatican Museums. You can have a different dish at every meal and never eat the same food in the rest of your life. To make things even more interesting, and confusing, the names for what you eat can change from place to place. Part of the reason for this is that, although a dish may have the same name in different regions, recipes vary from region to region; from family to family. Take Lasagna, for instance. In Emilia Romagna, where it is most renown, Lasagna is usually made with a béchamel sauce. Here in the Abruzzo region, farther south, cheese–– fresh mozzarella to be exact–– takes the place of the béchamel. It’s still called “lasagna”, but with very different ingredients. And, those are only two variations for lasagna

Still Life - Onion and Rosemary Schiacciata and Wine

Then, there’s the issue of using the same ingredients, but calling the result by a different name. That’s what I found when I went to write about the addictive schiacciata our nearest bakery makes. The name is a minefield.

The word Schiacciata means crushed, pressed, squished, flattened. Wile Coyote is regularly schiacciato by Anvils, for example. In some areas, rectangular slightly risen crackers may be called schiacciata, but in much of Toscana (the region of Florence, Siena, Pisa, etc.) it means low focaccia bread. And then focaccia itself, in some places, is a synonym for pizza, but in other places, is similar to pizza but is either higher and fluffier or lower and denser. Focaccia is almost always without tomato sauce. Almost always.

Onion Schiacciata

Il Gemello, the bakery nearest our house, does not make the large hearty loaves of bread we adored in L’Aquila, but we console ourselves with its thin, salty variety. Unleavened, spread paper thin, it is so crispy it can only be sold in sheets the size of a small television screen. Il Gemello sells several varieties: “semplice”, its simple, basic form with olive oil and large grained salt; rosemary with toasted rosemary needles sprinkled over it; and, my favorite, onion schiacciata –– sweet onions cut thin as hairs and baked in fare. The anchovy schiacciata must also be great, because it’s always sold out when I get

there.

Buying schiacciata is easy. The hard part is getting it home. The temptation to break off a corner is easy to cave into. However, it’s so fragile that it often breaks on its own, so why not help it along. Alas, one little bite leads to another…and I have to go back to the bakery.

Schiacciata

We always seem to be out of sciacciata.


If you are reading this on Facebook, please also look up the orginal blog: carbonara.wordpress.com

by Joshua Lawrence