Tag Archives: pizza

Easter’s Sweet and Salty Treat – Pizza Pasquale and Salami

When a Pizza Really Can’t be Called a Pizza but is Still Good

PIzza Pasquale & Salame Aquilana

One combination of flavors I don’t often find in Italian food is the mix of sweet and salty. The rare examples, honey or marmalade on aged pecorino or warm melted scamorza cheeses, are the earthy exceptions. And so is pizza pasquale.

In Abruzzo, it wouldn’t be Easter without a pizza pasquale, or two. The loaves (made from levened bread, not pizza dough) are about the size of a rugby ball and are usually dark on the outside with a ice cream sprinkles melted into a rainbow on the crust. The inside is yellowish and crumbly and just a little sweet.

Pizza pasquale, salame dell'Aquila, Lurré Montepulciano

Silvia tells me that Easter morning, when she was little, her grandfather used to wake her, and all the other grandkids, by opening the shutters and letting the morning sun spill into the room. He then passed around a platter of pizza pasquale and sliced L’Aquila Salame or dried Salsiccia.

But, don’t let traditions fool you, pizza pasquale is also great with fragments of dark chocolate Easter eggs.

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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


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

Pizza Express, Pizzette Pescara Style

There can be too much of a good thing.

Pescara Pizzette, Not Muffins

Cities in Italy tend to have their own style of pizza. Naples is known as the birthplace of the margherita–– mozzarella, tomato sauce, and a few leaves of basil on a characteristic slightly chewy, foldable crust. Rome’s pizza by the slice (often paid for by weight) is covered with tempting toppings like artichoke hearts and baked on large trays. Spontini in Milan, and a few other great pizza places, serves massive triangular slices of tall, fluffy crust and full slices of prosciutto and cheese. Pescara is famous for large round pizzette, baked on black metal trays that look stretched out muffin tins. The Trieste beach concession, with its oily and crunchy crust is just one example of where you can get sublime pizzette. The other is right around the corner from my apartment.

Margherita, Pizza Express

On the outside, Pizza express looks like just another pizza delivery place on Viale Bovio. The English name, the drawing of a guy on a moped, the small storefront with a few stools and small tables, are just some of the telltale signs. Pescara is full of them. But, unlike many places in the neighborhood, Pizza Express is the only one with the characteristic Pescara trays, so I tried them first.

And, I keep on going back. The crust is crunchy, but not as oily as other pizzette in town. Biting into it, you can tell that most of the oil comes from the fresh mozzarella melted on top. Artichoke hearts, margherita, white with sausage, and a dozen other varieties of pizzette, can be made by request in a just a few minutes––unless you get there too late.

Pescara Pizzetta Pan

Tullio, the owner and his wife only make a certain amount of pizza dough each day. And, Tullio only uses his own dough and it has to be fresh. He never freezes it for emergencies. In over 25 years of making pizza, he’s decided that quality and repeat customers are better than quantity. The siren’s call I hear every time I walk by is proof that he’s right.

– Joshua Lawrence

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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

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Bread and Work

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.
I

Joshua
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Turtle Salad Between Boxes

After four scattered sweltering days of opening boxes in our new, and hopefully temporary appartment here in Pescara a home is beginning to take shape. The kitchen is functional now, but with no food and dust from our home in l’Aquila everywhere we’re eating out.
At the end of the residential dead-end street we will be living in this year is the Bar del Parco, a cute little coffee bar with ice cream with lots of outside tables and a dirty little secret; they also make pizza on demand almost any time of day. And even with the humidity and uncertain yeast rising time, it’s good pizza. The crust is just doughy enough and the mozzarella is great.
Silvia had a caprese salad, tomatoes and mozzarella slices with a bit of oregano and olive oil. The pizzaiolo has fun making shapes out of the pizzas and this time the salad was a turtle. Mozzarella and tomatoes for a head back and tail, soncino lettuce to fill out the shell, and pizza dough flippers.
But with good fresh milky mozzarella from Abruzzo, fresh August tomatoes, and great olive oil, it was magic.

Caprese Turtle Salad

Caprese Turtle Salad


No turtles were injured for the preparation of this salad.

The Master (Turtle) and Margheria (Pizza)

The (Turtle) Master and Margheria (Pizza)

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