Saturday, March 8, 2014

Real Italian pizza in a wood-fired brick oven worth a trip abroad

We saw the oven getting
fired up early in the eve.
Saturday, March 8
Every so often in the winter and quite regularly in the spring, we notice the proprietors of the Casolare dei Fiori working during the day to prepare a big cena to be served in one of their large dining rooms. Today was such a day, and Lucy commented as she walked past Luca that the odor emanating from the sauce in the kitchen made her mouth water.

Enzo crisps the crusts, after moving the logs.
It’s pizza, Luca said, to be baked in the wood-fired forno. Would we like some? We could eat in one of the dining rooms, or he could have it delivered to our room. We don’t normally ask to be included in the dinners here, for budgetary reasons, but this time we couldn’t resist. We had a feeling that it would not only be a treat for the palate but an overall experience we would not want to miss.

The room where the pizza would be made is just across the courtyard from our door, so we could keep an eye on the progress. We saw Enzo, Luca’s dad, stoking up the fire around 6 p.m., and we stopped by to take a peak. Roberta, Luca’s sister, carried in numerous covered trays of rounded lumps of pizza dough, and by 7 p.m., Enzo’s wife Gilda and a helper, Geta, were rolling out the lumps of dough on a marble slab and putting them on large round tins. Enzo inserted them four or five at a time into the large brick oven and pulled them out after they had attained just the right degree of crispness. A little before 8 p.m., the whole crew had become involved in the process. Geta brushed the pizza tins with oil and put the crispy crusts back on the tins. Luca drizzled the crusts with olive oil, brushed on home-made tomato sauce and sprinkled each with salt, pepper and oregano.

Geta and Gilda roll out the dough.
Next came the cheese, mozzarella fior di latte, a dry mozzarella made from cow’s milk, different than the mozzarella di bufala that is often used in green salads. After that, Luca topped each pizza with a different combination of vegetables and meats: onion, mushroom, olives, sausage and all the other numerous condiments found on Italian pizzas, including anchovy, which I tried for the first time—perhaps the last  time, too, as I found it just a little too flavorful. Every other topping, though, I could strongly endorse.
Luca works his wonders with the sauce and toppings.
By this time, the fire had been burning for several hours, and Luca and Enzo had spread nuggets of the glowing coals evenly on the bottom of the oven. Enzo slid the tins in atop the coals, his experience telling him just how long to keep them in. Gilda and Geta were soon busy slicing the finished pizze and moving them onto serving trays. By this time the guests had begun to arrive, and waitresses Lorena and Gisella carried the slices quickly to the tables with an efficiency that assured that each serving would be fresh from the oven.
Coals spread on oven  floor.

Lorena and Gisella brought four trays to our room, each filled with different varieties of pizza. Because Italians are sticklers for freshness and purity in their foods, I felt sure they would be as tasty as the aroma had advertised them to be, and naturally I was correct. The toppings were not piled on as they are on American pizzas, but each seemed to have a strong flavor. “It’s so good when you get it right out of the oven like that,” Lucy said. “And the olive oil they use must be really high quality, because it has such a great flavor.”

Room service: Lorena serves
up our first tray.
We also received a plate of prosciutto and salami and later a dolci made with pizza crust topped with caramelized sugar and nuts. Unlike the noisy party goers in the two dining rooms, we ate more quietly. Lucy commented that one shouldn’t talk too much during such a meal, in order to concentrate on and appreciate the flavors. “This type of food should not be consumed while thinking about something else,” she said. “This is one of the reasons that people should come visit us in Italy.”

Pizza bianca on left, dolci on right.


  1. Now I'm hungry! I know what you mean about anchovies, not something I care to ever taste again.


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