As another busy summer winds down we stop to take our annual “pausa”. When we reopen, many of the wines that we have been pursuing over the last year will start to come in, and as they arrive we will add them to our wine list. They include a Falangina and Piedirosso from La Sibilla, Rosato from Terre Principe, Falernos from Moio and Trabuco, Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio, Greco di Tufo of Villa Marzo and a particular Fiano from Alfonso Rotolo. From our opening on Santa Valentina ’06, I have focused on wines primarily of Campania. In recent years, my travels to Italy have furthered this effort. With the guidance of our good friend Domenico Mazzella, I have visited many phenomenal winemakers. One we will offer is a simple Falanghina from Campi Flegrei, just north of Napoli, along the coast. Campi Flegrei is known for its volcanic activity and proximity to the first Greek colony of Magna Grecia at Cumeo, and can trace its winemaking roots back to 700 B.C. History suggests that the ancient Falanghina was used to produce the great Falerno wine, favored among the Roman upper classes. It is believed Roman merchants brought this Falanghina varietal from Greece. Stay tuned!
La Sabilla, Campi Flegrei
This summer I went to Norway and Brazil on trips associated with pizza. New friends of ours in Stavanger, Craig Whitson and Torre Gjesteland, are about to publish a book on the “world of pizza” that will include Spacca Napoli. The book highlights tradition, family, hard work and passion. It will include stories of well known pizzaiuoli in America and Italy, producers of cheeses, tomatoes and other ingredients used in pizza making, and interviews with pizza executives, oven makers, professors, consultants, acrobats and journalists.
In Sao Paulo, Brazil I gave a talk on American market trends and their implications for Brazil, including Spacca Napoli’s story, at the first ever “Con Pizza” conference. The world loves pizza, and its variations often highlight local cuisine. In Sao Paulo, along with traditional ingredients, I sampled pizze with hearts of palm, fresh corn, roasted potatoes, curried chicken with coconut milk and plantain. Catupiry cheese is a favorite topping there. Soft and tangy, it is similar to our cream cheese, but less sweet. The recipe remains a secret to this day. Italian immigrant Mario Silvestrani in the state of Minas Gerais developed it in 1911.
Our continuing collaboration with the local community has resulted in two new pizzas. Spence Farm, the oldest family farm in Livingston County, Illinois, recently introduced us to their butternut squash blossoms. The pronounced flavor pairs perfectly with fior di latte, grated zucchini, garlic and cherry tomatoes. Spence Farm, settled in 1830, is managed by the family’s seventh and eight generation.
Calabrian ‘Nduja inspires the other pie. ‘Nduja originates from Spilinga, Calabria. It is a spicy, hot, spreadable salumi typically made from pig shoulder, belly, jowl and tripe. The color of the salumi reveals its heat. In Calabria, hot chili peppers are an ingredient that represents tradition, culture and history. The peasants of Calabria made ‘Nduja particularly hot so that the land barons would not steal their food. Agostino Fiasche of Ristorante Agostino in Chicago is sharing his Calabrian heritage with a true version of ‘Nduja, with fellow chefs, and we are using his version in this new pie.
Arthur Schwartz’ book “Naples At Table,” contains a recipe called “Pate Delle Due Sicile.” It originally comes from Marchese Franco Santasilia di Torpino’s “La Cucina Aristocratica Napoletana” which features cooking of the Neapolitan nobility. It is a light colored and refined mushroom pate. Arthur states, that similar to their Calabrian counterparts, “the Neapolitan aristocracy loved beige and white food, as it set them apart from the masses, whose food is very colorful.”
I look forward to the fall season. I will return to Italy to visit my loved ones in the Gargano, Puglia. Afterwards, I will join the Lombardi family at Le Campestre in Castel di Sasso to participate in the wine harvest, la vendemmia. It will be magical!