Thursday, January 12, 2017

Una Giornata Verace with Gino Sorbillo, Naples (Na)

Gino Sorbillo (center)

I can’t tell you for sure how long I’ve known Gino Sorbillo, but I definitely know that my first visit to his pizzeria at Via Dei Tribunali in the heart of Naples was back in 2011. That was the year that I, as a blogger, started getting interested in the pizza world.  The year that I stepped out of my neighborhood and started to open my eyes and see what was going around in the top wood burning pizza ovens in Campania.  An early afternoon in August of 2011 I stepped into one of the hottest pizzerias in Naples.  In one of the hottest –verace/real- neighborhoods of the city.  It was there that I enjoyed a pizza or five or six prepared by Sorbillo and his team.  A real full immersion!

Take a look at then...

The years passed, and for reasons that I still can’t explain, I never made it back to Via de Tribunali.  Sure, Sorbillo and I have seen each other on many occasions.  But back to his pizzeria, unfortunately no.
Until…until, an exchange of holiday greetings between the two of us developed into a ‘why don’t you come back and see what’s happening in the centro storico?”
I took Sorbillo up on his invitation, and I’m glad I did!  Sorbillo, over the years has become one of the most popular names and faces in the pizza world, not only in Italy, but internationally as well.
Our appointment was for 1130, I showed up at 1150. Casa della Pizza is what was written on the door.  Casa della Pizza/ Gino Sorbillo.  

I buzzed, the door unlocked, and I was let into a piece of Neapolitan history, Sorbillo style.

Casa della Pizza- or as I saw it, an office space/refuge/hideout if you will for Gino Sorbillo. This Casa della Pizza/pizza house is  in the very apartment building that belonged to his family is full of pizza artifacts, memories, and flavor.
I spoke with Sorbillo a bit about his office space, his family, and his thoughts on Naples and pizza in general.  As he spoke, I listened to a young man who was not only conscious of his family’s roots, but also proud of the hard work and dedication that has made the Sorbillo name famous throughout the world.  A family initially famous because Sorbillo’s grandparents were known as the family that had 21 children.  21!!! His office is full of newspaper clippings dating back to the 1930s.  He shared that many of the Sorbillo clan emigrated out of Naples, leaving only three of the Sorbillo 21.  Three that included his father and his aunt, Esterina. 

It was interesting for me to learn that back in the day; his Aunt was responsible for the fried pizzas.  In fact, it was normal that a woman would work the deep fryer while the men would be responsible for the wood oven cooked pizzas.
A mini tour full of touching memories.  A casa where Sorbillo surrounds himself with his past, reflects on the present and continues to dream of the future.  Not just for himself, but for his children. 
Talking about pizza and looking at the clock, I noticed that it was lunchtime.  Sorbillo and I stepped out on the balcony and looked down onto the crowd below.  The usual traffic stopping scene- an hour wait is the norm.

An hour wait that is expected and enjoyable for some.  In an alley around the corner, a man sings Neapolitan songs, small groups sit on the benches in front of the pizzeria and take selfies.  This is also the Sorbillo experience.
Gino ushered me in and right away, I was whisked into a world of pizza frenzy.  

Ground floor/ground zero.  Near the door, in plain sight of the pizza counter, voices calling orders, host/hostesses calling out numbers of who can come in next, waiters delivering pizzas at an amazing speed. 

Second floor- dining room 2.  A little quieter, for those who want their Sorbillo experience a little easier.  Less noise.  The chance to get a balcony seat. 
Sorbillo took me back downstairs to a smaller room.  A huge iron table in the shape of a horse shoe perfect for single diners or couples who don’t mind a little company.

Then he pointed to a large window.  A large marble counter with barstools and amazing light.  A seat there means people watchers like me could have a pizza and a glass of beer or wine while checking out what’s happening out on the street.  That’s where I decided to sit.  And as I sipped a craft beer, I glanced over the menu.

Margherita, I said.  With provola cheese and pepper
Minutes later, my pizza arrived.  A pizza so large that its plate served as just a suggestion.

Later I was asked if I’d like to try one more.  Why not? I said.  Just a small one, something ‘al bianco’.
Minutes later, one of the best pizzas I’ve had in a long time.  Fior di Latte cheese, anchovies. 

And yes, one more beer.  The perfect way to end an amazing giornata verace.
Before I left, Sorbillo and I caught up on our lives over the past few years over a beer in his basement dining room.  A dining room that housed only four tables.

Like the first pizzeria his family ran.  A private conversation between G and I.  Between a sip or two, a laugh and I smile, I reflected back on my first visit 5 years ago.  I reflected on not only that the pizzeria had changed, evolved, but so had Sorbillo. 
A real giornata verace.

 Can’t wait to return!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Arkeopizza- A Slice of History - Chef Giuseppe Russo and Pizzaiolo Francesco Vitiello

I was determined to arrive early for Natale in Casa Vitiello for several of reasons:

  • I wanted to see Casa Vitiello’s  new location dressed in Christmas colors and holiday cheer.
  • I wanted to get a few pics before the dinner crowd arrived.   
  • But most importantly, I really wanted to eavesdrop on Chef  iuseppe 'Peppe' Russo and Pizzaiolo Francesco ‘Ciccio’ Vitiello. The pair were getting ready for Casa Vitiello’s third in a four part series of four hands dinner featuring Vitiello and an amico chef.

Ciccio Vitiello and Peppe Russo

I arrived just as the pre-dinner briefing was winding up.  A briefing that was also an interesting history lesson.

La pizza si fa riferimento ad alcuni testi di storia e gastronomia dove si evince che il termine PIZZA nasce dalla evoluzione del termine dialettale PIEZZ'. Termine che sin dal 600' si utilizzava nella famiglie per indicare una piccola parte di pane staccata a mano dalla forma di pane per essere utilizzata "infilandola nel forno" a testare la giusta temperatura prima di infornare il pane. Nel tempo ci si rese conto che quel PIEZZ' di pane era buono da mangiare e quindi utile per Alimentarsi. Da qui si incominció a condirlo e ad affinarne la forma. Naturalmente va detto che il pomodoro"oggi ingrediente sovrano per la pizza" arriva in Europa solo Dopo il 1492 "data della scoperta delle Americhe". Ma nel frattempo sotto il Vesuvio la pizza veniva consumata comunque è con i condimenti che normalmente venivano dalla quoditianità cioè grassi animali , verdure, ortaggi, frutta,pesci ecc..! Ció detto bisogna considerare altresi che il Piezz' divenne un vero e proprio contenitore commestibile e quindi comodo anche per trasportare piatti pronti, quando bisognava viaggiare o quando bisogna lavorare più giorni fuori.

-Chef Russo

The word Pizza , according to various history and gastronomy texts, was born from the evolution of the dialect PIEZZ'. It’s a term that dates back to 600 AD to define a small piece of bread, broken off by hand before placing it into the oven. It was used to test to see if the wood burning  oven had reached the right temperature for baking.  Over  time it was realized that this PIEZZ’ bread was really good to eat and became part of the daily diet. Over time, people began  to dress it up and to perfect its shape. Of course it must be said that the tomato "today’s sovereign pizza ingredient " came to Europe after 1492. But in the meantime under Mt  Vesuvius pizza, however, was topped with seasonings that normally came from the daily diet such as  animal fats, vegetable, potatoes, fruits, fish etc ..! Having said this we must consider that the Piezz ‘ became a real edible container, and then also convenient to transport ready meals  when one needed to travel or stay away from home for several days.

So Russo and Vitiello’s plan was to take us back in time with Arkeopizza.

The piezz was baked in the oven, then lard produced with Caserta black pork and star anise was spread on top.  

Mortarella hazelnuts, found only in Campania,  are placed on top. 

Whole, not crushed or sliced. Then a sprinkling of pecorino di laticauda cheese. 

A simple slice of pizza, a savory slice of history.