|Franco Pepe and his brother, Antonio.|
Summer…Saturday…Pizza…It is a definite must. A time to be with family and friends at the table., relax, talk about your week, be together. That togetherness that Southern Italy does so well. And on this particular sabato sera, our appointment was in Caiazzo, in the Caserta province. An appointment at Antica Pizzeria Pepe, located in the corner of Piazza Portavetere.
Fireworks greeted us as we arrived, common for this time of year. There is always some type of local festival. No reservation…not on Saturday. Franco Pepe suggested that we arrive before 9 pm…after that, our clients pretty much run the place, he told me jokingly over the phone. We chose to sit indoors, so that we could watch the kitchen at work, but there were plenty of tables outside in the piazza for clients who wanted a pizza al fresco…out in the open. Indoors, outdoors…we were all here for one reason. To enjoy a pizza prepared by the Pepe family.
Pizza prepared as it has been for three generations. With dough prepared by hand. Like Franco’s father and grandfather. By hand, so that way he can tell..can feel when it ready. Franco, who told me that it is essential, particularly for the new generation of pizza makers to be able to taste, smell, feel the products. From San Marzano tomatoes to mozzarella. Touch the flour…get acquainted with it, understand it. Understand that making dough on a hot dry day is much different from a cool humid one. And this he does by hand, every day. Like his father and his grandfather.
Four diners at my table. Four pizza lovers. The menu is simple, basic, but with everything that you could want on a summer Saturday night. Orders placed, orders arrived. A pizza with prosciutto cotto. Classic. One that screamed territory….a margherita with nero casertano. A prosciutto made with the famous black pig found only in the Caserta province. A friend ordered al bianco with funghi porcini-porcini mushrooms with mozzarella cheese, no tomato sauce. And last but not least, to my left, a pizza arrived. No, not a pizza. A calzone. One stuffed with escarole salad, olives, and anchovies. It arrived to the table like an oversized party balloon. Then, when a knife was placed into it, it exhaled, letting out air and sharing amazing aromas, amazing flavors.
Aromas and flavors that intermingled with the conversation, the laughter, and the occasional fireworks.
And intertwined with that amazing spirit. That spirit of Campania.
Found on a Saturday evening…in pizzeria…
Antica Pizzeria Pepe
Piazza Portavetere 4
0823 868 401
Open Tuesday through Sunday, evenings only.