It has been six years since I’ve been hanging out in the company of Franco Pepe (Pepe in Grani) – and each visit I’m always curious about what Pepe has in store for me. So as I sipped on a cold beer and chatted with the team in the kitchen, I couldn’t help but smile as Franco came around the corner with a plate and a smile for me.
What do we have here? I asked as sat down at a small table in the kitchen.
This….Pepe said. This is Ciro- named after Ciro Paone, of the famous Neapolitan tailoring company Kiton. Pepe continued about how Paone raved about this pizza during an event some time ago that he decided to name it after the simpatico tailor.
After one bite, I soon understood why- a fried pizza stuffed with creamy Grana Padano cheese sauce, a rucola pesto, and powdered black olives from Caiazzo.
I finished my Ciro and was curious as to what was coming up next. Very curious, since on this particular night, I put my trust as well as my palate in the capable hands of Stefano Pepe – Franco’s son.
Stefano sent over a degustazione, that is, a tasting pizza, which was 2 pizzas in one. On one side – la scarpetta. One of my favorites, I wrote about it here.
On the other side, fior di latte, zucchini flowers, and anchovies from Cetara.
Thanks, Stefano! Like father, like son – I thought.
I finished that up just as Franco was coming around the corner. Try this – he said. La Fresca- Fresh. My father used to make these all the time, he added.
So he handed me a sandwich prepared with pizza dough cooked in his wood burning oven. Inside, he placed prosciutto crudo/cured ham, fior di latte cheese, tomatoes and rucola.
Between each pizza, each bite, Pepe and I did what we usually do- catch up on things. I was especially curious about one of Pepe’s latest projects – la crisommola.
Crisommola is the name of an apricot variety grown exclusively in the Mt Vesuius area. Pepe explained how this delicious summer fruit often ends up on orchard grounds without being harvested by farmers often battling lower market prices from products from around the globe.
Pepe, then, began to prepare his crisommala pizza-
Fried pizza dough topped with a ricotta cheese and lemon zest…
Toasted hazelnuts …dehydrated powdered black olives from Caiazzo…
And a fresh mint leaf on top…
Another evening over, another piacevole pizza tasting. I said goodbye to Franco, to the staff, and gave a smile and thumbs up to his son Stefano.
Complimenti! A presto! See you soon!