Tag Archives: Italy

The most authentic Italian pizza

September 15th, 2010 will live in my memory as the day I ate the most authentic Italian pizza. We (Elly and I) were on holiday in Italy, staying in Pompei we decided to grab a train into Naples.

A random street in Naples
A random street in Naples

We were being typical tourists, wandering round the city without any real direction when we decided to grab some lunch.

Naples is the home of the pizza and the restaurant that first served pizza still exists. We had done some research before we left Ireland and knew from literally thousands of reviews that this restaurant was to be avoided as it has become a tourist trap, with a lot of reviewers claiming they were totally ripped off.

Instead we were looking for “Da Michele” which is said to serve the best pizza in the world, by thousands of online reviews.

We got our bearings and headed towards where we thought “Da Michele” was located and as soon as we rounded the corner onto the correct street there it was, with about twenty people standing around outside. We walked inside and were given ticket number 75 as we heard ticket 56 being called. We prepared for a long wait…

Mercifully the wait was only about twenty minutes and we were directed inside to a table which we shared with 2 hungry locals. The menu is quite short, only two types of pizza in different sizes and a selection of drinks.

We ordered one of each and sat in for what I thought would be a bit of a wait. To pass the time, I filmed one of the staff making pizzas right behind Elly’s head. You can tell how happy she was to be asked to slide down in her seat to give me a better view :)

Yup that short clip was two pizzas going from dough ball to fifteen inch pizza base, without a rolling pin in sight. Maybe if I was doing it all day every day for a while I might be able to manage one in twice the time.

Da Michele Menu
The full menu

Dressing, cooking and serving time was at most another five minutes. Our pizzas were served so quickly to our table, from a red hot wood fired stone oven, that we had to wait almost as long for the pizzas to cool and set as we did for the order.

The pizzas themselves were beyond description, mere words can not do the bread or the topping any justice. I was so enthralled by the process I forgot to take a picture. In a way though I’m kind of glad I didn’t because if you saw how simply they were dressed you would not believe how great they tasted. This was one of those occasions when the sight and taste senses have an argument and taste wins by landslide.

So in lieu of a picture of our pizzas, here’s one of the queue as we left.

The queue as we left
The queue as we left

Oh and you may hear more about “Da Michele” if you happen to see “Eat Pray Love” as according to a poster on the door, Julia Roberts filmed a scene there 😉

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I love Italian food

As if that wasn’t obvious from the recipes that I’ve added to this site so far! Part of the reason is that as a child I loved tinned spaghetti on toast, although I can’t stand the stuff these days.

9 different Italian dishes
A collage of our Italian recipes

As I grew up and was introduced to ‘real’ (dried) spaghetti I was amazed by it, you can’t break dry spaghetti into two pieces it will always break in to at least three pieces, try it. It’s so easy to make a meal with it, to be fair dry pasta and Dolmio kept me fed when I started living on my own, in fact my weekly diet would include a few pasta dishes (spag bol, Lasagne from the freezer cabinet etc.), a frozen pizza or two and a fry-up that was the extent of my cooking abilities, or so I thought.

When I started to cook ‘proper food’ the first dish I attempted was pasta and meatballs in a Tomato sauce and after my first visit to Italy, apart from having to try to make my own Pizzas in the Italian style, I discovered that the same dish tastes completely different in different parts of the country.

The reason for this is simple, Italians have a passion and love of food that is second only to their pride in the local produce, their cooking is very traditional in that the recipes are passed down between the generations and they all came into being as a result of what food was available locally. This traditional approach is also responsible for the different tastes of the same dishes, even today Italians will cook from local ingredients with Mama’s recipe whenever possible.

This food tradition (and cooking style) has been traced back as far as the 4th century BC, even though the country of Italy as we know it only came into being 23 centuries later. The Wikipedia entry on Italian cuisine makes for fascinating reading and from it you can see clearly how the Italians embraced different food cultures and took what they liked and incorporated it into their everyday cooking.

Italian dishes form a great base for learning to cook, not only because they have been influenced by many different styles but also because they teach us to use what’s available and show us that fantastic, complex flavours can be created using what’s at hand and it can be done on a tight budget.

Also the techniques used in Italian cooking form the basis for an awful lot of European cooking styles. I’ve heard it said that the Italians taught the French how to cook. If that’s the case then the French took what they had learned, made it their own and expanded upon it, the greatest compliment a teacher can receive.

All that having been said, a number of people included feedback on our recent survey that (amongst other things) they would like something other than Italian recipes, so we’re listening (the Spag Bol and Lasagne recipes will have to wait 😉 ) and I have been experimenting with all sorts of things recently, including a recipe for a dish I had never eaten until I cooked it myself.

More variety is on the way, some middle-eastern, some Indian, maybe some oriental, maybe some American. I also want to add some more basic things as well. If you have any preferences let us know in the comments below.

Fruit on Pizza

I know a few people who think fruit on a Pizza is just plain wrong. Which is silly after all tomatoes are a fruit aren’t they?

Comune di Stezzano
Image via Wikipedia

But real fruit, like pineapple that’s a big no-no, well I just don’t agree I’m one of those people that loves fruit on a pizza and not just pineapple either.

What really opened the flood gates for me was a little restaurant that Elly and I discovered on our honeymoon and have returned to since, yup the one I mentioned in this previous post. It’s a family run Ristoranti and delivery service in the Italian town of Stezzano (just outside Bergamo) called ‘Da Michele’. There is a fantastic atmosphere, the staff are very friendly (the waiting staff got a real kick out of our attempts to speak Italian) and the food is incredible, without a shadow of a doubt my favourite Ristoranti in the entire world. If your Italian is up to it you can find out more by following this link.

Anyway, enough of me waffling on, the last time we were in Italy, Elly tried their Apple and Gorgonzola Pizza and she was raving so much about it, I was left with no choice but to swipe a slice :) and while I’m not the worlds greatest Gorgonzola fan, the combination of flavours on this pizza were so simple and well balanced I was tasked with re-creating it when we got home.

Now I’m no Jedi Pizza master so I was expecting this to be a very difficult job and while I haven’t matched the fantastic taste and elegance of the original, I’ve managed to come as close as I believe I can without access to the same local ingredients, Michele’s stone oven and recipe book. It wasn’t as difficult as I anticipated and we got it almost spot on at the first attempt.

So why not give this next recipe a try and let me know what you think.

Fresh Pasta

Farina Tipo 00 Flour
Farina Tipo 00 Flour

Once we found out how simple this is to make, a pasta machine was ordered and while we still keep some dried pasta on the shelf, most of the time we make our own fresh pasta.

When possible, it’s best to use Italian tipo 00 Flour, which is very easy to source in Italy (about €1 per kilo) but I’ve yet to find a reliable source in Ireland. Superquinn has come closest, having Tipo 0 in stock from time to time but not always (When they do I tend to buy all the stock).

You can use plain flour (the finer, the better) for this recipe and it will work perfectly, but if you happen to spot somewhere that sells Tipo 00 in Ireland please let us know as it does make the pasta taste much better.

We’ve been rather lucky in that whenever we hear of anyone going to Italy, we’ll ask them to bring some back for us and on our last trip we brought back a few kilo’s and were very close to having to pay excess baggage charges. So is anyone going to Italy any time soon and would you like to do us a big favour?

Pizza

This is one of my weaknesses, when ordering a delivery my preference would always be for pizza as it’s one of my favourite foods, but I have a tendency to overeat when ordering pizza from Domino’s. Partly because the pizza would always have a thick base (I don’t like the other base options) and partly because Domino’s pizzas are either a little bit too small or a little bit too large for me and I would usually go for the option that was a little too large…

Ferrari factory entrance
Ferrari factory entrance

On our first trip to Italy (as part of our honeymoon), we discovered a fantastic little restaurant near the hotel we were staying in, that served the most delicious thin based Italian pizzas at a very reasonable price.

In fact it was so good that when we returned to Italy last year with a friend, we booked into the same hotel on the first night just so we could go back to the same restaurant. I think Anto (yes, I do know Anto ;)) was a bit worried that we were a little too fond of this restaurant. Well at least until his Calzone arrived and he became a convert as well. We ate there almost every night we were in Italy, even driving a 100km plus round trip to get there on a few occasions!

Once we got home from our honeymoon, I had to try to make my own. Along the way I discovered a few things, first if you want to make pizza you need either a stone oven, (not terribly practical for most of us) or a pizza stone to put in your own oven. I’m not sure why this makes such a difference but it does. Also cornmeal sprinkled on the pizza stone or baking tray before placing the pizza on it to cook stops it sticking and allows it to slide effortlessly onto a plate when done.

And the three best things about making your own Pizza?

    * You can put anything you want on it
    * It’s a great way of using up those little bits and pieces you have leftover in the fridge
    * It’s way more cost-effective than ordering in

One final note, when you’re rolling out the bases, if they’re not perfectly round, don’t worry about it, it makes them appear more rustic and home-made 😉