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Old 06-13-2011, 06:33 PM
Il Pizzaiolo
 
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Default Another Trip to Italy!

Well, another for the group but it was my first. Four days in Rome, two days in Florence, two in Lucca, and a week at a cooking school at an estate near Lucca with trips to Greve, Viareggio, and other locations.

Our first pizza in Rome was a desperation buy. We were pretty much just off the plane and zombies and sat down at an establishment that was reasonably crowded and got a pizza with a frozen crust. Pretty pathetic but it did reinforce that Italian tomatoes are an alien life form. We ate twice at Ristorante Sacro e Profano. They have a killer antipasta plate along with a WFO and a talented pizza chef. The restaurant is a church and we sat at the rail of the balcony overlooking the pizza assembly area and oven and it was entertaining and the food very good.

We also had lunch at Pizzaria dar Poeta in Rome. Their pies were probably slightly better than Sacro e Profano but overall we felt the latter was more interesting. Both are worth seeking out.

While in Rome we took a side trip to Genzano to buy a loaf of Pane Genzano - the only bread in Italy to have an IGP designation (Indicazione Geografica Protetta - Protected Geographical Indication). We went to Forno a Legna da Sergio, the baker featured in the book Local Breads by Dan Leader. I have made the bread a number of times and wanted to buy a loaf to compare to. Mine is very close in result. Had a great lunch at Trattoria dei Cacciatore in Genzano. Highly recommended if you ever get there!

Another highlight of Rome was eating at Roscioli's where we had Pata Negra Joselito 60 month aged serrano ham (considered prosciutto in Italy) along with four cheeses: a 36 month old Parme vacche rosso, a stravechia rosso, a piave di alpeggio, and a fiore sardo del Gavoi. Roscioli's is near Campo de Fiori and is well worth visiting. Be warned, the salumi and cheese selections are intimidating and prices are dear but the quality is exceptional.

We didn't find any interesting pizza in Florence but we did eat twice at Restaurante Giglio Rosso on Via Giglio. We thought the food was a good value in an expensive city.

In Lucca we had good pizza at Pizzaria da Felice. The real hightlight was "cecine" a chickpea crepe of sorts that was wonderful. Had our best restaurant meal in Italy at Vigna Ilaria in Lucca - a fabulous "Slow Food" restaurant.

The cooking classes were taught by chef Angelo Prosperi-Porta of Coopers Cove B&B in Sooke BC. Angelo is the most complete chef I know and when I learned he was leading a culinary trip to Italy I jumped to go along. We cooked six meals during the week and had a number of field trips - to Greve to buy beef for Bifsteak Florentine and for a fabulous lunch at Restaurant Lamore, to Viareggio to buy fresh fish, and to Paolo Parisi's farm for a lunch of his fabulous meats and eggs.

I was very impressed by the Italian approach to food and by the quality we generally encountered. While the quality of pizza we had was generally pretty good I was not blown away. Most of the dough tasted like fairly fast dough - not retarded. And while Italian 00 flour based doughs and pies have interesting texture, I tend to find its flavor bland and lacking compared to the organic flours I prefer for bread and pizza. I did enjoy the ingredients and combinations and the sparse toppings and that will certainly inspire me to be even sparser than I have typically been in the past.

Photos are attached of bread at Forno a Legna da Sergio - the bread at the upper right is the Pane Genzano. Then a photo of the dinner when we first cut it open. And finally a photo of a typical lunch at the cooking school.

Another Trip to Italy!-pane-genzano-da-sergio-1-1

Another Trip to Italy!-dinner-lucca-1-1-.jpg

Another Trip to Italy!-cooking-school-lunch-1-1-.jpg
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Old 06-15-2011, 01:54 PM
Il Pizzaiolo
 
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Default Thoughts on Italian Pizzas...

In our Italian journey we did not seek out world class pizzas, we pretty asked for recommendations from natives and ate what we found. What we found was generally good but not particularly unique or special.

Almost every WFO was fired on the cool side - probably 600 to 650 F. At Sacro e Profano the lower temp gave the pizzialo time to do the whole operation solo. I thought he was really fun to watch and made good pies. I strongly recommend the restaurant (Rome).

Just as Tuscan bread is often unsalted, we found most of the pizza dough a bit short of salt. It also seemed that a significant percentage of pizzarieas used other flours in addition to 00 and soy flour in particular. It appeared from the menu that the flour was blended with 00 to make the dough but I could be mistaken.

Toppings were generally noteworthy. High quality and rather sparse (such as having two thin slices of a good size mushroom and one artichoke heart on a pizza (topped with tomato sauce and some cheese). The sparsity of toppings meant that encountering something different was "special".

As indicated in the first posting, the cecina (chickpea crepe) was the best thing I thought we got from a pizzaria (just the crepe and olive oil and salt!).

On our next trip we will probably head south from Rome to Naples so we can get more "proper" pizza!

Jay
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Old 06-15-2011, 02:19 PM
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Default Re: Another Trip to Italy!

If you are going down to Naples be sure to try and see "the University of Pizza" in Vico Equense on the Amalfi coast. They have 3 WFO's, a large restaurant and sell pizza by the metre. Like you we found varying quality of pizza in Italy. After a while I gave up on pizza, because I know what good pizza is and there is so much other great Italian food to experience. Enjoy the rest of your trip.
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Old 06-15-2011, 06:21 PM
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Default Re: Another Trip to Italy!

I am already back, David, but I appreciate the suggestion and will plan to follow up on it when we head to Naples in a year or two. We too focused more on things other than pizza but we did have pizza at lunch somewhat often. Our cooking school was highly "Slow Food" oriented and we had some truly special experiences during that week.

Thanks!
Jay
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Old 06-15-2011, 08:21 PM
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Default Re: Another Trip to Italy!

Jay, I have one thing to say...You dirty dog, Im jealous
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Old 06-15-2011, 08:29 PM
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Thumbs up Re: Another Trip to Italy!

Quote:
Originally Posted by RTflorida View Post
Jay, I have one thing to say...You dirty dog, Im jealous
....x2....
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Old 06-16-2011, 12:01 AM
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Default Re: Another Trip to Italy!

Jay, thanks for posting your experience, sounds wonderful. I am collecting all these pearls for our trip next year. Thanks David s for your suggestions.
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Old 06-16-2011, 04:12 AM
Il Pizzaiolo
 
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Default Re: Another Trip to Italy!

Hi Lee/RT!

It was a long planned trip which allowed me to insure the key things I wanted were included (Genzano, Roscioli's, etc. While I did restaurant research we more played it by ear with local recommendations.

The cooking school provided a number of opportunities that we simply wouldn't have had otherwise. As I indicated, the chef (Angelo) is superb but he had assistance from a local Slow Food restaurant owner for obtaining supplies and leading trips to visit some of his suppliers. So we had some pretty unique experiences (like buying half of the fisherman's "take home box" to make fish stock for fisherman's stew (simpler than cioppino)). The class was very "hands on" and it was fun making a proper fish stew from odds and ends. The cooking school is at AbbondanzaToscana.com. If it is in your price range and you like to cook (other than pizza) it is a great experience - all inclusive from Lucca or Pisa train or air terminals.

But simply being in Italy is a learning experience. Great food and quality! And a bit different!

Jay
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Old 06-16-2011, 05:39 AM
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Jay, you have a PM
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Old 06-16-2011, 05:41 AM
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Default Re: Another Trip to Italy!

Sounds like a fun trip.. for me the food sounds fancier (since I don't recognize over half of it) than I like but I can sure get that the whole thing was a great time! You lucky dog!
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