I know you saw this coming. Sooner or later, this blog was bound to be about pizza, that more or less inevitable comestible, if one is talking about the pleasures of Italy. So, I bow to predictability.
Once a weekend, we head out for lunch. It’s a sanity-preserving maneuver which I’m sure you understand. It’s rarely fancy; the point is to eat anywhere other than home. But it’s almost always, without exception, good. Very, very good. It may well be a cliché that Italian food is excellent, but it’s a cliché that deserves to exist and to be celebrated. Fresh ingredients. Minimal intrusion in the kitchen. What’s better than that?
Today it was pizza. Fresh ingredients were lugged into the restaurant while we ate. Crates full of escarole, arugula, and pomodorini were hoisted over my daughter’s head. This particular pizzeria, Ciripizza, is owned by Italians from the region of Campania, proud of their culinary heritage and dedicated to the preservation of the correct methods of pizza-making. The staff hustles about the tiny restaurant politely, but with the reserve of some southern Italians, for this is, bizarrely, serious business. No one smiles broadly while intoning the Italian equivalent of “Enjoy” as the plate is placed under your nose. No one eagerly asks, “Is everything okay?” even as the first biteful is entering your mouth. No one says much of anything. The transactions are clean and unadorned. It’s assumed that the food speaks for itself. And this pizza doesn’t say, “Enjoy.” It sings opera lirica.
When the bill is delivered to the table, it arrives in a printed pizza, with a pledge—or is it a declaration?—printed on the back, signed by the owner. The earnestness of this gesture would set off alarm bells in most modern diners if the food itself weren’t so spectacularly illustrative of the point they are trying to make. There’s no room for cynicism, when your stomach is full of pure, unadulterated goodness.
[Ciripizza. Traditional, artisinal, Campana pizza. / Campania: The region of origin of the methods and prime materials for making pizza. / All of us — restaurateurs, producers, and consumers—have the duty of defending typical Italian products, respecting the origins from which they come. / Witness: (signature, Alfonso I-can’t-read-his-last-name / Seal: Pizza prepared and cooked in accordance with the traditional, Campano method / Map.]