Newsletter 61 del 17 settembre 2019

Dear {{NOME}},

There’s nothing more Italian than pizza. We don’t have to share it with other people around the world, as in the case of pasta and rice. We don’t even need to explain to foreigners the meaning of “al dente”. This is no issue for pizza. Pizza is the way it is, and charms everyone.

We should treat it even better than what we already do. There’s no doubt that in the past fifteen years it has changed its soul and appearance. Today the average quality is as high as ever.

But there’s still lots to be done. The real goal is to free it from geography, and assess it only as a dish, as the expression of the tradition or innovation of a pizzaiolo, without letting the area in which the pizzaiolo is working influence this judgement. Pizza can be good, excellent or mediocre, regardless of whether it comes from Naples or Caserta, Rome or Verona. This is how it should be.

Milan is another issue. As it emerged from the third edition of the 50 Top Pizza guide, Milan and Lombardy are growing faster. Milan, however, will be able to compare to other capitals only when it will breed its own pizzaioli. For now, they only replicate establishments from elsewhere. There’s nothing wrong with this, but this is very similar to those countries that are like prairies for French chefs.

Paolo Marchi




Foto di Thorsten Stobbe a Identità Milano 2019 nello spazio Petra Molino Quaglia

This issue of Identità di Pizza comes at the end of the summer. And who knows how many, this summer, dined with pizza. Consumption in touristic destinations increases and local pizzaioli are happy. For sure, these are special clients: they’re not the usual clients, they’re willing to pay something extra, they’re open to trying something new and, perhaps, to look for those things when they go back home. What a better occasion than this to educate a varied public to good food, and to spread the models of a better pizza? 

Let’s think of sustainability, a very popular word, now, which, as usual, if abused risks becoming a meaningless label. Instead, it is with pizza that sustainability can truly become a model for a healthier, tastier diet, with no waste and economically sustainable both for the pizzeria and for its clients. Giving for granted that dough and ingredients are excellent, let’s think of the kind of pizza you eat entirely, without leaving anything on the plate; a pizza that is lower in weight and slightly more expensive, better if made with type 1 or whole wheat flour (I recommend a delicate Petra 3 or a blend in which the more muscular Petra 9 prevails) kneaded with mother yeast.

Such a pizza is an experience of sustainable diet, because you won’t throw away a piece; you’ll make use of the advantages of mother yeast and of a flour with more fibres and less carbohydrates; it reduces the waste of food that is transformed in overweight; the higher price motivates the pizzaiolo to use better ingredients and increases the awareness of the consumer. What if the goal of a greater food sustainability and of waste reduction could be met with good food and higher prices, to the advantage of an improved food supply chain? 

This topic will be analysed in detail during the autumn session at the Università della Pizza (for info and subscriptions: click here)

Piero GabrieliPiero Gabrieli

Caserta is more and more the capital of pizza

E alla fine rimasero solo in tre per il podio. Da sinistra Ciro Salvo, Franco Pepe e Francesco Martucci. Con loro Albert Sapere

Three out of three: for the third time, out of three editions, Franco Pepe won the 50 Top PizzaPepe in Grani in Caiazzo, in the province of Caserta, is still number one in Italy, and therefore in the world, but it is no longer alone. After winning solo twice, the ceremony at Teatro Mercadante in Naples had a surprising finale: after confirming the third place to Ciro Salvo and 50 Kalò in Naples, there was no second place. On the screen, a white, empty image appeared. The bewilderment, among the 500 people in the audience, only lasted a few seconds because Luciano Pignataro, one of the curators, together with Barbara Guerra and Albert Sapere, explained the mystery: «There’s no second place because we have two establishments at number one: Pepe in grani and Masianelli». That is to say Franco Pepe and Francesco Martucci, from the town of Caserta itself.

The two men, who were already on stage, like Ciro Salvo and all the other winners of the continental list, had different reactions. Martucci burst into an understandable joy, as if he had scored in the world cup finals. Pepe, who’s used to first places, being the piazzaiolo whom all the world loves and respects, had the sad expression of the cyclist who’s been caught up at the very end. They shook hands and hugged, because that’s what professionals do, in public, but it was clear he wasn’t satisfied.

I understand myself two shared first places when there’s a stopwatch or a grading mechanism, regardless of the judges’ opinion. It’s harder to understand when the question is about choosing between two people. In that case, a jury should be able to express a judgement that separates the two competitors, finding something small that will justify the first place given to one, and the second to the other. In Hollywood, they always say “the winner is…”, never “the winners are…”.

Paolo Marchi

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Franco Pepe: we need new roles in the pizzeria

Franco Pepe with his staff

After one of the evening events that featured him and his pizza at Identità Golose MilanoFranco Pepe told us that the recent evolution of pizzerias – from a basic venture to a truly "specialised restaurant", with a structured offer – also implies the definition and the development of new, specific careers.

The maestrofrom Caiazzo explains: «In the Seventies and Eighties, the identity of pizza was in the pizzaiolo: you had maestro Stefano, mastro Carluccio, mastro Antonio, and so on. Today I’m training people and creating the foundations for a new approach. I have created a team that works in the kitchen on different grounds, with complex tasks; not just pizzaioli, in other words, but guys who work on seasonings, true "pizzeria cooks"; and the pizzaioli too are divided into those at the counter, the bakers, the kneaders and those who pass the pizzas. And then there’s the "pizzeria sommelier", who has a different profile, compared to fine dining sommeliers...», and so on.

These roles are new, even compared to the recent past, they must be trained and they can find a market demand. They form a real brigade, just like in classic restaurants; their joined work helps «preserving the craftsmanship in the products. They all work with the same goal: so that my pizza can arrive even further than Caiazzo, while preserving, however, the strength of its identity. I didn’t open other Pepe in Grani pizzerias, because my identity and my place of election is Caiazzo. However, since many people offer me stimulating projects, I’m happy to interact, because it becomes a way to help my team grow professionally with me». That is to say: even when Franco Pepe is not there, you’ll have Franco Pepe’s pizza: «I’m in that dough, this is important. Always».

Carlo Passera

Who’s Francesco Martucci, the other number one

Francesco Martucci

The ex aequo award that has Franco Pepe and Francesco Martucci share the top of the 50 Top Pizza list is perhaps not appreciated by everyone, but it does give a clear picture of how things are: if on one hand it restates the leadership of Caserta (and its province), which over the past year has found a place on the national scene, on the other it acknowledges the skill and commitment of Martucci. They both are, in some way, extraordinary.

While it is true that it takes years of hard work to learn and refine the ”art” of pizza making, it is also true that that quid that makes the difference is probably innate, or is born from deep roots. The roots of Martucci are all in Caserta, marked by a youth that was not easy, by a road uphill that had him work, since his childhood, as the errand boy in the pizzeria of his uncle Franco, where he learnt not only to ammaccare [shape the pizza]but also discipline.

After working his way up the ladder, in 2001 he opened the first I Masanielli place with his brother Sasà: at first, it was only take away. Then it became a real pizzeria, with no frills but homely. The name of Martucci starts to pop up around thanks to his very light dough and well-prepared seasoning, and thanks to his ability to put together a popular spirit and a more contemporary pizza.

The following phase is smoother: in September 2017 Francesco opens the new I Masanielli in Viale Dohuet. A large and modern place, designed with attention, right in front of Caserta’s Royal Palace (meanwhile, Sasà opened I Masanielli - Sasà Martucci in Via Vivaldi), which soon becomes one of the most popular destinations among lovers of pizza “in the style of Caserta”. Yet he’s not so much interested in style as in his personal take: «My pizza is, indeed, very “mine”. It has a personal identity which I developed over these years, the result of the many notions I’ve acquired by studying and going around, by questioning myself day after day. I believe a product belongs to its maker, for good and for bad. Which means he can also make a mess with the seasoning».

This is rather unlikely in his case, seeing that his pizzas are good both because of the dough – which is soft, very light, and airy – and because of the toppings, which are creative and always very balanced, as well as because of the obsessive attention paid to the baking.  As in the case of Riccia di Mammà, now a cult, with buffalo milk burrata, anchovies form Trapani, olives from Caiazzo, capers from Salina, yellow cherry tomatoes, Piennolo cherry tomatoes and curly endive. 

Luciana Squadrilli

Pizzeria Caruso, from Tramonti to Trecate

Igino Caruso

From Tramonti, a village in the province of Salerno which from the Lattari mountains overlooks the Amalfi Coast, come many of the pizzaioli now working in northern Italy and beyond, as well as a style of pizza in its own right: it’s the “pizza di Tramonti”, certified with a De.Co and characterised by a more “rustic” dough, more similar to bread, than the Neapolitan style, and by the use of local ingredients, like the excellent fior di latte and the extra virgin olive oil Colline Salernitane PDO.

Of course, among the over 3000 pizzaioli originally from Tramonti who are scattered a bit everywhere, there are also those who tried to take a different road. For instance, there’s Igino Caruso, a second-generation pizzaiolo who runs the restaurant-cum-pizzeria Caruso in Trecate, in the province of Novara. In 1999, together with his wife, he took over his father’s place, where he learnt the ropes. After that, Igino studied and worked so as to grow, evolve, improve. So while he enlarged the business by buying new spaces, he also approached a more contemporary style of pizza, without forgetting tradition completely.

In 2013 he attended Molino Quaglia’s Università della Pizza: reading and studying specialised magazines, websites, and events did the rest. Today, this is how the offer of the “pizzeria con cucina” not too far from the centre of Trecate and from the station, in an nice place with a homely hospitality is structured: the yearly pizza menu is livened up by a monthly seasonal offer – in July before the summer holidays, it was made with stracciatella and burrata – divided between two types of pizza.

There’s the classic one, “all'italiana”, with an edge that’s not too large but still noticeable, and seasoning that join the tradition of Campania with the area of Novara (for instance, they include gorgonzola PDO) and some specialties from other regions, like 'nduja from Spilinga and anchovies from Cantabria; and pizza “al padellino”, in the pan, with an aromatic dough made with Petra 3 and Petra 9 flour. But there’s also the gluten-free dough, and the one made with Kamut® flour. And among the seasonings, there are some more original options too, like Stiacciatella, with baby spinach, mortadella with pistachios, fresh cheese, pistachios and sprouts.

The kitchen also offers first courses, main courses, one plate meals, side dishes and creative burgers. In this case too, following a monthly calendar: as in the case of Black rice with grilled salmon, vegetable trio and courgette sauce and the Kalabrian Burger (beef burger, nduja, caciocavallo silano, dried tomatoes and lettuce), also from the July menu.


Dordoni’s pizza Evolutiva in Cremona

Pizza at Dordoni: this is the Evolutiva with onion cream, chickpeas and dandelion (photo from Tanio Liotta)

A premise. When approaching Dordoni in Cremona – it was almost time for dinner – I was unsure of what to do: was it best to go straight for the pizza, for which patron-chef Paco Magri has deservedly become famous, or to enjoy mostly the cuisine of a traditional restaurant, well rooted in its area, in business since back in 1966 with its founder, granddad Albino Dordoni (now in its third generation, with Paco and his sister Chiara)? A visit to the website didn’t help (it’s very old: Paco, you should change it!); as soon as we arrived, we were even more confused. On the façade, the sign said "Dordoni", while on the first floor, next to the garden in front of the entrance, it said "Pizzeria". Since we also thought we’d taste some specialty from Cremona we were rather confused.

Let’s immediately say how it went. Dordoni’s pizza is of the highest quality. We were two at the table, and we tasted two pizzas, choosing them in different styles among the five options available: Napoli Style, Focaccia alta leggera, Pizza alta, Pala alla romana and Evolutiva (all with stone-milled, semi-whole-wheat Petra 1 and Petra 9 flour, as well as the last option with Petra Evolutiva).

After writing so much about Evolutiva, of course we had to order it. There was only one option in terms of seasoning: Evolutiva with cream of onion, chickpeas and dandelion, «it’s made only with this topping because to this day it’s the one that most enhances the aroma of the wheat, in my opinion – Magri explained to us – Hence turf ingredients: a cream of slowly stewed onions, a cream of chickpeas, and a salad of baby dandelion slightly vaporized with grappa matured in barriques». It’s true: the dough, with its strong personality, finds a perfect match with the topping, which is harmonious, delicate and very elegant.

Before that, we tried a pizza in the pala alla romana style: the Prawns one, with fiordilatte from Agerola, sliced courgettes, steamed prawns, pink pepper and lime. And this case too, it was very balanced...

Carlo Passera

Squib in Catania, a success for gourmet pizza

The dish you really shouldn’t miss, of course, is pizza Squib. And it represents the parable of the place of which it bears the name: an experiment created in a beat, which immediately reached a success beyond expectations.

Created overnight, it’s made with a dough made with stone-milled wheat-flour, and served in slices, with juice of yellow date tomatoes, wild boar mortadella with truffle, wild vegetables, buffalo milk stracciatella, cheese with truffle and beetroot sprouts. And it also says a lot about the vision of its creator: the desire to immediately create a direct connection with the guest, offering combinations that can be easily understood, even though they are hardly common, convincing the guest to become more curious and make use of the chance of discovering that even the more voluptuous raw materials can coexist in a light and subtle balance.

It is no coincidence that the very young Sicilian pizzaiolo Karim Yacoubi, together with the managers of this den for gourmet pizza that literally exploded less than one year ago in the heart of Catania, decided to bet on the success of transparency from the very organization of the place: while the open view kitchen is now easily found in fine dining and bistros, while some old-style pizzerias are not afraid to have the ovens in view, what is shown here is the laboratory where they make the dough and where they experiment. Here, Karim works every day with energy and fun, bouncing from Neapolitan style pizza to Roman pinsa, from pizzas al padellinoto the signature ones...

So even those who walk by Squib will give a look (tel. +39 095 312250, The place is in fact in Largo Paisiello, with its gushing fountain, always crowded with graffiti writers and skaters, which the people of Catania have been calling “piazza Squib” for decades, because of an old warehouse once located here.

Concetta Bonini

La Farcia, panini and focaccia made in Piedmont

Grana sandwich at La Farcia

The idea is simple yet bright, the outcome is remarkable and the rapid growth proves its success: La Farcia is the – 100% Piedmontese – establishment dedicated to high quality panini and focaccia created by Flavio Ghigo, an experienced chef (and a business partner at Palazzo Righini in Fossano) who decided to leave the kitchen to focus on the simplest yet potentially tastiest food there is: stuffed bread. To do so, he got involved his partner Laura Fruttero– previously working in the hotel industry - his brother Fabrizio and his brother’s wife, Debora Tallone, with previous experience in bars and cafés. They have all put their experience to the service of the project. «The idea came when noticing that there was no high-quality offer when it came to panini – Laura explains. – So we decided to work on this, adding traditional Piedmontese dishes to good bread, so as to make it possible to serve them as take away food too. We want to break the idea that sandwiches are “fast” food, or even worse, junk food. Instead, when they’re properly made, sandwiches are good and healthy food, you can eat them even daily. Just what happened with ice creams, on which today there’s strong attention».

After starting with three places in Torino in 2017, La Farcia also arrived in Asti and Cuneo in 2018, and in Biella and Alessandria in 2019. It’s now about to open in Milan too. The well-oiled format is always the same: good bread, like in the old days, made with poolish and with stone-milled flour from Petra, baked in the laboratory in Salmour (near Fossano) in five different types, from the whole-wheat filoncino loaf to the sesame bread; and the high-quality seasonings add the classic Piedmontese tradition to the panini, especially with reference to Piedmontese antipasti.

The offer ranges from Grana (filoncino bread with a steak tartare of fassona, lettuce, shaved castelmagno PDO, cream of baked tomatoes) to Maira (ciabatta with anchovies and green sauce, tomato and grilled courgettes) and much more, which you can eat in or take away. The menu also includes two types of focaccia: the thick and soft one, filled in between – as in the case of the Piemontese with home-made veal sausage, roasted pepper, extra virgin olive oil and robiola from Roccaverano – and the thinner and crispier ones, seasoned on top. There are also pastries and cakes for breakfast, toasts, and traditional Piedmontese dishes, like veal in tuna sauce and soups), classic biscuits (from baci di dama to brutti e buoni) and a nice selection of puddings, including of course bunet.