To celebrate this very important state visit, Neapolitan pizza makers added to the ancestral pizza with tomatoes the Snow of Russia, that is that generous sprinkling of cacio cheese. It is a pizza that had been almost forgotten, almost taken off the menu…
Welcome to the last episode of a new set of pods on the Series “On The Road Edition” hosted by Stevie Kim. Join Stevie as she desperately seeks the best pizza in Napoli – Tune-in as she enjoys the sites, sounds and …the pizza! In this second episode filmed in the “Pizzeria Salvo”, Stevie continues her discovery of Neapolitan pizza with Luciano Pignataro and Salvatore Salvo. They talk about wine and pizza pairings, traditional Neapolitan fried food and the famous and mysterious pizza Cosacca. This episode is also available on our youtube channel Mamma Jumbo Shrimp with subtitles.
Stevie: So how does that translate into the shape, the style of the pizza? That, that’s all beautiful however how does that translate into the pizza, the style.
Salvatore: We always keep faith with tradition even when we think of the ingredient, we think, let’s say, to elaborate the pizza, my father called them “elaborate pizzas” those that today are called “culmini”. We try to respect the peculiarities of the pizza itself, so even the ingredient, for how it is dosed, for how it is used, is designed not to become the main element and the protagonist of the pizza, but rather the pizza, so the disc of dough, the peculiarity of the dough remains at the same time always the protagonist of a pizza. How does it translate? By giving a new dress to what was already in herself a beautiful woman but in reality, maybe she was not always wearing Armani. But even a simple tomato and cheese we have here in front of us we choose what can be the most suitable tomato for this pizza, a raw milk pecorino from Irpinia so let’s say from our region and we make the combination with another important element that has often been neglected which is the oil. It is not important for us to choose the best extra-virgin oil, but rather the one that is best suited to a given pizza. For example, on a Margherita we use a type of oil with organoleptic characteristics that give a kind of balance in relation to the other ingredients, on a Cosacca we use another type of oil with characteristics that are better in relation to the balance of the ingredients that make up the Cosacca.
Stevie: So, Luciano, the same question but you have to contextualize what he says because in wine for example barolist, modernist are…
Luciano: You mean the barrique….
Stevie: That’s right, isn’t it? So, give me something….
Luciano: So, there are two ways to be modern, one is the path that Salvatore has just explained, that is to lengthen the leavening process, to take care of the products, to understand what is being used and to try to improve the quality. And then there is, the so-called … what we call “the revolution of crusts” …
Stevie: What do you mean?
Luciano: They are young pizza makers who today have an age range between 25 and 30 and, like all young people, they love to stand out and they make a pizza with a crust… a pizza much smaller than this one and with a much, much more pronounced crust. And, let’s say, the competition between them is who makes the lightest crust, because before the crust was usually left because it was the hardest part to chew, instead with this innovation, we talk about pizza….
Stevie: But with the pocket?
Luciano: The contemporary Neapolitan pizza just, it just has the idea of this crust, just in a canotto shape. And… that where there are always the same ingredients, the leavening is always the same, see? Here it’s important, the important part of the Neapolitan pizza is this that it has to be very meltable….
Luciano: Yes, soft. Those who have never eaten Neapolitan pizza, the first time they taste it they say “but it’s raw”, no it’s not raw it’s very hydrated and this has been possible thanks to a lot of work that has been done on flours, for example. And so, it’s a product that has fundamentally changed, like the pizzeria. Because before it was a product of hunger, so you bought it for little, you ate it for lunch, it’s hard to digest, the men of the past were stronger and so they were all day with this, how to say … this satisfaction, they did not think about hunger. And now, clearly the needs have changed so there is a lot of attention to leavening, a lot of attention to the dosage of salt, this is also an element of modernity and a lot of attention to the quality of ingredients. So you have to eat not only something good but also something that makes you feel good.
Stevie: All right. Salvatore, what is your signature pizza? Which one represents you the most?
Salvatore: eh the Cosacca we could say because actually….
Stevie: What would this be?
Salvatore: This one is.
Stevie: Then explain what the Cosacca is.
Salvatore: La Cosacca is a pizza that is even older than the Margherita because…
Stevie: Older than Queen Margeritat?
Salvatore: That’s right, because it actually celebrates Naples the capital, let’s say, the Naples Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, which in 1835 received an important visit from the Tsar of Russia. So, to celebrate the city of this very important….
Stevie: So older than Margherita?
Salvatore: Yes, in order to celebrate this very important state visit, Neapolitan pizza makers added to the ancestral pizza with tomatoes the Snow of Russia, that is that generous sprinkling of cacio cheese. It is a pizza that had been almost forgotten, almost taken off the menu of Neapolitan pizzas…
Salvatore: It was for people who had stomach aches or for children, right? We used to make this tomato and parmesan cheese. We have recovered the products of excellence of our territory, the tomatoes of Corbara and raw milk pecorino of Bagnoli Irpino and relaunched what was one of the most traditional pizza. Unknowingly enjoying great success. And so, it is perhaps the one that represents us most, it was a bit of a turning point in some way of our new path. And then I was telling you about the tomato pizza, which is very important to me because it represents the beginning of an evolutionary professional journey, even in this case, where an ingredient as simple as tomatoes is transformed, thanks to the advice of a star chef, into ingredients with their own processing and personality. At the beginning, they are the same ingredients, but in reality, the varieties and the processing become always different ingredients for pizza.
Stevie: So, with this particular pizza you gave us a wine. Can you explain the wine to us?
Salvatore: Yes, this is a bottle-refermented Aglianico from Cilento. Actually, it is one of the sparkling wines, let’s say, with an ancestral fermentation made in the bottle a bit by the Neapolitan culture, let’s say, of the sparkling wines of the Lattari Mountains that were Gragnano and …. That arrived in Naples for defects, let’s say due to the heat, let’s say they fermented in the bottle but then it became a style that today we intend to recover. In this case we move to the Center where we have a wine made from a different blend, because Gragnano is made from Piedirosso in this case it is an Aglianico that has more or less the same characteristics and therefore the sparkling note in the glass that, let’s say, once upon a time was always paired with pizzas. Actually the matching between pizza and wine has no boundaries for us, we match local wines starting from the simplest ones or from medium white and natural wines as we are discovering lately in order to match them with the great Italian bubbles and not only.
Stevie: But, but the young people, because you also have young people as a clientele no?
Stevie: They…what is the trend like? Now the problem in general with Italian wine but all over the world is that young people drink mostly spritzers, or cocktails, or let’s say heavy spirits. And we struggle to engage young people. To me, it seems a natural path because pizza is very approachable, let’s say, and by pairing it with a wine we could create this culture. This approach with wine. What do you see as a wine trend among young people?
Salvatore: Compared to…I make comparison, between years 10 ago when we started to structure our winery where selling a bottle of wine especially of a certain importance, was almost a feat. I remember that part a bit ‘lacking to open even French champagne at reasonable costs. Then later on, upon insistence of a renowned Italian winery, we got back to the subject of drinking bubbles with pizza. Differently from the first years where the first experiment was made with champagne, today the product, in this case Trento Doc is more easily sold. In other words, the vision has already changed compared to our beginning as a pizzeria with a cellar. What we see, which is even more frequent in the last years, are the wines that have the best quality-price ratio. Besides the great enthusiastic, which represent a niche of our customers who can drink…they also indulge in great wines. Then the important thing from a business point of view in order to stimulate the consumption of wine with pizza is to have prices that are not restaurant prices, which can be unaffordable in some aspects. The new trend could be to start drinking wines made in an organic or natural way, maybe where they have that…
Stevie: Even for us, no in this situation?
Salvatore: Yes. I see the culture of wine growing, especially among young people where… the culture of good food has grown in the past years. The taste and the recognition of a raw material in a dish that has a certain value and, above all, a certain quality. It is a growing path, certainly the numbers of wine sold today are higher than the ones sold 6-8 years ago when they called us crazy. Even someone was worried about how we were financing these wines we were starting to buy. I remember Beppe Mammino called Francesco and he said “What are you doing? You are ruining yourselves buying all these wines”. In the meantime, we have restocked the cellar many times as we are doing now. So today we are beginning to understand that wines, especially the ones having a quality-price ratio, are the ones that are liked, above all they convince the average pizzeria’s customer to try, to test this new path and above all they take more easily even young people. Of course, the glass should always be seen as half-full because it is related to the quantity of beers that are sold today and we are still at very different volumes, but there is a number that wants to grow.
Stevie: So you’re cautiously optimistic?
Salvatore: I am optimistic because it’s based on … Naples is the city that consumes more champagne, has the growth of consumption of champagne greater then by virtue of this …
Stevie: Come on, I didn’t know that.
Luciano: It is consumed a lot also because thanks to tourists, important restaurants, fish restaurants, so there is this trend to bubbles, not only French, eh? I must say that there are also Italian sparkling wines, including Prosecco, Trento Doc and Franciacorta, which always come to present their vintages here in Campania.
Salvatore: There is also a rediscovery of Campania’s wines, wines that are not …. They are sought after, maybe they have producers who have stories to tell or indigenous wines that have unusual processes. So there is a greater curiosity from customers even in these types of wines, which maybe are made in amphora or are vineyards…I think, I do not know, we are selling very well Rovello, this autochthonous vineyard from Irpinia or some natural wines coming from Caserta or Benevento that therefore arouse more curiosity in customers.
Stevie: So like around the world, is natural wine is going strong?
Salvatore: It is starting to, because I, let’s say in recent times, especially at the turn of the lockdown, I rediscovered them because the first approach, I think as it happened to everyone, was not pleasant and I left this product alone. Then, thanks to some friends who had a better knowledge than mine, I saw that the world of natural wine was wanted and so I approached it with more curiosity, with the curiosity of the restaurateur who wants to know the trend of what could be a new key for his cellar.
Stevie: Okay, the very last question about frying. What am I seeing here?
Luciano: Here you see the classic fried food that always precedes the pizza.
Stevie: So you eat the fry up before the pizza?
Luciano: Before pizza, yes. And it’s food…
Stevie: And what are they?
Luciano: …from the street. These are frittatine…
Stevie: Frittatine with…?
Luciano: Neapolitan frittatas, typical, they are sold in all the bars everywhere
Stevie: is it street food?
Luciano: Yes, it is a typical Neapolitan street food.
Stevie: What’s in it?
Luciano: Look, now there are all kinds. This one for example, is a traditional one, with béchamel sauce, a bit of ham. Then there are…
Stevie: it’s a meal this!
Luciano: Yes, now it’s a meal, before it was a whim.
Stevie: And then here?
Luciano: Then we have, now of typical there are frittatine alla carbonara, frittatine alla amatriciana, frittatine cacio e pepe. This is a pasta and potatoes. Here we have the crocchè that we…
Stevie: of potatoes?
Luciano: Of potatoes, which we also call panzarotti.
Luciano: Panzarotti, it’s a term we use for the…
Stevie: I thought they were like little calzoni.
Luciano: Yes, but let’s say the crocchè is also called Panzarotto, as…
Stevie: In Naples?
Luciano: “You’re a panzarotto” do you understand?
Stevie: Ah ok
Luciano: And these are the arancini because dear Stevie….
Stevie: But aren’t they Sicilian?
Luciano: No, they are not like the Sicilian ones because the Sicilian ones are number one, let’s be honest. First of all, in Italian the name is masculine, I give you this curiosity, instead arancina is feminine in Palermo.
Stevie: Oh gosh.
Luciano: But the Neapolitan name of these guys…
Stevie: Is it arancino?
Luciano: no, it’s “e Pall’e ris”, the rice ball. And do you know why it is interesting? Because one of the commonplaces that we have in Italy is that rice is a thing of the North, while in the South we only eat pasta. But rice first arrived in Sicily, brought by the Arabs, then crossed the Strait and went to Calabria where there are still important rice fields. It was cultivated in the area of the Piana del Sele of Paestum because first it was a marshy area and then slowly went up to the north. And in the tradition of the south you often find rice dishes. In Bari, for example, you find Tiella rice and potatoes, in Palermo you find arancine, in Naples there is Sartù di riso which is an ancient preparation of great chefs at the beginning of the 1800s and therefore this tradition has remained even in a popular pizzeria where you eat these fritters and then move on to pizza.
Stevie: Okay, arancino, pal riso.
Luciano: Ball of rice, “e Pall ‘e ris”.
Stevie: “Pall’e ris.” Then I do a cheers in English it’s “Old friends, new friends”.
All: Old friends, new friends, cheers!
Stevie: And that’s a wrap Italian Wine Podcast on the Road, Naples edition.