In late September, Roberto Caporuscio of the Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani, returned to work with us. I am only sorry that he is not with us every day! Roberto is such a great teacher and inspiration. Not only did we continue to work with how we extend the dough and engage the oven, Roberto introduced several new antipasti (assagi) to our repertoire that we will be offering on our menu as specials, such as carciofi e patate, carote al parmigiano, mozzarella in carrozza, melanzane involtini, polpette di finocchietti, angioletti to name just a few. We also played with the form of the pizza, such as quattro catone or four corners (making pies with four mini calzone); naso a naso or nose to nose (one calzone facing another); cornicione ripieno or stuffed borders; volcano (one on top of the other), and pizza fritta or fried pizza. Roberto and I had some time to play as well. Zucchero, the popular and great Italian blues artist was in the US for a brief tour. We were given the opportunity to cook for him and his ensemble on the dates he performed in Chicago. If you aren’t familiar with Zucchero, check out his music and his history. He has played with many, many great artists from the world over. It truly was a lot of fun to be part of these events.
I followed Zucchero to New York where he performed on his birthday at Carnegie Hall. During this trip I was able to take some time with Lou DiPalo, whose great grandfather began the family’s Latteria (cheese and ricotta shop) in 1910 in lower Manhattan’s “Little Italy”. Lou is a wonderful guy, very willing to share his great knowledge of cheese, Italian meats and other Italian specialty products. There’s nothing like fresh mozzarella! Casa della Mozzarella on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx is another great place to visit.
As we experience the changing of the seasons, the pizze we offer evolve to complement those changes. You will see a greater use of pancetta, porcini, guanciale, potato and egg, and the hand-dipped ricotta more widely used. A new favorite is the “L’Antonio,”consisting of bufala mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, speck (a dry-cured smoked ham from Alto Adige) and our creamy ricotta. This pie is named in honor of Antonio Starita, one of the great pizzaiuoli of Naples. A third generation pizza maker, you can find him in the neighborhood called Materdei. Pizzeria Starita dates back to 1901. The year of Italy’s Giubileo, Antonio had the good fortune to present Pope John Paul with his “Pizza Del Papa.” Crema di zucca, fiorilli, zucchini, peperoni (peppers) and provola were the ingredients.
Our soups also change with the seasons. Fagioli e scarola, minestra with prosciutto and soppressata, and one with mussels and clams are now back in rotation. Soups are soothing, the classic comfort food, and something we are all in need of as we face greater challenges in our daily lives.
One of our greatest pleasures at Spacca Napoli is hearing from someone that this is where they want to be, that we are able to provide a sense of belonging and community, as the following little story illustrates. Recently one of our regular diners came in to eat. I spoke with her at the end of her meal and realized that she had called earlier to see how busy we were. She then told me that she had originally planned to stay home that night, but decided that she wanted some company, and that she wanted to be with us. Not only do we aspire to offer good food and drink, it is our intent to make our place feel like it is yours as well. I’ll close with an autumnal welcome to all of our customers, new and continuing. Let us know how you like our new offerings. I am thankful for your continued support, kindness and feedback.