As the year comes to an end I am quite thankful. We have managed to stay afloat while we see such hardship all around us. Although I believe offering good food at a fair price sustains our establishment, as recognized by the Michelin Group’s Bib Gourmand award, fostering a sense of community among our staff, vendors and patrons is at the heart of what we do. We are all still excited whenever someone lets us know they enjoy returning to Spacca over and over again. As always, we want to continue to develop as artisans. This year I will continue learning with Roberto Caporuscio of Keste Pizzeria in New York and with the great Antonio Starita in Napoli. I look forward to time with the Caputo family, the makers of our flour, when we are together at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas this spring. A most exciting opportunity will be going back to Caiazzo, near Casserta, to be with the owners of Antica Osteria Pizzeria Pepe. Passed down from father to son for nearly a century, this pizzeria employs age old methods that embody the essence of the slow food movement.
A true characterization of their work can be found in the simple words of my teacher, Enzo Coccia: “pizza isn’t just a food, it’s a way of being.” Sky Dylan Robbins’ closing comment in her documentary Pizza Napoletana also gives an idea of what they are about in Caiazzo: “It’s the passion, the soul, the love transmitted from the pizza makers’ hands into our hearts through these pizzas, which nourish not just our bodies, but also our souls.” In anticipation of my visit, I have begun to play with a particular calzone that is one of their house favorites — scarola (escarole) with gaeta olives, anchovies and capers.
What makes their calzone special, aside from their wonderful dough and masterful hand work, is their using fresh escarole that lovingly cooks down (steams) while in the oven.
My interest in expanding my understanding of pizza’s history, art form, and artisanal manner goes hand in hand with expanding and fine tuning our knowledge of wine and how to best pair it with pizza. Many would say that drinks with some “fizz”, including beer, sodas, or vino frizzante are either the appropriate or only choice when it comes to pizza; however many white and red wines are delicious options and have a rich tradition of being enjoyed together with pizza. Just recently the Osteria Antica Pizzeria Pepe in Caiazzo held a special event called Una Serata Particolare to discuss this subject. The goal of the evening was to investigate misunderstandings and dispel myths about pairing pizza with wine, and in the words of the organizers, “engage the five senses, passion, and memory” while doing so. That evening included tastings of wine from Pallagrello and Casavecchia.
Which leads me to the wines on our menu.
Our wines are primarily from the south of Italy: Campania, Basilicata, Puglia, and Sicily, and we have a few favorites from Abruzzo and Sardinia. All of our wines come from family owned vineyards that span several generations. Our producers can fairly claim uninterrupted years of traditional practices, bringing ancient varietals forward for our enjoyment. While today’s production methods are far more sophisticated than when homemade wines went from stomping to table, the essential qualities from those early days remain: personal attention to detail and regional specificity.
In this way what we offer is close in concept to being with an Italian family and sipping their homemade wine at their kitchen table, something I have enjoyed many times in Italy, especially in Rodi Garganico. Many thanks to Seth Allen, Peter Steinhouse, and Maia R. Megna of Winebow for sharing their knowledge and passion on these matters and helping us bring these special wines to you.
As our year comes to an end, once again, a big thank you to everyone. I am truly blessed to have work I love; it is a joy to share with others—always in collaboration. February 14th marks our 5th anniversary and in celebration, 5% of all proceeds for the month of February will be donated to The Night Ministry, specifically to go to their shelter for homeless teens in Chicago.