Too much time has passed since my last posting. The last few months have been quite hectic. May 19th just after midnight my father passed away at age 86. He was quite comfortable, his hand held by the nighttime nurse and the gentle voice of Frank Sinatra filling the room. My father worked in Como, Italy for over 30 years as a stylista in men's neckwear. Como, the center for silk in Northern Italy, sits on a beautiful lake surrounded by snow capped mountains, villas and gardens. My father had many great friends in Italy, their hearts and homes always open and never missing an opportunity to share with him, “the good life.” My family and I have also been blessed in this way, where from north to south, including Turino, Milano, Firenze, Ascoli Piceno, Roma, Rodi Garganico, Benevento, and Napoli we have and continue to experience much love and good will with our friends there. So what else can I tell you? Late April Baronessa Cecilia Belleli Baratta of Tenuta Seliano of Paestum and her four sisters came for dinner.
Tenuta Seliano is a working farm and beautiful agritourism inn, and is home to some 800 water buffalo. Baronessa Cecilia’s two sons are considered world masters of bufala mozzarella artisanal products. What a group!
Mid May is the time for the annual National Restaurant Show, and once again we hosted a dinner for a select group of friends who were part of that event. We were graced by John Arena and Sam Facchini of Las Vegas (Metro Pizza), John and Lisa Nitti of Chicago’s Isola Imports, representatives from La Spaziale Espresso, and Miss Italy USA, as well as others in the restaurant industry.
A trip to Los Angeles in late May allowed Ginny and me the opportunity to dine at Nancy Silverton’s much celebrated restaurant, Mozza, co-owned with Mario Batali. They have put together quite a collection of pizze and antipasti. Nancy’s new book, Twist of the Wrist, will inspire you to create gourmet meals at home using many of the specialty products easily found in the neighborhood or over the internet. Nancy’s spinach salad with lentils and crispy warm goat cheese was quick to find its way onto our specials menu board. We use the freshly made creamy goat cheese from local farmers Leslie Cooperband and Wes Jarrell of Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery, whom I met at Spence Farm during Rampfest, and who sell at Green City Market.
Whenever I made my way to New York City to visit my father, I would see my friend Roberto Caporuscio at his newly opened Keste Pizzeria on Bleeker Street.
I am always excited to see what new ideas I can glean from him. The notion of quiet hands and a gentle touch to the dough continues to be so important. Allowing the dough to rest for a longer period of time while out of the fridge and before extending it at the pizza bank continues to be a positive influence on the final product. One of Roberto’s offerings, Battilocchio Del Giorno, is now one of the special treats we occasionally offer while diners are waiting for a table or have just been seated. The name battilocchio is truly of Napolitano Dialetto, meaning someone who is some what slow but not necessarily cattivo (which in English means bad or naughty). A battilocchio is made by cutting one pagnotto (dough ball) in half and extending the dough in a quadrangular form. Always careful to leave the cornicione (border) untouched, we spread the interior with a mix of bufala ricotta blended with red and yellow pepper and anchovy. As we get more adventurous, other spreads, such as pecorino sardo with white truffle and porcini mushrooms, will be introduced.
On the dessert end, we have introduced panna cotta to our list of dolci. A loving mix of cream, milk, sugar and vanilla, it is currently being topped with seasonal rhubarb. When the time is right, don’t be surprised if you find the panna cotta topped with hand cut pears and balsamic vinegar.
And not to be missed: Our dear friend Jed Fielding, whose photographs of beautiful and vibrant Naples adorn our walls, has a solo exhibition entitled 30 Years on the Street through July 3rd at the Catherine Edelman Gallery in Chicago.
His book City of Secrets, of 30 years of street work in Naples can always be found by our host stand. A brilliant discussion of his photography can be found at www.edelmangallery.com/fieldingvideotalk.htm
The month of June officially begins our new summer hours! The sidewalk café is open and there is nothing better than a meal al fresco when the weather is just right. So take advantage of our (new) Monday through Sunday availability, I’m waiting for you. To my staff and loving friends of the pizzeria, I thank you all for your support and compassion.