I’ll Have the Pizza

Walking here is a full contact sport. There is an Italian view of personal space that is, basically, nonexistent. It would be very easy to have your pocket picked because people are bumping into you everywhere. As a result of the many cautions we were offered both D and I spent the whole day with our hands on our wallets. Of course when we aren’t staring down other pedestrians we’re staring down cars and vespas. The streets are barely wide enough for two to walk abreast, nonetheless the cars and scooters that share the space. The end result is an ongoing game of chicken, with the drivers just daring us to cede our place in the road and us daring them to take it from us.

It sounds bizarre, but it’s the local way of things and we have caught onto it rather quickly.

In the morning we took a food tour of town. At least that’s how it was planned, although the tour guide was clearly trying to read our likes and dislikes and tailor things accordingly. Still we stopped in for …

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Sfogliatelle, which are filled with ricotta and come in two types.

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Baba, which are soft cakes soaked with dilute rum.

Fried macaroni and cheese (I’m paraphrasing here) and Potato croquettes (the sicilian variety is better) were also on the tasting menu.

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At the end of the morning we went and made our own pizza. Neither D nor I got our crust prepared to the satisfaction of the pizzaiolo so in the end we used his crust.

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It cooks for 50 seconds in an 850 F beechwood fired oven.

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The pizzaiolo was displeased because we put too much basil on the pizza – apparently 1 piece is customary. In total, the final pizza fell somewhere between a Neapolitan and New York style, given that the crust here was a little crispier than the pizzerie last night. And it was pretty darn good.

This was an enjoyable morning overall, and helpful in introducing us to town.

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The afternoon was marked by an attempt at visiting the National Archaeology Museum. This is where many treasures of Herculaneum and Pompeii are kept. Unfortunately the museum is closed on Tuesday, which stands in mockery of my principle that Italian museums are closed on Monday.

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Instead we wandered down Via Toledo, which was packed with pedestrians and shoppers. At the end of the street we ate some more.

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We had struffoli, which are a traditional Christmas pastry soaked with honey. D notes that in NYC the struffoli are more coated with honey, whereas here the honey soaks in. He prefers the NYC style. I prefer these.

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And we had the second type of sfogliatelle which is also filled with ricotta but made with a thin dough containing pork fat. The dough is very close to phyllo, but we could clearly taste the porkiness. One thing we have noticed about all the desserts here is that the sweetness is much less than we would expect at home, and frankly they don’t need to be any sweeter.

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We finished the evening at one last pizzeria, Sorbillo. This place was packed last night, but tonight we are eating early to avoid the crowds. This may, in the end, have been our favorite pizza. The crust was slightly breadier and drier than last nights, but not so much that it fell beyond the range of local expectations. The harmony between cheese, crust, and tomato was remarkable. There was some char on the crust, but in a good way, accenting the flavors, not obliterating them.

Walking back to our hotel we decided we would gladly have any of these pizze again. But tomorrow we must move on to our next destination. And more food where it awaits!

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