Tag Archives: pizza

Working at Sforno was Sawesome

Okay, silly title, but working at Stefano Callegari and Antonio Pratticò’s, Sforno was an awesome experience.

I started out watching and helping them make dough.  I had a quick family meal with all the cooks (and all the cute waitresses) and then watched as they made around 200 pizzas in about 2.5 hours.  It was an impressive process to watch but it was more impressive that each pizza came out perfectly.  And I didn’t miss a single pizza.

The working atmosphere at Sforno seems rare in Rome – it’s fun, the cooks and pizzaiolo like working there, they’re passionate about pizza, and the food is better because of it.  Maybe it’s due to the way Stefano and his business partner, Antonio run the place or maybe it’s because the restaurant is outside the Rome Centro and is devoid of annoying tourists.  I think it’s definitely more likely that it’s the capos (bosses), both of whom were flight attendants with Alitalia before deciding they wanted to open a pizzeria together.  If it isn’t obvious already, I think Sforno is a very special restaurant.

Anyway, this place is definitely worth a trip if not a few trips.  They’re known for the their Cacio e Pepe pizza — I now like it more on pizza than on pasta — which they use a secret method to make.  Also their suppli are legendary, a MUST.  It’s easy to get to on Metro A from the Subaugusta stop.  Saturday may be the night to go since the metro runs until 1am.

Stefano, Antonio and Kabir, Sforno’s pizzaiolo, also own 00100 in Testaccio which is definitely worth a trip as well and is much closer to the Rome Centro.  Trappizini are also sold until 4am at Brasserie 4:20 near Porta Portese.  4:20 also sells burgers.  They’re pretty good.

Via Statilio Ottato, 110/116
00175 Roma
Tel. 06 71546118
Closed Sundays

Brasserie 4:20
Via Portuense, 82
00153 Rome, Italy
Tel. 06 5831 0737

The Beatification: an Excuse to go to Pizzarium

The beatification of Pope John Paul II was a few days ago so we decided to wade through the throngs of pilgrims and check it out…. and then get Pizzarium. The streets were a mess, there were people everywhere singing, chanting, crying. The trash layer was inches thick. It made the pizza that much more worth it.

It was also a special day because Bonci happened to be there and Miles asked if he could work there…. and he did for 4 or 5 whole days.  Pretty cool.  I hear they got along.  How couldn’t they.

So, anyway, at Pizzarium, we had bacala with fava puree and artichoke.  I also had the classic potato filler.  Just to be sure I could make it back to the Academy without having to stop for a snack.

Via della Meloria, 43
00136 Roma, Italy
06 39745416

Another Pizza Inspired Weekend to Napoli and Capri + Scooters

We finally made it back!  It was worth the wait.  The problem is, there are still 3 or 4 other pizza spots I haven’t yet sampled.  So, Napoli, I’ll be back soon.  Most or all of the places we stopped at in Napoli can be found on my Napoli Map!

We started out at Da Michele.  Straight from the train station we got there at around 11 just as they were firing the second round of pizzas.  It was the perfect time to come because there was no line and the oven was hot.  The pizza was pretty perfect by Napoli standards: Crisp outer crust with a soft inside, oily, cheesy topping with a gooey delicious center.  I could just eat gooey Da Michele pizza middles all day.  We at below the picture of Julia Roberts eating pizza there.  Haunting.

On our walk to our Hotel, Il Convento, we stumbled upon some awesome, classic Fascist Architecture.  Oh, and the hotel was very nice, great bathroom, poor water pressure, good location.

and some trash –> art studies in the streets, and a crazily painted garage.

Later in the day we headed up to Capodimonte for a walk in the park and to take in the view.

We went back to Ristorante Mattozzi Europeo for dinner.  It was fantastic.  We started out with some buffalo mozzarella, octopus and some little teeny tiny white fish that were raw and dressed.  Crazy texture, I loved them.

Next we had a Margherita Pizza and a Marinara Pizza, bot delicious.

Our pasta was the best pasta I’ve had in Italy so far.  Calamarata with clams, shrimp, squid and a fish sauce that was ridiculous.  I could have had a bowl of the fish stock as a soup with a piece of bread.  It was thick, saffrony and just blew my taste buds away.

We finished up with a mixed grill plate that was also, pretty pretty good: squid, white fish, shrimp.  I was pretty pleased with our meal, to say the least.

Sunday Morning we headed to Cafe Gambrinus for a little sfogliatelle and cafe.  It was only our 4th time in 24 hours.

And then to Capri!  We rented awesome little scooters at the port and started zoomed around the island.  Here I am with an awesome Mary statue.

This is the ridiculous line of boats waiting to take people into the Blue Grotto or Grotta Azzurra.  What a trip.  You definitely didn’t have to lay that low.  Smuggler scarzo.

Next stop on our scooters: The Piccola Marina for some beach access and a dip.  The water was cold but refreshing in the 80 degree + weather.  Working on a nice tan.  We had pizzas at the cafe above the beach, something D’Oro.  It was alright, they let us park our scooters out front so we had to do it.  Still, better than most pizza Napoletana in rome.

We took a little hike around the less touristy part of the island before heading home.

I definitely recommend renting scooters.  It was a great way to see the entire island.  I’m not so sure how fun it would be during the height of tourist season but at this time of year, it was perfect.

Da Michele
Via Cesare Sersale, 1
80139 Naples, Italy
081 5539204

Hotel Il Convento
Via Speranzella, 137
80132 Naples, Italy
081 403977

Ristorante Mattozzi Europeo
Via Campodisola Marchese, 4
80133 Naples, Italy
081 552 1323

Gran Cafe Gambrinus
Via Chiaia, 1
80132 Naples, Italy

Finally, Pizzarium for Pizza al Taglio

It’s about time we had something delicious to eat outside the AAR walls in Rome.  Pizzarium by Gabriele Bonci.  Kind of really expensive but so so good.  The crust was the best I’ve had in Italy in the last 6 months.  Crunchy and not greasy but olive oily.  Can you tell I loved it?  Okay.  We had:

  • the classic pizza rosa
  • potato pizza — holy shit.
  • artichoke pizza
  • ricotta, zucchini, basil pizza
  • roasted red pepper and mozzarella pizza
  • and I drooled over but did not eat: speck and crema di ceci

pizzarium - ricotta, zucchine, basil pizza

pizzarium - ricotta, rossa, potato, pizzas

pizzarium - roasted red pepper, carciofi pizzas

pizzarium - carciofi pizza

pizzarium - the crust

pizzarium - speck, crema di ceci

Via della Meloria 43
00136 Roma
Quartiere Trionfale

Napoli For My Birthday

I’ve been craving pizza and a new city to explore.  Napoli was the perfect destination.  We were all very nervous about going after all the horror stories we heard.  The first thing we did was get a pizza each from a little hole in the wall place called I Decumani.  There was no point in waiting.  I ate most of mine on a park bench.  It was mediocre but still SO satisfying.

Pretty soon after eating our pizzas and checking into the Hotel Neapolis (a great hotel, 87 euro for three beds, one large enough for two people), we made our way over to meet Giovanni and his family at a little place called Europeo di A. Mattozzi.  We started with two cheese: mozzarella di bufala and a smoked provoletta.  The mozz was incredible.  Next we had a margarita pizza and a marinara pizza, both were the best pizzas I’ve had in Italy thus far.  On the side we had some croquette filled with potato and the smoke provoletta, along with some sauteed escarole.

Next, the pastas.  We started with a hot and spicy pasta called Spaghetti Sufrito.  The pasta was cooked perfectly and the sauce, made from various Vitello insides, was pretty interesting.  Each bite offered a different texture and flavor.  Pasta number two was a Paccheri con vongole, tomato, scampi and angostine.  Again, the pasta was cooked perfectly and the fish was delicious.

For Secondo, we split some alici fritti and some carciofi.   I think fried anchovies are my favorite kind of fried fish.

For dessert, we had a flourless chocolate-almond cake, perfect for the non-gluten eaters among us, along with a torta di fragolini, babas with rum, cream puffs, limoncello, grappa and one last prosecco to celebrate the owner’s birthday and our birthdays before leaving.

After we walked to the famous cafe Gambrinus for espresso and more little treats.

We walked around Napoli a bit and were slightly sickened by tripe hanging in well lit display cases on the streets.

The next morning we got up and out really early.  Our first stop was across the street from our hotel to get some hot and fresh sfogliatelle.  Then we walked down Via Petrucciani and went into a bunch of the nativity scene stores to look at all the dollhouse sized stuff.  Pretty amazingly detailed stuff.

This was followed by a visit to the Gesu Nuovo,  Santa Chiaia, an old cloister still in use today, and then the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli.  We had an interesting time in the room with all the forbidden art.

We were particularly interested in the giant statue of Hercules.  And his… features.

Next stop was Pizzeria Brandi for some very disappointing pizza.  Maybe because it was still early in the day or maybe they just aren’t as good as the guide books say they are.  Whatever the reason, it was a let down.

We went for a long walk after lunch had some coffee and more sfoliatelle and came across someone putting their work van to good Sunday afternoon use — moving their sailboat.

Our last major cultural stop was the Palazzo Reale, a ridiculously ornate and grand old palace.

And of course, one last baba for the road.

Hotel Neapolis
Via Francesco dei Giudice, 13
081 764 9752
87 euro for 1 night, 3 beds

The Farm

After today I’ve decided I’m moving to a small farm in Italy and cooking and eating all day long for the rest of my life.  I was very lucky to be invited to come along and I would say it was a once in a lifetime experience but I’m not going to let that be the case….

getting to the farm

We arrived early and went for a tour with Giovanni, the farmer.  He showed us various plants and the bugs that eat them and explained why each bug likes each plant.  Then he went on to state his theory of the creation of the universe.  I think.  He was talking really quickly and my Italian isn’t exactly perfect yet but I think I understood most of what he was saying.  The part of the farm that we saw isn’t huge but supplies most of the food to the American Academy.  There are a lot of different kinds of leafy green lettuces and vegetables growing including cardoons and fennel (okay not sooo leafy).  We stomped around and tried the bits of leaves he handed us to taste.  Afterwards he’d say things like, this thins your blood or this is medicinal.  Blind faith.  We followed him back up the hill to the road and over to his villa.
tomatoes and more veggies

Giovanni showing a cardoon who's boss

rows of lettuce

Giovanni explaining why bugs like certain plants (i think)

The villa is under construction but the view from the large terrace was amazing and there was a small cooking shack with an open fire and a pizza oven ready for us to use.  We set to work.  I helped prep the meat, which consisted of tearing open the packages and sprinkling with olive oil and salt, and then spent a good amount of time eating and drinking.the pizza oven

the setup

The meal started with fennel salad, fresh sausage and little blocks of cheese (some kind of parmesan I think).  The pasta with some kind of meat was next and so good, followed by an endless stream of delicious pizzas.  Toppings included anchovies, tomato, mozzarella, parmesan, caramelized onions, lots of olive oil, spices and the potatoes I prepared yesterday.  All the pizzas were amazing and the dough was so easy to work with (compared to Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods dough).  I made a potato, onion and mozzarella pizza with a sprinkling of rosemary.  The meat was cooked over the open fire and sliced and we ate it with our hands along with the pizza.

pizza doughs

my pizza (terrible picture)

We had to take a stroll around the grounds after dinner to prepare for desert.  A huge cake, special for Halloween and a huge apple tart awaited our return along with espresso.

post-dinner stroll


A little later we said our goodbyes, crammed into the van and headed home, singing songs inspired mostly by two of the more musical kitchen interns.  I would do this every weekend…. so if you know anyone looking for a farm hand, email me.

the view