Only after noticing a sheet of paper, with a legend on “comic sans”, taped to the wall that said: “Pizza workshops with sourdough: 600€” and a DIY blackboard describing the fermentation qualities on the “Pinsa Romana” written on it, I knew I was in a serious pizzeria.
With several hours of procrastination due to the long and delayed train ride, finally I found my hotel in the city of La Spezia in the Liguria region. Before hand, I knew that it wasn´t a five stars place, nevertheless, I was surprised to discover that the hotel´s reception actually was a pizzeria called Bella Napoli, an absolut global clichè among pizza places! –just type these words in a web search and you´ll find several results, from Nashville to Austria-.
After double checking the address, my face couldn´t hide an expressión of surprise when confirming the fact that this pizzeria filled with joint chairs, old boxes, stacks of the previous days orders and an almost empty space with only two customers seated beside an old and aboandoned fish tank, was the lobby of my hotel.
I wasn´t scared of the lack of immaculation in the interiors, in México, we believe that the best taquerías are not immaculate nor beautiful, but I was there for accomodation not food.
The spanish waitress -who is used to see the same expression in the guests- stopped packing some leftovers, sucked her right tumb spoted with pomodoro sauce and asked me in a very friendly tone for my passport. That was my first check-in registration in a pizzeria!
Then, I was scorted to my room by one pizzaiolo (pizza maker) who later turned out to be the head of the family who owns the place. He seemed very comfortable for cooking in his dark shorts, black jersey and a one time white apron.
That night I returned to the place to order a “Pinsa Romana” which is an elongated pizza that has a special mix of flours (wheat, rice and soybean). The light yellow color of the pizza crust that after careful observation revealed an irregular texture, as if fried, and the big burned bubbles of the edges, revealed a perfect baking technique that along an outstanding long sourdough based, result in a very complex taste, compared only to the masterpieces that the french boulangerie offers like a pain au levain or a dark rye saurteigbrot in the german bread culture.
The dough is not just a layer where all the ingredients are added, is the main character; the fruity acidity and not present sweetness are the results of 5 days of natural fermentation, almost a week of daily constant care of the dough.
The combination with the very lactic and noble mozzarella di bufala cheese and the semi acid tomato sauce corrected with garlic, spices and of course basil, make a very complete mosaic of flavors for a simple dish that a pizza can be.
After my diner I asked to meet the pizzaiolo that made my whole trip memorable, his name is Massimo. He is 37 and was born in Napoli, his experience with pizza making goes back since he was a 14 years teenager.
In the first minutes of talking with him I learned that now he is a well-known pizzaiolo master that teaches all over the country and abroad, but above any title, which he accepts humbly, I discover that his real love belongs to the dough and his sourdough.
I love bread, I eat bread everyday, I read about bread and of course I bake it, inevitably I found a reflexion of myself in the way he speaks and touches the dough. Massimo revealed to me all the things that he cared about when making pinsa romana.
He shared with me the knowledge that only experience can give you.
Eventually every day life teaches you how to look for the best of the country, it´s a matter of time to unveil “the hidden”, so that´s why in Italy the best things comes with no advertisement.