The Napoli Diaries – Part 2 / Homemade Pizza

The last few days, I’ve been missing Napoli and the food. To be blunt, its that time of the month and I’ve been craving pizza and pasta. To my credit, I haven’t stuffed my face with carbs – I’ve eaten completely the opposite (aside from the truffles that I’ve become addicted to). But today is the exception. And so I made dough and sauce from scratch so I could make pizza. (Recipes below. Unfortunately, they are not from Napoli directly. I didn’t get to fulfill my wish of learning to make pizza from an Italian nonna or nonno while we were there. Next time.) And now I’m sitting here – with a surprisingly good glass of home made Merlot (thank you Geoff – it only took a year to be palatable 😉 ), house to myself (Sean is working tonight, thank goodness because I am not very good company the first day of, you know) and watching “When in Rome” (how fitting) on the W Network – and thinking how sad it is that Whitney Houston has passed away. This brings me to finally writing some more about our trip to Naples, continuing from Part 1

Day 2 Cont’d – Ristorante Pizzeria Reginè (283 Corso Vittorio Emanuele)

We went to dinner down the street from the hotel at a place called Ristorante Pizzeria Reginè. As I figured out later in the week, we were spectacularly early for dinner (6pm). Europeans tend to eat around 8pm (at the earliest). And so we had the place to ourselves and the full attention of Vince, the owner.

I’m a Libra, so I have decision making issues. Especially at restaurants. And so I tend to ask restaurant staff to pick for me from the choices I’ve narrowed down. The jovial Vince suggested that I get a platter of the seafood I was deciding from, to which I asked “Quanto?”. To which he (probably on the fly) said that people staying at our hotel get a 20% discount. Well then. And so I ordered the platter and Sean ordered calamari. To start, we had some fabulous crusty bread, and antipasto with a lovely dry white table wine. And I re-discovered that eggplant and I are not meant to be…

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I love the taste of eggplant. I love the smell of cooked eggplant. But I cannot handle the mushy texture of it in antipasto or in most eggplant parmesans. It makes me gag. And so there I was in the restaurant, having made this re-realization and Sean asks me if I’m okay. I tell him that the eggplant and I aren’t for each other and he happily replies:

That’s okay, more for me!

Olives are also something I don’t eat well, but the rest (mushrooms, artichoke hearts, etc) was fabulous.

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(My seafood platter consisted of swordfish, prawns, and calamari. I was a bit distressed when the prawns came with their beady eyes still in their head but I got over it quickly. Sometimes you just have to be ruthless and cut the prawn heads off.)

Vince brought us dessert and our bill and, as promised, we got our 20% discount.

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Day 3 – Sorrento

The next day, we had our daily Neapolitan continental breakfast in the hotel restaurant and headed for the funiculare to take the train station for a day in Sorrento. The Stazione Garibaldi was a place that I was not overly looking forward to because 1. Overly congested transportation centres are even more crowded in Europe (I hate being jostled around) and 2. It is one of the places that was in my guidebook (and so I was told by past visitors) as a place to be hypersensitive about pickpockets. That being said, we were there in low season and the platform was probably not even half as full as it would be in the summer and the only person who bugged us was an adorable little girl asking for change. (Yes, I am aware that there is a reason they put her out there, and no, we did not give her change. But I will admit that I was happy that I had a slash and pickpocket proof.)

The entire trip down, all you can see are the citrus trees. They are everywhere. Orange, lemon, lime, grapfruit – while we were in Italy, I drank the best orange juice I have ever had, every morning.

Sorrento is beautiful. It is on my list of favourite places that I have visited in the world. Probably because it reminds me a bit of where I grew up – minus the citrus and palm trees). You get off the train and it’s just… different and lovely. Even in the drizzle. I guess the word I’m looking for is romantic. The buildings are so lovely and the water is so blue. And theres the citrus and palm trees on the main drag. It’s like a movie.

We stopped at the tourist counter in the train station for a map and headed to the main town square – Piazza Tasso. Piazza Tasso is described in my guidebook as having a statue of its namesake. The first thing we saw was this enormous Christmas tree but there was no statue. Of course, the signage is even more iffy here than in Naples, so we thought we were just a bit “off map”. So, we continued through the narrow cobbled streets and found some beautiful shops.

The Amalfi Coast is famous for its ceramics and we stopped to buy the traditional magnet for our fridge and to get something for Sean’s mom. She loves ceramics. The woman who runs the shop spoke excellent English and when she found out we were from Canada, she told us about her son who married an American girl and ended up living in Thunder Bay, ON. (Poor couple… It’s cold there in the winter. Like COLD, cold.) She was soon to be getting on a plane with her husband to visit them and go to Florida (much more hospitable for someone who is used to 40 degree heat).

Signora was very earnest about the fact that her wares were made locally, not elsewhere. It was a point of pride for her. As we continued on, we went through the San Francesco Cloisters – another favourite place for weddings in the Amalfi area, I got my palm tree fill, and we found a beautiful ceramic Christmas ornament, and some beautiful (and reasonably priced) Murano glass jewelry for me.

After a walk down to the water our stomachs signalled that it was time for lunch. We decided to go to a place called Bar Fauno that was listed in my Frommers book. The only hitch was that it was listed as being in Piazza Tasso and we had yet to find that. Or so we thought. We remembered passing Bar Fauno, so we must have passed it, but the confusing part was that we hadn’t seen the statue of Signor Tasso. And then we got to the restaurant. It turns out that we had been in Piazza Tasso after all. Remember the Christmas tree I mentioned?

I imagine that if I had poked my head through the branches, I would have found the statue of Signor Tasso. We had a good giggle, but afterwards, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was disrespectful of the town to plop a Christmas tree on top of the statue of the namesake of the piazza. (I’m assuming he was an important guy…)

Wherever Sean and I tend to travel, the rain is always considerate enough to wait until we are indoors before pounding the pavement with water. Bar Fauno has a glass enclosed patio and the second we sat down at our table, the sky opened up. It was gorgeous to watch. Also gorgeous was the mosaic of Vesuveus erupting that covers the entire side wall.

Sean had his first “real” espresso of the trip and was in heaven. The food was excellent (even though I’m pretty sure my lasagna had veal in it, and that is a meat that I am fairly against eating – but I have decided that ignorance was bliss at that moment in time).

Our bill came with some lovely limoncello crema and we sauntered off to find some gelato. Or at least, we tried. As we walked, we realized it had become eerily quiet. Turns out it was siesta time. In Italy, 2-4pm is break/nap time. And almost everything closes. We decided that was a sign to get back on the train to Naples.

We decided to stay in for dinner that night and so when we got back to Naples, the first thing we did was go into the first deli we saw. After a brief language barrier, we bought some prosciutto (de Parma – a very important thing to specify), bocconcini, and a divine foccacia loaf to bring back to the hotel. And it only cost 7 Euros. The owner also gave us some tasty chocolate cookies after I had asked what they were. He insisted and I think if we had given some extra money, he would have given it back. We got back to our room, uncorked a bottle of Vesuvian red (soooo good…) and proceeded rip into the bread and watch bad Italian game shows. It was a great dinner.

Sean just got home from work and tonight’s pizza has been given an enthusiastic thumbs up – it was very good, if I do say so myself. 🙂 Now, time for bed. Napoli Diaries to be continued another day.

As promised, recipes:

HOMEMADE PIZZA DOUGH (Amalgamated from various recipes.)

Serves: 4-6

Yield: 2 x 14″ thin crust pizzas

Ingredients

  • 1 (¼ ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 ½-3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
Method
  1. Dissolve yeast in warm water in a warmed bowl.
  2. Add salt, olive oil, and 2 1/2 cup flour to KitchenAid mixer bowl.
  3. Attach bowl and dough hook, turn to speed 2 and mix 1 minute.
  4. Continuing on speed 2, add remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until dough clings to dough hook and cleans sides of bowl. Knead on speed 2 for 2 minutes. (NOTE: You may not need the remaining flour. If dough is too crumbly, add a bit more olive oil (1 tsp) and a bit of warm water (1-2 tbsp).)
  5. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease top.
  6. Cover, let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk (about 1 hour).
  7. Punch dough down.
  8. Brush 14 inch pizza pan with oil.
  9. Press dough across bottom of pan forming collar around edge to hold filling Top with fillings and bake at 450°F for 15 to 20 minutes.

HOMEMADE PIZZA SAUCE

(Based on a recipe from COOKS.COM)

  • 1 large can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (13 oz.) can tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1/2 minced onion
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano

Mix ingredients in a stock pot. Cook over low heat for 15 minutes. Use approximately 3/4 cup sauce for each pizza. Store remainder or freeze. Yield: 4 cups.

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