Friday, November 16, 2012

The Italian Job, or Six Rules to Order Pizza By


Following is an exerpt from our upcoming book "Pedaling for Pizza, a Second Slice
Saving the World One Pizza at a Time

In the constant pursuit of the perfect pizza, my travels took me to Italy. The usual modus operendi is to ride bikes to various pizza spots hence "pedaling for pizza" however sometimes one must make changes in pursuit of the ultimate goal. My wife, Cathy and I set off on an 8 day trip to Italy, one we had been planning for our 11th anniversary. It took us 23 years to actually take the trip. 3 girls, colleges, mortgages etc got in the way.
Our stated purpose was to see the great sites of Florence, Rome, Venice and a few Tuscan hill towns. But as the ever vigilant pursuer of pizza perfection I had a secondary purpose. Aww, Italy the birthplace of pizza what could be better.
Our first full day found us in Florence the birthplace of the Renaissance. We visited the Uffizi museum of art and the Academia with Michelangelo’s famous statue of David. It was time for lunch. Winding our way through the backstreets of Florence we came upon a little restaurant with a covered porch open to the street. Asking in our perfect Italia, “a seat for dui.” Our waiter sat us at the front table with a view of the street. Contemplating the menu we came up with a decision. Cathy ordered the margherita pizza and I the fungi pizza. At last a real Italian pizza. (However I was a bit concerned about "fungi" pizza, I had a spray can at home to clear up that kind of stuff.) A glass of red wine to accompany the meal, our waiter brought out the freshly baked pies. The crust was thin and crunchy with a sort of crisp bubbly edge. The blend of cheeses, sauce and "fungi" i.e. mushrooms (fresh not canned which would have merited an immediate 1 spoke deduction) were wonderful to the taste of a weary tourist. As we shared slices we had made of the pies, I noted that Cathy's margherita pizza was flavorful but had tomato sauce instead of sliced tomatoes which we usually find on most traditional margherita pizzas. Margherita  pizzas are one of the signature pizza's in Italy for they go back to ancient times and display the colors of the tri colored Italian flag: red for tomatoes, white for cheese and green for basil. All in all we gave it a 4 spoke rating. Off to a great start, or so we thought.
Believe it or not with train rides, car rides, missed turns, poor directions, and general busyness to see the historical sites our meal times were skewed. Often set aside to see another museum or church.
Siena is beautiful midsize medieval Tuscan hill town in central Italy about an hour south of Florence. It is beautiful and so unique. The streets are up and down and a bit confusing which made them good for defense and just what happens when you build a town on a hill. With a full morning and part of the afternoon gone, we were weary and our "dogs were barking". We looked for a place to have a lunch time pizza. Sitting on a slight angle on a side hilly street were two rows of tables under green umbrellas outside a friendly looking restaurant. The restaurant displayed their entrees with laminated pictures outside of the entrance. Looks ok let’s give it a try. Shortly after ordering our second pizza of the trip, the waiter brought out a pitiful round pie that one could barely get a knife through. The crust was tough and the pie tasteless. What a disappointment. I mean you only have so many chances during a vacation to sit down to a pizza and you hate to waste an opportunity. This received a 2 spoke rating with perhaps a half or full additional spoke for ambiance.
However this provided a good lesson when looking for the perfect pizza. Rule # 1: Never eat at a restaurant with laminated pictures of their entrees and/or pizzas. Avoid them like the plague.
All of a sudden we were 4 days into our trip and we had only tasted two pizzas.

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