Saturday, September 6, 2008

Ristorante "Ciro a Mergellina"

Located across from the bay, Ristorante Ciro a Mergellina is stuck between a row of fish vendors and parked vespas. After first glancing at the menu posted, I thought this might be another done-up tourist trap (The menu was, after all, written in english as well as Italian, good english). But after seeing the fast moving, white-jacketed waiters, I began to see a certain old worldly, almost anachronistic charm to Ciro's that I haven't seen in Naples, yet. Finally a place where people could see me for what I truly am; a top-hat wearing, ivory cane twirling gentleman. I lacked the hat and cane, but it was no matter. They gave us a table anyways.  In actuality, the only reason we ended up at Ciro's was because we were completely lost (looking for neapolitan tombs or something). I saw the pizza di Ciro through the big glass window and decided to give it a shot. 

What I ate: a Margherita 
What Margaret ate: nothing. She sat there, drinking a coffee and complaining about stomach problems
The Crust:
A very thin, incredibly chewy crust that reminded me of flat bread in some strange way. There was also something pleasantly sweet to the dough. I couldn't put my finger on exactly what the flavor was, and I doubt very much there was any sugar added. That is, after all, a big no-no in Naples. But still, I enjoyed having to work through each bite. Whatever made the crust so chewy also made it very flimsy. This pie was an unabashedly soupy pizza. If you still don't know what I mean by soupy have a look at this photo:


A fork and knife kind of pizza. Scratch that. A spoon and straw kind of pizza.

I was both excited and little bit terrified to cut into this pizza. I watched my knife go through first, a level of oil on top, then a creamy thickness of buffalo mozzarella and tomato sauce, and finally another layer of oil that "separated" the sauce from the crust. In reality, I couldn't tell where the toppings stopped and the dough began. This pizza was a swamp of flavor. 
In fact, I'll go so far as to say this was the definition of a soupy pizza. Sitting next to the Mediterranean sea, staring at the large aquarium filled with fish that would surely soon be someone's meal, I got the impression that "soupy" might have been exactly what they were going for. Maybe "oceanic" is a better word. Naples is known to have world class sea food and perhaps this pizza is a tribute to the sea without making you eat anything from it. Wait, so its possible that someone actually tried to make a soupy pizza? It's not just the result of using fresh tomatoes and creamy cheese? Maybe. This realization came as a little bit of a shock to me, considering  my own philosophy on crust, which states that cardboard thin pizza is good, but only as good  as the toppings it can literally,  support. 
So did the pie at Ciro a Mergellina win me over to the soupy side? Not really. Most days, I'm still going to prefer a slice with structural integrity over one lacking a backbone. But that's just me. If you want to try a good soupy pizza, and I mean a really good soupy pizza (and I think you do), go down to the metro, hop on the blue line, and get off at the stop labeled " The marshlands of pizza: Ciro a Mergellina". If you can't find that stop, and the woman at the information desk stares at you, just get off at the "Mergellina" stop instead.      

 The toppings:
I've briefly mentioned the mozzarella already. But its worth saying again; an abundant amount of an overly creamy cheese. Some of richest I've had so far. At the risk of offending cheese lovers, I might even say there was a little bit too much. No, wait, that's impossible. The most renegade and, perhaps, my favorite part of this margherita pizza was its inclusion of parmesan. Neapolitans are very strict about what constitutes a margherita pizza (mozzarella, tomato sauce, and basil. that's it). Parmesan definitely can't be thrown on as an afterthought. In fact, since my arrival two weeks ago, I've almost entirely forgotten about parmesan (the mozzarella has been that good).  But this pie brought it back to me in a very refreshing way. The sharp, aged flavor of the parmesan helped balance the richness of the mozzarella and also complimented the chewy sweetness of the dough. Throw in the tanginess of the tomato sauce and bam! you've got yourself a very complex, very tasty pie.

Afterthoughts:
I would recommend grabbing a pie at Ciro's to anyone, just so long as they know what they are getting. This is a very creamy, very rich pizza. Just make sure that your stomach can handle it because I promise your taste buds won't be disappointed. 


3 comments:

ninetofive said...

Nine to Five

I am making this update from work. The day is almost out, and I'm another day richer - not merely in wages, but also in the numerous office supplies I have taken from the supply closet.

I applied for a credit card yesterday; American Express. The so-called automatic 60-second approval or denial website was unable to make a decision regarding my case, and told me I would have to wait for up to 2 weeks while they decide if I'm worthy of carrying their credit card.

I got a phone call from an unknown number today at work, and I became excited thinking that it might be American Express calling me back to tell me the good news, "Mr. ----, you've been approved! Congratulations!"

Yesterday I ate burritos, which I made myself. I really wanted to put onions on them, but I don't own a knife with which to cut the onion.

Despite that problem, the burritos were still a welcome change from my usual diet, which has been almost entirely spaghetti. I have decided to limit myself to only one meal of spaghetti per week.

Augie Hoffman said...

Dear Nine to five,
Your burrito eating and spaghetti dieting is an inspiration to us all. In Italy, spaghetti is an italian pasta dish that is staple of italian cuisine; its called gnocchi. If you go into an italian restaurant here and try to order "spaghetti" some hosts will break down and cry like an eight year old and others will attempt to cut you with a knife. The word "spaghetti" is an ancient italian word with mystic powers and should only be used in the most dire and extreme situations, just like such words as "Supercalifrajalisticexpialidocious" or "bumbershoot". Just repeating these words gives me the willies (willies is another magical, but less potent word-cousin of spaghetti).
On a side note: Knifes, if I remember correctly, are most easily purchased in the Knife Depot of Boston or maybe down on Knife Plaza. "bleeding fingers Joe" used to always have the best knife discounts in town but the craftsmanship was a bit spotty-Hence the name.
Good luck with your knife-purchasing and burrito eating endeavors.

Sincerely,
The very successful tourist

PS- please continue to write.

Rick said...

Augie:

I believe the word is "bumpershoot"