Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Pizzeria Sorbillo (by Margaret)

One of the first pizzas that I ate in Napoli was the pizza Mari. After tasting it I giggled to myself thinking, "oooh boy! Love at first bite!" My dorkish sentimentality was genuine. To me this is an indication of true love. 

Mari is a white pizza. The ingredients are gorgonzola cheese, red or white onions, thinly sliced salame, fior di latte cheese, and burn spots.

I have noticed that the salted espresso lacks any real discussion on the value of burn spots. In telling you about my favorite pizza in the world I must also explain why burn is important. Sorbillo's pizza Mari is an excellent example of how to correctly utilize char. 

The Mari is rich, too rich. Two cheeses, meat, and onions. By the time you've eaten half the pizza you fear that it will soon become too much. However, the char saves the day. Burn flavor cuts the richness of the cheeses and the meat. The pizza toes the line of too much flavor, too much creamy oily cheesiness, but char seizes the fragile flavor balance before it goes to far, suspending it just at the line. The char saves it, dangling it at the edge of perfection and too much.

As you work your way through this pizza you are in crisis. Can I finish this pie? Surprisingly, your stomach remains settled after each piece. The char eliminates the overpowering flavor that cheese and oil leave in the mouth in such a way sos to prevent you from ever feeling sick of it. It allows for the ingredients to show off their most delicious aspects while cutting down on the undesirable traits. The contrast between the sharp gorgonzola, the mellow gooey fior di latte, the salame so thin it becomes crunchy in the oven, and the sweet onions all dance around the mouth deliciously, but momentarily. The char keeps it all together, not letting one flavor overpower the others. The char maintains balance in a pizza dangerously close to the edge. 

With each slice the crisis renews, but is always defeated by the char. As you finish the pie you do not feel too full or gross as you might with other rich foods. You feel good. The burn spots have been working in a third, invisible way. The following from should explain what I mean.

"The porosity of charcoal accounts for its ability to readily absorb gases and liquids; charcoal is often used to filter water and absorb odors. Its pharmacological action depends on the same property; it absorbs the gases of the stomach and intestines, and also liquids and solids (hence its use in the treatments of certain poisonings)."

When I say 'char' of course I mean charcoal. The pizza Mari will not upset your stomach. Despite its rich toppings, the burn spots keep your belly settled, not only stopping the less than desireable flavor aspects from going too far in your mouth -the char sops up the extras in your belly so you don't get sick. Sweet. 

These burn spots are the unsung heroes of Neopolitan pizza.  

Friday, December 5, 2008

Trattoria Pizzeria Cilea

Most of the pizzerias I review on this blog are already fairly well-known, at least in Naples. It's for that reason that I'm particularly pleased to review Trattoria Pizzeria Cilea, a small, 8-table pizzeria located  in Vomero. We happened upon Cilea the first day I went searching for my pizza school. It was late in the afternoon, the place was empty, and I had eaten only two hours before. But I decided to give it a shot. I knew after the first few bites of my margherita that I was eating something special. For the rest of the afternoon,  I couldn't stop talking about how surprisingly distinct the tomato sauce was. Now I've been going there for over two months and I'm convinced that Cilea has the best red sauce in Naples. 
Margherita at Cilea
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start with the dough. A few days ago, Margaret and I tried to compare the excellent dough at Cilea with the equally excellent dough at Pizzeria Sorbillo (a review is soon to follow). In my mind, these are two top notch pizzerias that occupy the opposite ends of the dough spectrum. Here is a list of adjectives we came up with to describe the two doughs:

Cilea: dense, moist, bold, chewy, airy, succinct, whimsical, doughy.  
Sorbillo: crisp, resilient, pliable, resourceful, doughy.
(New York Times here I come!)

As for the cheese: The fior di latte was remarkably creamy without causing the same soupy effect that mozzarella di bufala causes (I've got to say "soupy" at least once in each review). 
The sauce: What can I really say except that I'll have another thing to weep over once I leave Italy. It was distinctly salty without going overboard. I've noticed, even in Naples, that tomato sauce is often used as a filler. But this stuff took command of the pizza and everything else was a delightful aftertaste. 
Pizza bianca at Cilea
At first, I was afraid the pizza bianca would pale in comparison to its red brethren. But I was quickly proven wrong. The arugula was fresh. The parmigiana was strong, and the red sauce was replaced with extra virgin olive oil and seasalt. If you want the best white pizza in the world,  go to Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, AZ. If Bianco's is closed, hop on a plane towards Naples, go to Vomero, and try the pie at Cilea.
  End Note: Cilea also takes the award for having the most bang for its euro. At 2.60 euros for a margherita to-go, you might as well order four.