A day in Naples and the best pizza in the world. Gino Sorbillo’s review.

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Vesuvius volcano.

Naples is like a lioness, beautiful, haughty and arduous to tame. The collective consciousness about the third city of Italy is made up of diehard preconceptions: a poor, anarchic and at times dirty urban centre on the slopes of a volcano. I’m not here to say this is just not true, because each and every stereotype always has a pinch of accuracy. Also, if the essence of a community remains strong throughout centuries, not necessarily the said people won’t open to change for the needs that modern times demand. What I would like to point out here is that although I come from a region that borders with Campania (the region where Naples is the main centre) and my dialect is strictly similar to the Neapolitan one, due to centuries of Neapolitan domination in the fragmented South, I also had preconceptions. I had them because the last time I visited the city I was about ten, and well, almost 20 years ago the situation was a bit different than it is now. The neglected architecture of the buildings always stays the same, just as some grotesque “personalities” you can find in the narrow alleys that form the map of the city centre. However, this time Naples felt cleaner and safer. It’s true that Christmas is a busy period for the city, because tourists from every part of Italy and the world hit the San Gregorio Armeno alley, to visit the artisan workshops specialised in the creations of nativity scenes. For this reason it would be only logical to consider the hard work of the municipality as something special for the holiday season, but apparently the city is dealing with an actual desire to change, in order to make the ancient capital of southern Italy a modern European city. Some results are already showing, just like the project Stations of Art which is aimed at changing the perspective of the city’s perception by allowing contemporary artist to take over the design and architecture of some underground stations. In fact in 2012 Toledo station was chosen as the most beautiful underground station in Europe

The wonderful mosaic of Toledo underground station in Naples. Project by the Catalan architect Oscar Tusquets Blanca. Credits: The New York Times

Where does food place itself in this context of traditions looking at the future? Exactly in harmony with everything else. Street food is a market that lures young entrepreneurs, because they have the chance to offer the classics of Neapolitan gastronomy in a new light by enhancing the traditional preparation methods, using quality Italian products and social networks to promote their business in the quickest way to the public. This is just what happened with the famous Gino Sorbillo’s pizza that I finally had the chance to try. Gino Sorbillo for whom pizza making runs in the family, is a young talented chef. His passion for the traditional Neapolitan pizza motivated him to improve it by researching and experimenting with mother dough, different organic flour blends and ingredients in order to find an excellent and easy to digest recipe. Gino Sorbillo’s research never stops, in fact it seems that he is trying to create a dough specifically for coeliac disease affected people with the same texture, taste and digestibility of the regular one used in his 3 pizzerias. The ingredients used as toppings are all the best Italian products the country can offer, with their origin and traceability stated on the menu. In other words, Quality. Yes, with capital Q.

Now let’s talk about the experience: image10 The location. You’ll recognise it from afar even though you’ve never been there before, because there’s always a queue that looks endless. You have to be patient, because sometimes it’s necessary to wait hours to get a taste of the best pizza in Italy (and the world in my opinion). My advice is to go either at the opening around 12 or after lunch time at 3. This doesn’t mean you will not queue at all, because as I said the place is always packed with people, but the wait is more “human”. image3 The pizzeria is an ancient two storey house, property of Esterina, Gino’s beloved aunt who passed the passion for pizza on to him. The decor is minimal because all the attention is concentrated on the product. Anyway, in my opinion it wouldn’t harm to modernise the retro style of the place, but retro is not to be intended as the vintage design that is so trendy right now. I am talking about 90’s Italian, so last century!

The service is very fast even though the waitresses aren’t smiley or chatty. I would have certainly appreciated some more courtesy, but I understand that heavy shifts and dealing with every kind of people at a fast pace can get easily on everyone’s nerves. For this reason, there’s no tablecloth on the table and glasses are disposable, just like their napkins. When customers are ready to leave, a waitress comes and cleans the table in a few seconds, so it’s ready for the next group of people.

The pizza. The base is light and soft but doesn’t tear up. This is the result of working the dough and stretching it by hand only, because Sorbillo refuses to use industrial machineries. To those who are not familiar with Neapolitan pizza the dough will taste as still raw, but believe me, it’s not. You will realise it immediately, because after eating you pizza you will not feel full and bloated. As I mentioned before, high-digestibility.

My Osvaldo pizza.

My Osvaldo pizza.

I got an Osvaldo pizza which is made with cherry tomatoes, smoked mixed buffalo&cow’s milk provola cheese, mixed buffalo&cow’s milk mozzarella, extravirgin olive oil and fresh basil. Only 5€.

Vittorio pizza.

Vittorio pizza.

G got Vittorio, an amazing mix of Apulian tuna, Taggiasca olives, Mount Saro’s wild oregano, Italian organic passata and mixed buffalo&cow’s milk mozzarella. Price was 7.50€.

My vote is 9. Sorbillo’s pizza is extraordinary, the best I’ve ever had, because it is a combination of harmonic quality ingredients with a digestible dough, basically the dream. I can’t give more than 9, because some aspects of the overall experience can definitely be improved, but of course I recommend you to try Sorbillo’s amazing pizza because, I can assure you, nothing will ever be the same after that.

Gino Sorbillo, Via dei Tribunali, 32, 80138 Naples.

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October’s Favourites: 5 gluten free products I’m loving!

Thanks to my faithful hypocondria I just discovered that some mild symptoms I have from birth could be linked to a hypothetical coeliac disease or gluten intolerance. Panic at first, that’s what being ignorant about the subject causes. However, my doctor reassured me that if this were the case, it wouldn’t be the end of the world, since valid gluten free alternatives on the market are rapidly increasing.

At the moment I am waiting to go back to Italy to run some tests and verify if a coeliac disease or gluten free intolerance is confirmed, but in the meantime I was advised to reduce the intake of gluten rich foods and see how it goes.

So lately, I often find myself hanging out at Whole Foods, to carefully study the alternatives I should adopt in case I get diagnosed. I still need to do a lot of research about the topic, but, for the moment, these are my 5 gluten free products that I’m loving this month:

Drink me chai green tea chai latte

 

Normally I’m not really a fan of Chai Latte, because I find the spice blend too powerful for me, but this one is truly amazing! It’s spicy but delicate and sweet with a pinch of green tea to balance the overall flavour.

Seasoned nori seaweed – Crispy texture, full of flavour and fun to snack on. Be careful to read the label though, as the majority of Japanese brands use wheat and soy sauce (which contains wheat unless it’s tamari) in their seasoning. In fact, I was about to give up when, luckily, I found some Korean seaweed that was seasoned with just olive oil and sea salt.  Although seasoned nori seaweed is super easy to prepare at home, it’s handier for the lazy ones like me, to have a little package to toss in the bag, right? Healthy bits: nori seaweed is also good for your body because it is a natural source of iodine, which regulates the production thyroid hormones.

Nutritional yeast:

Nothing to be scared or disgusted about, because nutritional yeast is inactive, or in other words dead! It’s grown on sugar canes or molasses then killed with heat. In this phase the yeast develops glutamic acid, which is a natural source of umami. This is one of the two main reasons why nutritional yeast is produced and sold, because it adds a nutty savoury note to our recipes and enhances their flavour. Nutritional yeast does not only please the palate, but it also has healthy benefits, because it is packed with vitamin B complex, zinc, selenium, folic acid, potassium and proteins. Cool right? At the moment I’m using nutritional yeast in soups, salads and mashed potatoes, but I will experiment more combinations.

Want to know more about nutritional yeast? then check this blog out.

 

Eat natural bars:

My guilty pleasure in this period I’m trying to figure out if I have a gluten intolerance or not. Well, to be honest I loved these bars even before, but let’s say that now I have a good excuse to try the whole range. My favourite ones are the cashew&blueberry bar with yogurt coating and the coffee&chocolate bar with peanuts and almonds.

Mangajo lemon and green tea drink:

Last, but not the least a light and refreshing drink made with lemon, apple juice and a hint of green tea. The only sugar in this drink is the natural fructose contained in both lemons and apples. Great for those who don’t like super sweet beverages or watch calories. Normally, fruit juices should be gluten free in the first place but it’s always better to check the label regarding any possibility of contamination by the handling of other sources.

What about you guys? Let me know what you’re loving this month, both regular and gluten free snacks. Recipes for homemade treats are also welcome, as I would like to have everything covered in case this coeliac disease/gluten intolerance is confirmed. This would be the second phase, the acceptance, but we all know that before there’s the denial. Considering my optimism, I already picture myself crying my eyes out for the possibility of giving up the regular pizza for ever. Sigh!