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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Chef, not really a great film

Chef poster from the website beyondhollywood.com

 

Chef is a film directed by Jon Favreau who also plays the protagonist Carl, a talented chef that finds himself jobless after a fight with a well-known food critic goes viral online. Carl then accept to start a new culinary and entrepreneurial adventure cooking Cuban sandwiches on his food truck. This choice allows him to reconnect with his son and ex wife (the always gorgeous Sophia Vergara) and to rediscover the joy of cooking simple and traditional dishes. Happy ending for everyone, according to the classic scheme of the comedy film.

Pleasant film but not exceptional, in my opinion, because its message seems to be that it’s easy to grow a successful business if the food is good and it’s well advertised on twitter. Frankly, I don’t think it can possibly be true or applied as a general rule, otherwise we would be surrounded by profitable companies and we wouldn’t talk about the economic crisis.

I wish the protagonist had dealt with some difficulties during his food truck adventure; I wish he had doubted this choice; After this, I wish he had found a reason to challenge himself that this was the right thing to do, the right purpose to believe in and to reach, just as it happens to real people in real life. This is fiction though, I know.

I would also have spent a couple of minutes more about the protagonist’s rediscovered joy in cooking simple and traditional food for all people, not just for food critics. It would have been more realistic and acceptable to me.

I give this film one star (as in the Michelin Guide), but just because I feel generous and I would have eaten a couple of those Cubanos.

Disclaimer: All images are copyrighted by their respective owners unless otherwise stated. Links/Credits are provided via click-through link or caption.  Clicking the link of the image will lead you to its source.

 

And now in Italian.

Chef è un film diretto da Jon Favreau che interpreta anche il protagonista Carl, un talentuoso chef che si ritrova senza lavoro dopo che, una lite piuttosto accesa con un noto critico gastronomico si diffonde online a macchia d’olio. Carl, in seguito, accetta di iniziare una nuova avventura culinaria e imprenditoriale preparando sandwich cubani sul suo camioncino itinerante. Questa scelta gli permette di riavvicinarsi a suo figlio e alla sua ex moglie (la sempre splendida Sofia Vergara) e di riscoprire la gioia di cucinare piatti semplici e tradizionali. Lieto fine per tutti, come nel classico schema della commedia.

Un film piacevole ma non eccezionale a mio parere, perché sembra far passare il messaggio che è facile creare un business di successo se il cibo è buono ed è ben pubblicizzato su twitter. Francamente, non credo che possa essere vero oppure una regola da applicare in generale, altrimenti saremmo circondati da compagnie redditizie e non staremmo a parlare crisi economica.

Avrei voluto che il protagonista avesse incontrato delle difficoltà durante la sua nuova avventura culinaria ed imprenditoriale; Avrei voluto vedere Carl mettere in dubbio questa scelta ed infine trovare una ragione per sfidare sé stesso e convincersi che questa era la cosa giusta da fare, l’obiettivo a cui credere e raggiungere, proprio come accade alle persone reali nella vita reale. Questa è finzione però, ne sono consapevole.

Avrei anche anche voluto che il protagonista/regista avesse dedicato qualche minuto in più al alla ritrovata gioia di cucinare cibo semplice e tradizionale per tutte le persone, non solo per i critici gastronomici. Sarebbe stato più realistico e accettabile secondo me.

Questo film si merita una stella (come nella Guida Michelin), ma solo perché mi sento generosa e avrei voluto mangiata un paio di quei Cubanos.

 

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June favourites: 5 products I’m loving

London, I’m back! Even though I still have to find a place to live and right now my temporary room is full of boxes and piles of clothes everywhere, I have to admit it’s nice to be back. Yes, because I missed London’s buzzing and lively atmosphere, the fact that there’s always something going on just around the corner, an event to attend or a new restaurant to try. Obviously, I missed the food and the availability of almost every cuisine it’s possible to imagine, because after months of delicious Italian dishes, I’m now ready to go back to healthy/fusion/international food.

My 5 favourite products of the month are a proof of this:

  • Rebel Kitchen matcha green tea Mylk with coconut milk. One word: AMAZING! Love at first sip, because this drink tastes exactly like matcha Frappuccino, that I use to drink in Japan. The fact that this product is capable of bringing back good memories in such a Proustian way, makes me happy to buy it again. The healthy bits: not only is it naturally sweetened with dates, but it’s also dairy free thanks to coconut milk.
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from my last vist at Wholefoods

  • Chia seeds. Now that the quinoa craze is losing its hype, it’s time for another Aztec plant that can easily qualify for the Superfood prize of the year, because of the high protein and fiber content just to cite only two of this plant’s countless benefits. Chia seeds look like a cross between poppy seeds and tiny lentils, but they puff up when soaked reaching a gummy consistency. I only tried them in yogurt or warm milk, so I still have to learn the other ways to eat them, but I can imagine I would also sprinkle them on salads or mixed with my usual breadcrumb for chicken or fish.
chia seeds

Photo: Jacqueline

  • Kettle chips in smoky barbecue flavour. I may be late as usual, but I discovered this flavour only recently, when some Italian friends invited me to watch the game Italy vs Costa Rica. I ended up eating the whole bag to cheer myself up after Italy’s loss. Lamest excuse ever.
  • Bubble Tea. Late again, but I had to make up for the lost time and try this hipster drink. At first, drinking and chewing tapioca pearls together was kind of new, and weird for me, but then I grew to love bubble tea. Of course the things I love are either expensive or have high calories, in this case I wouldn’t drink bubble tea on a diet.
Bubble Tea

Photo: Kenton

  • Tymsboro cheese from Neal’s Yard Dairy. This store is like a paradise for cheese lover like myself, I always admired it from afar during my years as a broke student who preferred quantity over quality. I’m still penniless, but I guess my tastes have grown up, so I decided it was time to buy cheese there. After tasting 4 types of cheese, I chose Tymsboro goat cheese: tangy and creamy; better tasted on its own with a robust red wine.

London, you feed my stomach and, hopefully, my creativity, so even if we have always been in a “it’s complicated”-kind-of-relationship, let’s make things work this time.

And now in Italian.

Londra, sono tornata! Anche se devo ancora trovare un posto dove vivere e in questo momento la mia sistemazione temporanea è piena di scatoloni e mucchi di vestiti ovunque, devo ammettere che è bello essere tornata. Sì, perché Londra mi è mancata, insieme alla sua atmosfera piena di vita a al fatto che ci sia sempre qualcosa da fare, un evento a cui andare, un nuovo ristorante da provare. Ovviamente, mi mancava il cibo e la possibilità di poter accedere a qualsiasi tipo di cucina si possa immaginare, perché dopo mesi di ottimi piatti italiani, ora sono pronta a tornare al cibo fusion/sano /internazionale.

I miei 5 prodotti preferiti del mese ne sono la prova:

  • Rebel Kitchen drink al tè verde matcha e latte di cocco. Una sola parola per descrivere questa bevanda: INCREDIBILE! Amore al primo sorso, perché ha lo stesso identico sapore del Frappuccino al matcha che bevevo in Giappone. Il fatto che il gusto di questo prodotto sia in grado di riportare alla memoria dei ricordi in modo così proustiano, mi rende felice e molto propensa a comprarlo di nuovo. I dettagli importanti per la salute: non solo sfrutta l’alto potere dolcificante dei datteri, ma è anche adatto agli intolleranti al lattosio grazie al latte di cocco.
  • Semi di Chia. Ora che la mania della quinoa sta decisamente rientrando, è la volta di un’altra pianta azteca che può facilmente qualificarsi per il premio Superfood dell’anno, per l’alto contenuto di proteine ​​e di fibre tanto per citare solo due degli innumerevoli benefici che questa pianta apporta alla nostra salute. I semi di Chia sembrano un incrocio tra semi di papavero e delle piccolissime lenticchie, ma si gonfiano e raggiungono una texture gelatinosa quando vengono incorporati in ingredienti liquidi, grazie alla loro capacità di assorbimento. Per ora li ho provati solo con yogurt o latte caldo, quindi devo ancora imparare ad usarli nei mille modi suggeriti dalla rete, ma posso immaginare di cospargere questi semi su insalate o mischiarli alla mia classica panatura per carne e pesce.
  • Patatine Kettle gusto barbecue. Arrivo in ritardo come al solito, ma ho scoperto questo sapore solo recentemente, quando sono stata invitata a casa di amici italiani per guardare la partita Italia – Costa Rica. Ho mangiato l’intera busta, perché, diciamolo, era l’unico modo per soffocare il dispiacere della sconfitta dell’Italia. Ok, è una scusa poco credibile!
  • Bubble Tea. Di nuovo in ritardo, ma ho dovuto recuperare il tempo perduto e provare per forza questa bevanda hipster. In un primo momento, bere e masticare palline di tapioca insieme è stato qualcosa di nuovo e strano, ma poi ho cominciato ad apprezzare questo drink. Naturalmente le cose che amo appartengono a 2 categorie: o sono costose o caloriche, in questo caso, non consiglierei il bubble tea a chi è a dieta.
  • Formaggio di capra Tymsboro di Neal’s Yard Dairy. Questo negozio è un paradiso per gli amanti del formaggio come me e durante i miei anni da studentessa senza una lira l’ho sempre ammirato da lontano perché, per forza di cose, mi trovavo costretta a preferire la quantità rispetto alla qualità. Comunque, la mia situazione economica non è cambiata molto, ma credo che i miei gusti siano cresciuti di pari passo con l’età, così ho deciso che era ora di entrare in quel negozio e di fare il mio primo acquisto. Dopo aver assaggiato 4 diversi tipi di formaggio, la mia scelta è caduta sul Tymsboro, un formaggio di capra dal sapore molto deciso e dalla consistenza cremosa. Un sapore così forte e pieno si esprime al meglio da solo, ma accompagnato da un vino rosso robusto.

Londra, tu nutri il mio stomaco e, si spera, anche la mia creatività, quindi, anche se siamo sempre state in una “relazione complicata”, facciamo funzionare il nostro rapporto questa volta.