A newly-married couple from Los Angeles quit their jobs to work on farms and wineries across Europe. Read it from the beginning...

Pizza Night in Umbria

Posted: August 13th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Italy, Meals, Umbria | 5 Comments »

I was surprised at the number of people outside this late on a Tuesday night. Older people, too. A dozen men and women with gray hair, sitting, talking, playing bridge in front of the bar, all orange in the light of the security lamp above them. Two men passionately argued, or maybe passionately agreed. Anger and enjoyment in Italian still sounds the same to me. Heads craned to watch Halbe and I pass.

We rounded the corner of the bar and went down a small hill to a pizzeria beneath it. Six or seven tables were setup outside. A large group filled a few tables pushed together. The rest were empty. We sat apart from the group and a teenage girl brought us menus. She said something to us in Italian we didn’t understand. We looked at each other, then hesitantly nodded at the girl. I may have said, “Si.” She left, then returned with glass bottle of mineral water. That’s one mystery solved.

Choosing from the menu was easier. Many pizza names looked familiar from pizzerias in the States. I selected a “margherita” (tomato sauce, mozzarella, 4 euros), and Halbe went for “prosciutto cotto” (thin sliced and smoked ham, mozzarella, 5 euros). We started with bruschetta mista (mixed bruschetta: slices of bread with tomato, olive oil, garlic, basil, or melted cheese/sausage, or melted cheese/salami, 3 euros) and went for a half-liter (mezzo litro) of the house red wine (3 euros).

The pizza crust was cracker thin, but pliant, slightly chewy, and with a hint of salt. The sauce was on the sweet side, not sugary like white sugar, but with the sweetness of ripe fruit, or a fresh tomato. It played well with the bubbles of the crust, frozen into brown and black shells by the intense heat of the oven. The cheese was pleasantly creamy with the faintest watery pungency, like that of plain yoghurt, or dry hay. It became a bit rubbery as it cooled, and was arranged on the surface in cut circles, like pieces of pepperoni. The wine, surprisingly, was excellent. Warm, smooth, smokey, and best of all, cheap.

We listened to the large group (who turned out to be English on holiday). They took turns photographing one another. One stuck out her tongue briefly. She snapped it back before the shot could be taken, and uncomfortably chuckled and apologized for her behavior. It all felt very British.

A small dog begged at their table. The cook came out and shooed it away with a dish towel and a few sharp words in Italian. Minutes later it returned and gazed at us with hopeful eyes.

I’m envious of these thin crusts. I enjoy making pizza but I just can’t get the crust thinner than a bready half-inch or so. Any thinner and the dough splits apart. Meanwhile, at a tiny pizzeria in a tiny village, the pizza is almost thin enough to see through.

Sad, yes, but one day perhaps I’ll learn. Our current host has mentioned we may visit a pizzeria owned by a friend of his. Maybe then the secret of Italian pizza will be revealed to me. Until then, we’ll just have to enjoy the pizza from the countless pizzerias dotting this country. I think I can live with that.

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5 Comments on “Pizza Night in Umbria”

  1. 1 Jeanne said at 9:25 am on August 13th, 2010:

    Devon – Love the way you share the experience with us. Practically felt like I was at the table with you. Aren’t you glad I wasn’t

  2. 2 Stephanie Stillings said at 10:23 am on August 13th, 2010:

    Ha! Good timing. You released photos of pizza in Italy on the same day that “Eat Pray Love” hits theaters.

    Devon – your thin crust pizza is my sweet pastry dough. I completely understand!

    Halbe – glad you see you’re still eating and enjoying meat. (Cute top too).

  3. 3 briana said at 4:18 pm on August 13th, 2010:

    i really love the pictures you are taking to document the experiences. you excel in photography as much as cooking! miss you guys but so glad to be following you thru these adventures!

  4. 4 Sarah said at 8:31 pm on August 14th, 2010:

    this is the most jealous i’ve been after a post yet. you guys seem to be having the time of your lives. keep it up. can’t wait for the next thing! xo

  5. 5 Nathaniel said at 8:07 am on August 26th, 2010:

    Oh how I miss Tuscany. Its very nice to see it still exits in all its charm. I have the thin crust secret. Ill give it to you one day.

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