Hello cari lettori (dear readers),
It’s been a hot minute since I wrote to you all. Again, I have a slew of excuses but more honestly, I’ve had a bit of bloggers block. But also, my priorities have shifted. The world has changed. And I’m not sure how many of you are truly interested in another fluff list of where to eat and drink in Florence. Nor sure how much it’s relevant. I sometimes struggle with expressing something joyful when there is so much strife around me. I try not to subscribe to these self-conscious fears, as I would from an objective place see someone with a good nature, would appreciate some enthusiasm and positivity- not see malice of gloat within it.
That being said, my energies have been focused elsewhere- like writing a weekly newsletter. If you’d like more frequent updates from Curious Appetite on what’s happening in Florence, around Italy, Italian ingredient deep dives and freebies like e-recipes, subscribe HERE
In an effort to start showing up again to my blog, I decided to start with a recipe as this is something we hopefully all connect on. Someone recently asked me, “what does Italy mean to you?” and I responded with a knee jerk. Italy to me is a place of protection, to remind you of the beauty humanity is capable of. But at the same time a teacher, not timid to chew you up and spit you out, but once expelled- will sooth your wounds with gelato and stunning color.
For years, Italy has dealt harsh life lessons. Some I met with great resistance. I had grown tired of this boxing ring. I spent a year digesting my time in Florence in San Francisco only to be implored to return. After returning to hunker in a response to the strange turns my home country was making, Italy feels like healing place to be in. And I struggle to admit this knowing the US feels like a tenuous place to be living.
Food has always been a sort of comfort for me. You know the whole love languages thing? I’m WAY into this- I think we should all know our and our friends/family/partner’s love languages. And the book Attached- I think explains most dating woes. Please read!
I digress. Where was I going with this…oh yes- food for me is how I express affection for others. So a few weeks ago, I had a couple friends over for dinner. Specifically, my dear sweet friend Georgette of Girl in Florence (now living between Zug in Switzerland and Danella Lucioni who manages adorable vacation digs with the sweetest views of the Duomo.
This year I have maybe cooked for other people less than 10 times. As this is nearly November, this is a stark figure, considering Before Covid (BC)- I’d have someone over at least once a week. It was a lot of pressure for me since I respect (and dearly adore) these women so much and I was afraid my lack of practice in cooking would result in a disastrously bad, burn or trainwrecked meal. We are our own worst critics, indeed!
A few days prior, I had decided to go off the rails of my diet for pizza at La Divina Pizza in Piazza de’ Ciompi.
At La Divina Pizza, we had this stuffed pizza called “Il Cioccolatino” which isn’t so much a chocolate nor a stuffed pizza but a sort of slabs of flatbreads with toppings welded in the middle. See bits of pepper peeking out.
If you can’t be in Rome or Naples, Florence is an exciting place to be for pizza lovers. Afterall, we have Giovanni Santarpia, Il Pizzaiuolo, O’Vesuvio, a Neapolitan import Da Michele, Berbere, Sud, La Follia di Romualdo and if you are gluten-free- La Luna on via gioberti
But most importantly, we have La Divina Pizza. I love them because they are passionate about materie prime, quality ingredients including 18 year old mother yeast starter they use for their naturally risen pies by the slice.
I would never order a traditional round pie here, not because they aren’t capable, but because the slice options are more interesting. Yes, the rigorously slow high quality doughs they knead from ancient locally sourced Tuscan-grown grains stone ground are attractive. But the unique fanciful gourmet toppings that send me dreaming for weeks, post pizza binge.
In theme with Florence Cocktail Week in September, they had some tasty toppings marinated in booze, as they don’t have a cocktail bar. Think rum marinated chestnuts, porcini macerated in grappa, vermouth stewed calamari. I appreciate this sort of collaboration.
Here I am, weeks later still salivating over their slices. For me, with a particular attention span for food, it’s worth noting I am still fawning in detail over bites had several days prior. Damn- wish I had some now!
And if you’re wondering “what’s the fuss over ancient grains anyway?” I think they are better for the environment in terms of natural defenses (reducing the need for intervention) and frankly have more flavor and texture.
These are the slices we ate
The panino-like Cioccolatino lurking in the corner, wedged with porchetta, burrata and friggitelli was the winner.
I loved this wedged pizza so much- I decided to try to re-create this at home in some manner. And hopefully so can you if you can’t be in Florence.
In terms of a recipe, please allow me to be a bit free flow. Serves 3. Or 4 (if shy)
- 1lb of friggitelli-like peppers (or any mild pepper of choice)
- 2-4 cloves chopped garlic
- good evoo (ideally from our food club shop)
- 12oz-1lb buffalo milk stracciatella or burrata
- chili flakes to taste
- salt to season
In a large non-stick pan, heat olive oil and some optional chili flake, Make sure pan is hot but not sizzling because not only will peppers burn, oil will. It’s a balance- you want to the pan to be hot enough so the peppers start to sear. Once at intuitively ideal temperature, add the WHOLE (washed) peppers. You could slice and save the trouble but I feel like cooking whole preserves more flavor. Let sear for a couple minutes then add the chopped garlic. Toss/jump in the panoccassionally so all sides are seared evenly. Stop when you can tell all the peppers have softened. Add more oil along the way if need be. You don’t want them too dry or too oily.
Get a serving plate and plate your buffalo milk stracciatella cheese (which resembles essentially broken up soupy burrata- but its like stringed mozzarella cheese under cream) If you can’t find stracciatella, get a whole lotta burrata and slice up like little straggly strings. The word “stracciatella” derives from “stracci” meaning tatters/rag pieces.
Once your peppers are cooked down/softened, take from pan and de-seed/stem. Slice longways. This is annoying, full disclosure. But so worth it. Assemble atop your plate smeared with stracciatella or burrata. Salt. Drizzle with oil. Toast some good bread slices. And spoon to slather to your delight.
Speaking of food and recipes, I’m working on a newsletter which will include an e-recipe of this squash risotto. Make sure you get it by subscribing to the newsletter!
In your cooking trust,