Curious Appetite

pizza

Mangia Pizza Firenze- new street food on the block

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I recently discovered a new street food spot called Mangia Pizza Firenze on a recent route planning trip for a gelato tour I have on the agenda. As I was passing by on my bike, this Mangia Pizza joint caught my eye- with its modern, humble aesthetics and open pizza making station. With an awning “street food” written on it, I let my curiosity lead me inside.

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The very sweet owner Melania invited me to sit at the bar. I notice they make thin(ish) ciabatta style pizzas- one with black truffle especially makes me wish I hadn’t (almost) just had lunch. Also, they have very gourmet combinations with local gastronomic identity- a ciabatta pizza with local sheep’s milk pecorino cheese and baccelli di fave  (like fava beans.) It is a super Tuscan snack/appetizer to nosh on baccelli di fave, pecorino with a glass of Chianti. Meanwhile, a couple tourists came in and she had just sent her English-speaking colleague out for an errand and asked me to translate a quick word. Another couple came in who spoke English, and by that time I was explaining to them the menù, how the word ciabatta means “slippers” and that’s why ciabatta are shaped like so.

Ciabatta: a slipper of pizza :)
Ciabatta: a slipper of pizza 🙂

Also, Mangia Pizza boasts that its dough risen with “pasta madre” and the 48 hour slow-rise, natural fermentation process. To show her appreciation, she offered me a little snack and then we got on more to talking and I was really impressed (not only with the pizza and focaccia) but with the shop  itself. Melania has an extensive background in the restaurant world and started out working in a bakery where her passion for naturally leavened and risen breads as well as exquisite desserts was born.

Naturally, risen breads. After you eat this, you will snub sliced bread forever.
Naturally, risen breads. After you eat this, you will snub sliced bread forever.

Obviously not busy enough having just opened a street food pizzeria, she also cooks up a storm at Mangia Enosteria in Prato.

The little snack I enjoyed was a tiny pizza panini (crispy, soft salty and oily bread) with a buffalo milk mozzarella and homemade pesto and another little pizza panino with mortadella ham. And of course some bubbly. My new favorite food and wine pairing: Pizza and bubbles.

Not a bad snack.
Not a bad snack.

I was impressed that for a little pizza shack, joint what-have-you, Melania seems to be pretty keen on producing quality food with a placed importance on ingredients and locality. For instance, she was telling me she only uses jarred, not tinned, tomatoes which are organic and come from the Maremma (the Tuscan south and the land of fabulous agriculture) which means rich flavorful tomatoes that are bright red, thickish and not super watery which makes the crust all soggy. You can get a half ciabatta pizza for like €3-4 if my memory serves me right. Plus, they have half-bottles of wine (including their own private label Chianti), strictly artisan Italian craft beers and of course delicious, creamy sharp palate cleansing bubbly by the glass.

I am pretty fussy about pizza and I really don’t like how everyone in Florence goes gaga for Gustapizza just because they toss some dough in the shape of a heart. (Ahem, Grinch alert). This along with La Divina Pizza are thus far my top picks for gourmet pizza in Florence. If you are fussy about portions, these places are not for you. I am quite into quality over quantity and I’m willing to pay a little bit more for fancy figs, artisan cured meat, finely selected tomatoes or burrata cheese on a naturally risen dough- not stomach ache inducing, industrial/chemical yeast breads. After all, eating out should be a treat not solely for stuffing your pie-hole.

Interested to taste a more artisanal Florence? Check out my very bespoke food tours! 

When the moon hits the sky like a big pizza pie,

That’s a curious appetite….

pssst: Mangia Pizza Firenze Via Lambertesca 24/26r tel: 055 287595

Italian food and wine myths from America that belong in the trash

I realize I take Italian food culture for granted living in Italy and all. Recently I was reminded of such when someone actually told me they were looking for a cooking class in Venice and wanted to learn how to make…not ciccheti. Not a wondrous Venetian fish dish. But pepperoni pizza. That obviously Venice is famous for and my whole pizza eating life has been a lie.

!!!

I wanted to cry, judge and barf all at the same time. But I realized, for the unassuming American tourist or from any culture where the disgusting pepperoni pizza exists, that this is what they actually think is an Italian food- and we can’t judge but just hope to debunk bad myths out there.

Delissio Rising Crust - Pepperoni
DONT eat this in Italy.

It is not. Pepperoni pizza, the pizza with some garbage dough (with 60 ingredients: dough conditioners, glycerides, preservatives, etc) and sliced “Slim Jim” over-nitrated mechanically separated donkey meat is something the industrial food revolution has fooled us into liking. It does not exist in Italy apart from dinky, smelly tourist traps and the frozen section of the supermarket (which are called American pizza funny enough). Ya ya, I’m sure a tasty pepperoni pizza pie exists- but it’s not like a traditional Italian food to learn how to make in Venice! By the way pepperoni pizza can mean pizza with bell peppers as peperoni means bell peppers.

So when you are in Italy- do not ask for pepperoni pizza. Unless you do want peppers- but that’s just boring.

If you must have spicy salami on your pizza, DO ask for pizza con salami piccante or ‘nduja (a very spicy salami that is soft and paste-like from Calabria)

DO eat this in Italy.

The other myth that belongs in the garbage is in the wine department and that is….PINOT GRIGIO!

Yes, of course Pinot Grigio is an Italian product so that is not the myth part. However, most of the white Italian wine in the American mainstream arrives in the form of Pinot Grigio from some crap mass producer and it’s usually hangover-inducing tart lemon acid juice. Virtually every time I am in a wine bar in Florence where the management has the slightest suspicious that tourists will be part of their dining demographic, sad boring commercial Pinot Grigio is on the menu. NOOO!!! Just stop pandering to international tastes! Italy has countless indigenous wine varieties and it’s a shame for wine menus around town to be so homogenous and standard.

So Pinot Grigio is boring UNLESS it comes from a really good producer from the Alto Aldige, the Veneto or even Friuli regions. Or even from a wine region that is not particularly known for it like recently I came across a Pinot Grigio that came from biodynamic vineyards in Montalcino where Brunello grapes are cultivated. <— THAT is justification for trying an interesting pinot grigio. But mainly, seek out a good producer who isn’t mass producing millions of cases for the thirsty unassuming (and unknowing) wine world. Again, what’s the point of having Pinot Grigio everywhere when therein lies much more wine diversity?

So if you are in Italy, don’t let Pinot Grigio be your go-to: branch out! Personally, I prefer mineral-rich wines from Campania (Southern Italy) such as Fiano di Avellino and whites from the Amalfi Coast. You can rarely go wrong with whites from volcanic soiled Etna (Sicily). Perhaps a nutty Tuscan Vernaccia di San Gimignano from Montenidoli. I also love Franciacorta (a sparkling white wine from Lombardy made in the Champagne-style bottle fermentation) and high acidity, food friendly bubbles like Pignoletto and Durello. So you may not agree with me, but I repeat, Pinot Grigio is not all bad! Recently I even gave it a chance with a bottle from the Veneto that was slightly aromatic, pretty juicy with a bright yet dry finish. I paired it with some speck cotto crostini (a type of dried and smoked ham)

Pinot Grigio and Speck- what’s not to like?
pretty good pick from my trusty neighborhood wine shop!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want a pinot grigio? Fine- just make sure you’re at a good wine bar that procures quality producers and not industrial juice. My message is simple- Pinot Grigio is not the end all, be all of Italian white wines.

In opinionated humurous arrogance,

Curious Appetite

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