Thursday, August 23, 2012

Forno Campo de' Fiori

My head was spinning nearly as fast as the wheels on the landing gear when my plane touched ground in Rome. "How far would I get by using my phrase book?" "Are Romans friendly?" "Oh man, I already know how awful my pronunciation is, this is going to be rough." At least my body, fully afflicted by jet-lag and a half-night's uncomfortable sleep, was equally as out-of-whack as my brain as they hit a surreal equilibrium. Thankfully, if there was one thing I wasn't unsure of, it was what, when, and where I was going to eat for just about every meal in Italy. After I dropped my bags at the hotel, I made a beeline for stop number one: Forno. I had no idea what was in store for me.

Campo de' Fiori (literally 'field of flowers') has been a public square since somewhere around the 13th or 14th century. Most notably known as a marketplace, the square has a darker history as a venue for public executions during the renaissance period. The statue of the homeboy in the black cloak chilling in the middle of the square seen below is that of Giordano Bruno, a philosopher who was pleasantly burned alive where the memorial stands now.

Thankfully the Romans have since brought their flames from public gatherings into pizza ovens. While it may not be wood-burning, the first thing that caught my eye at Forno was their killer wall of ovens-

Like many pizza tourists that end up here, Peter Reinhart's glowing review of this joint in American Pie had more than something to do with my visit. I knew going in that this place was more of a bakery than a pizzeria, and that all they really had to offer were 'rosso' and 'bianco' (red & white) cuts

Each one of those 12 doors leads to an oven chamber that reaches maybe 7-8 feet back. The way they make their pizza/bread is they will stretch the dough out slowly, top it with sauce if it's a red pie, then accordion it back into a scrunched up wad. The baker will then pick it up with the peel, open the hatch door, and then slide the pizza onto the back of the oven and then drag it back towards the oven opening, essentially re-elongating it. Make sense?

After scoping out the process, I hurried inside only to be surprised that not only did they make rosso and bianco, but they made a solid cheese slice as well! Without hesitation I got one of each and some beer and headed right back outside to eat the on the edge of a fountain.

Upon serving, Forno makes a width-wise cut across the pizza, then folds it back on itself resulting in what I can only describe as a pizza sandwich.

I started with the cheese slice, deciding to remove toppings as I proceeded.

Obviously the cheese didn't take too kindly to my pulling the pizza concoction apart, but you get the idea of what's going on here. Low moisture mozz on tomatoes. Tasty, delicious, simple, and solid.

Moving right along to the rosso, we're featuring more or less the same slice sans cheese (duh). This really brought the bright, naturally sweet tomatoes to the forefront that I didn't have attention to appreciate on the last slice. As I set this guy down to take a bite of the bianco, I had no idea that my life was about to change.

It looks so plain and unassuming, doesn't it? Salt, flour, water and yeast heated to a certain degree for a given amount of time with a dash of olive oil on top for good measure. Without thinking I took a bite and instantly realized I was eating, hands down, the best bread I've ever had in my life. While it didn't have much crumb to speak of and it has an unassuming appearance, this little guy had the most impressive balance with just the right touch of salt.

After ever-so-slowly downing the rest of my piece, I promptly walked back into the shop and ordered more bianco from the smiling staff. I watched the last of the pizza being made as I took bites of my second helping, mesmerized beyond the point of blinking. I don't think it really hit me that I was finally in Italy until I took that first bite of bianco, and then I realized how much pizza I had yet to explore in this country.

1 comment:

  1. not really pizza...more like focaccia...with a delicate olive oil topping. while living in rome we bought this in large sheets and brought it home for our daughter's weekend pj parties...a huge hit...with all of us! i like the bianco with thin sliced zucchini. we also served the bianco with anti pasta for lunch with friends...yum!


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