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The most impact…

June 5, 2012

The most impactful pizza experience I’ve had yet took place in the hot & humid back room of a pizzeria in a small town in Cilento, surrounded by half a dozen Italian family members running their business as they do every night – the Classic Italian Old School Pizzeria.

It was living a twilight-like dream. There was the Grandmother, calling the shots & dressed in a white cap & olive green dress, with twice the energy of her grandson (who she introduced us to — he’s sixteen & single in case you were wondering). There was the grumpy “baker,” heaving round disks of dough covered in fine toppings into an old-school large flat oven, a tad flustered by this crowd of glassy-eye Americans invading his workplace. There was the proud hotel-owner-turned-pizzeria-family-member-by-way-of-marriage-in-some-kind-of-confusing-very-Italian-way. There were the Aunts & the Customers & the rebellious Niece. The head honcho, who has since passed away, her photo framed in gold & displayed with such pride you can feel it in each sweaty bead that back-oven makes.

It was a joy. & the pizza! Oh, the pizza. If only I hadn’t eaten so much that day. If only I wasn’t stuffed to the gills before making my way to this lovely little place. & yet, & yet, I made the room. I ate the red pepper pie. & the classic margarita. & the artichoke salad pie. It was tough. It was worth it. The Grandmother, the ruler of it all — she had a sparkle in her eye you buy plane tickets to Italy to witness firsthand. Few are so lucky to see women like this in action — commanding the kitchen, force-feeding Americans she met ten minutes earlier as if they were her own blood.

It makes eating all the better. Really, it does.

And this pizza — oh my, how authentic it was! Authentic Italian pizza, in Italy no less. Can you imagine? Thick, doughy, fresh out of the oven. Dense & packed with flavor, rustic & warm.

Travel to Italy. Deal with the schlepping of the luggage. The time zones. The lack of ice. Deal with all of it for this moment, this Grandmother kissing you on each cheek as you leave her family’s ancient pizzeria with your soul filled right up to the brim. Surrender your waistline, ladies. It’s worth it.

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