You have an image, don’t you?
I write the word and a picture appears in your mind. Perhaps it is the family favorite from your childhood, or a special pizza you had with your sweetie. It’s one of those foods that is truly universal and whose origin is relatively well understood.
(On universality: I will buy a pizza for the first reader who can find a city on the planet with more than 500,000 people that doesn’t have a pizzeria. Yes, even in China. I’ve been thinking hard about this. In the US, I shrink that number to 20,000.)
You may know that pizza really started in Naples (The Romans may not be trustworthy on the subject of pizza history.), and that it took over Italy before it conquered the world. In taking over Italy, though, pizza developed some highly regional specializations. We’ve been eating some, because there is no way for two people to try them all in the time we have here.
A note on strategy: we’ve been ordering two pizzas each time. We always order one of the simplest, a Margarita for example, with only pomodoro and mozzerela, which we compare to the undisputed home of pizza in Naples, Da Michelle. The other pizza is always something more grand and regional.
We had it at L’Oca Bianca (The White Goose) in the Marina District of Cagliari on Sardinia.
One aspect of L’Oca Bianca that makes the restaurant unusual is that half its pizza menu is based in white sauce rather than the standard pomodoro. The “white sauce” isn’t just one thing. Sometimes it’s garlic and olive oil. Other times it’s a (Shhh!) French béchamel. They serve a nutella pizza for dessert.
Our favorite was the Oca Bianca, the house specialty. The white “sauce” is a bed of cooked-to-the-point-of-sweet onions. I am not sure how they did that. When I soften onions in a pan for a long time they tend to go a carmely brown. These were as pale as my skin. Culinary trickery!
The dough was thinner and had a greater circumference that most other pizza’s we’ve had, and the crust had more of a toast to it than the typical searing that pizzas get in Italian wood ovens.
Atop the bed of onions was a lovely mozzarella and thinly sliced, richly smoked swordfish.
Yahoo! Smoked swordfish! What a flavor! “Bacon of the sea!” I shout, “Bacon of the sea!”
Sprinkled gently over the whole surface was a finely ground red pepper that gave the combination a gentle lift.
It was a smashing good pizza. Like none we’ve ever had before.
(Here’s a secret wish: I have a friend, a colleague—a German living in the United States—who has engineered a wood-fired oven in his back yard. He’s the only person I know personally with a wood fired oven. I hope he reads this—and the list of ingredients—and spends the next year experimenting.)
At the very end of Italy,