For more years than I can, or care to, remember Friday has been Pizza night. Initially it was when we were attached to SCEA, Service Children’s Education Authority, in Germany there was a superb pizzeria run by Antonio and his Polish wife Gracia. It was here that we took our oldest son, not yet two weeks of age, strapped in his car seat perched on a chair that we were introduced to the Vera Pizze Napolitana. The thin, but not carta della Musica shatteringly crisp, base. The base that all true pizza lovers seek; thin with a defined crosta forming a blistered crown around the melted but sparse toppings.
In the ten years we lived in Italy pizza night was a weekly event, usually on a Friday. If for some reason we couldn’t go out, a takeaway would be the order of the day. Most of the food we ate, whether in a restaurant or at home, was Italian. There was one dish I never attempted in ten years, there was no need to. Pizzerias were not only plentiful, the pizze delicious, the prices reasonable, they were also a relaxing place to go with two young children. We had a bag packed with small toys, colouring pencils, paper which we would click and go. During our time in Italy we became loyal customers at Cisco’s. We got to know other regulars and Cisco, his wife Barbara and their infant daughter Beatrice.
Having developed a taste for pizza, that was not of the Pineapple garnished or meat feast ilk, with crusts unstuffed with anything other than pillowy hot air, our move to Lombardia was to hone our tastebuds even further. Speaking no Italian, initially, we embraced the quest to find the best pizze available. One of our first forays was to a small pizzeria down a dimly lit cobbled passageway. We were shown into a large brightly lit room that was divided into two with an invisible barrier. One side it was set out like a small family run pizzeria, the other side was very much the family dining room. We didn’t know whether to sit down or politely make a hasty retreat. Having limited means of communication we sat down and ate authentic Italian pizze, with one of the family getting up to tend to our small family , the only other diners in the large room. The food may have been brilliant but feeling like intruders, divided by a very real language barrier, it was not a relaxing meal. However; it is a meal I will always remember.
Alas all good things come to an end. After ten years it was time to pack up all our belongings and return to Britain. After ten years of guaranteed sunlight, ten years of delicious meals, ten years of superb pizze, we moved to Shetland. Lashings of wind and rain replaced guaranteed sunshine. Lashings of toppings and soggy bottoms replaced guaranteed crispy based sparsely topped pizze.We were distraught.
The quest began for the ultimate homemade pizza. For years it alluded us. For a few years we achieved very sound; teacher speak for acceptable but won’t set the world alight, results using a blistering hot skillet and a grill on maximum. We could live with this, but we knew that better pizze could be made if only… we had a pizza oven. We toyed with the notion of getting an outdoor pizze oven. Just considering the weather, the wind the rain, the long dark nights we realised that was not a dod-able option. What about a Chadwick pizza oven?
Our next move was to a house that has an electric job and oven. All ideas of getting a Chadwick were shelved and eventually a very good takeaway pizzeria opened. Once again Friday night pizza night was reinstated. However; we missed the variety of pizze we had grown accustomed to, rocket strewn over lightly topped pizza, the hint of anchovies, griddled aubergines, Italian sausage, prosciutto crudo, coppa and other varieties of toppings we could no longer find.
Then everything closed down, particularly smaller restaurants that don’t have the space for everyone to work two metres apart. It was at this point we began looking into acquiring a pizza oven. After hours of research Stephen discovered that we would be able to use a Chadwick pizza oven with the additional purchase of a gas burner and a bottle of gas. We were ready to knead some dough, dress and cook some pizza.
Luckily bread making was my passion and one which our oldest son shares. Friday night is once again pizza night. We eat standing around the big butchers block in the centre of our kitchen, sharing pizze. We all play a part: Joseph is the chef, Samuel is the photographer, and general helping hand; I cut the pizza and dress them with their final flourishes, alas Stephen has the unenviable job of tidying up and getting everything ready. Cisco, our pizza oven and Friday night pizze are now a cherished part of our family routine. Only now we have to remember to let them cool down before devouring them!