This post is part of a series. You can find the first part here.
Being Italian, pizza was one of those things I have had since I was very young. My first experience was probably before I can even remember, but I do have this memory from back when I was young and didn’t have a sweet tooth. For my birthday my mother got me a Margherita pizza instead of a cake. She still put candles in it and I was the happiest girl ever. However – Margherita is not my pizza of choice.
I prefer the Roman thin-crusted crunchy pizza and during the summer I prefer a focaccia with fresh toppings. A pizza my mother invented and which I absolutely love is focaccia with arugula, pine nuts, olive oil and fresh slices of parmigiano on top.
Every detail of that night is still crystal clear to me. Our group of 20 Notre Dame students sat in the small pizzeria in Trastevere, munching on traditional Roman appetizers called suppli, a sort of fried rice ball with cheese, most of us are unaware of the course that was to come. That night was full of firsts for me, as a young lover of wine and a vocal hater of beer, I had my first – and so far only – full beer (a Birra Moretti for those of you wondering). However, this first pales in comparison to the other first that evening which still shines in my memory… My first Italian-style pizza. I chuckle now at my naivety in assuming the first pizza laid on the table was for four of us to share and I distinctly remember my utter glee at learning that whole pizza was just for me.
The first bite of that cracker thin crust, that light but gooey-ly satisfying cheese, and the freshest of tomatoes ported me into a world of such culinary bliss that the next time I looked at my plate the entire pizza was gone. And I began contemplating how I could ask politely for another.
This is a hard question for any Italian as the answer is probably buried by tons of mozzarella and tomato sauce!
And I’m no exception. I don’t think I can clearly recall the exact moment that I tried the first slice of my life: however, I do have some clear anecdotes that are pizza-related. In particular, I have two memories which, strangely enough, are both in Viareggio, the seaside resort in Tuscany just one hour away from Florence where my family spent many summers when I was a child.
I could never forget the delicious smell of pizza Margherita and warm focaccia coming out from the little brown bag that my mom picked up every morning at the bakery down the street from our house and that became an enjoyable habit as a morning snack on the beach. What more could I have asked for? Well, just an encore in the afternoon!
But the absolute indelible flashbacks are the slices of Pizzeria Nuova Viareggio, an unpretentious staple in a not-that-well-traveled corner of the town, near the pineta (pine forest). Despite serving just 3 different kind of pizza -Marinara, Margherita and Ripiena (stuffed with cheese and ham) - this little hole in the wall could always count on a long line right outside its door made of craving those delicious slices. Many times during my childhood I remember passing hours in that line with my grandpa, waiting for those simple but inspired prizes. Once having acquired the “trophies,” in the form of many slices of the three different kinds served, we would walk back to the pinewood to share and enjoy them with the rest of the family.
It sounds unbelievable right now that I hate waiting in line. But thinking of those moments makes me wish I could be there again, waiting next to my grandpa for a slice of the best pizza I’ve ever had.
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