Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pizza Inspiration: Forno la Renella

It was mid September, just after noon, I was hungry, and it was hot in the studio.  I’d been sketching all morning in a third floor room in the school’s building in Trastevere (Rome) and was restless to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather.  I grabbed my keys and purse, jogged down the cool, dark, stone stairwell, and emerged from the large wooden doors into the Piazza di Sant’Apollonia and the brilliant mid-day sun.  I set off down Via del Moro to my favourite Forno (bakery) to see what fresh daily pizzas they were serving.           
The Forno la Renella was always a hub of activity around lunch time – an anomaly on the winding, sleepy street – as it was a well-known local favourite.  Though they baked cookies and breads there as well, they were famous for their pizza.  They commonly had half a dozen different kinds of pizza ready to eat and even served pizza bianca (simply dressed in olive oil and salt) as the based for sandwiches.
The daily pizza was something I’d never seen before, but had heard was a seasonal specialty – Fiori di zuca with anchovies.  Though I’d made a habit of trying a different kind of pizza every time I visited the forno, and desperately wanted to try this new pizza, I could not bring myself to eat anchovies – one of the few foods I absolutely can’t stand.  I ordered the potatoe pizza instead, as my friend – a real potatoe lover – had had strongly recommended it to me.
A few weeks had passed and I returned to the forno, after conceding to try the any pizza at least once before passing judgment.  After surveying the pizzas of the day, I disappointedly asked why they were not serving the fiori di zuca pizza.  My question was met with a shrug and a quick response in broken English - “No more. Next Year.”  The season had passed.  What flowers still remained were now on their way to becoming squash.
I left the forno empty handed that day, frustrated with myself for not seizing the opportunity to taste the pizza earlier.  Eating a sandwich by the fountain infront of the studio, I thought about how different food was in Italy compared to back home in Canada.  I couldn’t remember the last time a restaurant didn’t serve a dish because it was out of season:  they would have just bought the ingredients at a grocery store or had it shipped in from the US and served it year-round – regardless of its freshness.
The next day I walked back to the Forno la Renella with a new appreciation for what they make there.  Though I was still sad that I’d missed trying the pizza, I knew it meant that there would be new pizzas to try – with new seasonal, fresh toppings.  To eat the ingredients out of season wouldn’t have done them justice, wouldn’t have shown them off in all their glory.  The season had changed, the menu had changed, and that became the first day I tasted pizza with pears – my new favourite.

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