Back in September we had a guest post from friend of MFB, James Day of Eat the Midlands, tell us about Rossopomodoro - a new Italian in Birmingham. Now James is back with a detailed look into where the inspiration for the restaurant comes from.
“They taste great, but I bet they are not true authentic Neapolitan pizzas?” - A comment made during a recent review of the new Italian Restaurant Rossopomodoro, in Selfridges, Birmingham. Two weeks later, my bags were packed and I was off for a visit to Naples, the ‘birth place of pizza’ to see for myself!
A hair-raising trip through the busy streets of Naples to the rustic head office for a welcome briefing, and even more welcomed Neapolitan coffee – seeing as I had not slept at this point for 24 hours! The senses awaking coffee was accompanied by Pastiera – Traditional Neapolitan cake with wheat, ricotta cheese and orange flower water.
The briefing was then followed by a whistle stop tour of their suppliers … jumping in their company 4×4, and off to the mountains we went, a climbing up the side of the dormant (we hoped) and imposing Mt Vesuvius volcano, up to where they had just harvested the last olives. “The best olives are picked by hand, and traditionally pressed within a few hours,” the farmer explained (translated from Italian!) “we have been harvesting in this area for generations, and this year has been one of our best for a long time.” The hillside was densely packed with large, twisted olive trees, some up to 300 years old, covered in nets to catch the falling dark olives.
Nutty in flavour, and golden in colour, this was the ‘daddy’ of all oils the D.O.P. (Denomination of Origin Protection – monitored for picking to packing) with strict controls on horticulture and purity of process, which was evident in the flavour. We tasted variants, mixed with the local herbs, including rosemary, wild garlic, and even the lemon oil, which raised the flavour not to mention the potentials for usage to another level – of course Rosspomodoro only use the pure DOP for their salads, and buffalo mozzarella drizzle, and the extra virgin for their pizzas, topping with the aged black olives, sweet and firm in texture.
But there is more to pizza than great olive oil. Of course there is the base, and the toppings – not the now customary, ham, pineapple, peppers, and even eggs, and chicken Tikka as I have seen in the UK – but true authentic Neapolitan pizzas contain four simple ingredients: “00” flour for the base, tomato puree, mozzarella (Buffalo of course) and olives. So, Rossopomorodo olives – yep, wild flavoursome and hand-picked – “Tick”, but what about the rest of the ingredients?
We headed back down off the side of Vesuvius and into the narrow cobbled ancient streets of Naples and found a small group of ladies or ‘Nonnas’ (grandmothers) who were tucked away at the rear of what I can only describe as a ‘volcanic cave’, which had been painstakingly carved out and had become the rear of the tomato packing plant with large Kilner jars stacked up to the roof on well used pallets containing rich red tomatoes, and fresh fruits, jams and preserves. The local San Marzano tomatoes, a variety of plum tomatoes, are considered by many chefs to be the best sauce tomatoes in the world – reputed to be a gift from ancient Peru – and grow on the sides of Vesuvius, to create a unique rich intense flavour and firmness of skin, and they certainly had both qualities.
The next day it was off to the lowlands of the region, about an hour from the City, just in time to see the last batch of the day’s Mozzarella “di Bufala Campana” from the DOP Compagna region being produced. Fresh straight from the Northern Hills, where the milk is tested on arrival for purity and authenticity of origin coming only from water buffalo on a farm in Paestum, Campania.
The factory consisted of stainless steel vats and white tiled floors, as ordained by the DOP institute (Mediterranean Institute of Certification) but the cheese makers had fought for one tradition of retaining their wood mixing vats to ‘retain tradition and remind our workers of the origin of their works” which I must say looked out of place, but certainly added to the contrast of the need for modernity but maintaining the origin of tradition.
Trying it at this stage was a complete taste sensation – a firm rich outer texture, and then on biting it revealed its inner intensity, creamy, warm, airy, and lush – still being able to taste the fresh grass the Buffalo were grazing only a few hours ago, like a savoury marshmallow that one could savour all day; the unique quality of Buffalo Mozzarella. The owner has been producing this mozzarella for many generations and is considered a master in his field – supplying only the finest outlets in Italy, and selected European destinations – including Rossopomodoro in Birmingham (even in their ice cream)! So, Buffalo Mozzerall….”Tick”
So, the perfect tour to make the perfect pizza. Do the ones at Rossopomodoro in the UK taste like “true authentic Neapolitan pizzas” do in Naples? Well, returning to Birmingham, I went straight to Selfridges and ordered a margarita (the first ever pizza created for Princess Margarita, in, er Naples) and they come pretty damn close – fired in their authentic oven, at over 480 degrees, taking just 90 seconds, from heat to plate, they are a delight to eat
Rossopomodoro restaurant and products are available in Selfridges.
So thanks to James for giving us the low down on Rossopomodoro and the provenance of it’s ingredients and next time you get a trip like that ….. can we come?!