Another guest post today and another one with some Mediterranean flavour whilst still sharing a Midlands food experience. James Day of Eat the Midlands went to the launch of Rossopomodoro in Selfridges, Birmingham.
Tonino Magno is a big, stocky fellow with the broad shoulders of a rugby forward and the reach and delicate fingers of a concert pianist. However, he is not making music but creating the most melodious pizza that you will have tasted outsideNaples. The son of a pizza chef, he started helping his father when he was only ten, and now at 31 has 21 years of pizza making skill under his quite massive belt.
For the next couple of months he will be essaying his craft at Rossopomodoro, a genuine Neapolitian pizzeria transferred from the hectic streets ofNaplesto the comparative calm of Selfridges Food Hall inBirmingham’s Bull Ring.
It is a joy to watch Tonino at work. His left hand reaches out for a batch of the very special dough, made some 12 to 16 hours before by an expert pizzaioli (Pizza chef) from special flour shipped from the south ofItaly, yeast, water and salt. Tonino now throws it deftly from hand to hand, like a cricket bowler waiting to run up the wicket. When he feels it is pliable enough he puts it down on the cool marble work top and begins working it until his fingers tell him it is ready. He now adds the tasty Rossompomodoro tomatos, elongated fruits grown in the volcanic soils aroundNaples, the delicious delicate and pliable Mozzarella cheese made inItalyfromBuffalomilk and drizzles on cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil from the sunny Amalfi coast.
He now pulls the pizza long-ways and sideways, proving its elasticity, before sliding it on the flat long handled blade with which he transfers it to the oven. This is also traditional, a brick built cupola shape, with a flat base of volcanic rock and wood-fired to reach some 485°C that will cook a pizza in 60 to 90 seconds.
The other day I shared a Margherita with Mario Romano, the Italian London-based managing director of the British arm of the Rossopomodoro restaurant chain with branches in Covent Garden, Fulham and Notting Hill. This Margherita, by the way, is no tequila and cointreau cocktail, but a very special pizza created inNaplesin June 1889 by chef Raffaela Esposito to celebrate the visit by Queen Margherita ofSavoy. He used tomato, mozzarella and fresh basil to represent the red, white and green of the Italian tricolour, the flag of the still-young nation unified in 1861 by Garribaldi under King Victor Emmanuel. Mario explained to me that the company was founded inNaplessome 25 years ago and now has branches all over Italy London, New York andTokyo– and now Birmingham.
Our pizza was as light as a maidens kiss, with raised edges full of air, the centre was soft, moist and stretchy: the fast cooking preserving the flavours of the tomatoes and olive oil. The authentic “00″ Italian flour is light in gluten with no added emulsifiers, or preservatives, so I understand very friendly to those with a wheat intolerance to modern processed wheats, or have sensitive stomachs, such as Coeliacs. If up to now your only experience of pizza has been commercially baked concoctions with thick bases and tough edges, then drop into Selfridges food hall and have yourself a real touch of Naples form only £8.50 for a Margerita up to £11.50 for an Afragolese at £11.50 that includes mozzarella, beef bresaola, rocket and parmesan cheese shavings. This boutique restaurant has an excellent wine list including quite my favourite Italian white, the Gavi di Gavi from Piedomont (£28.00) as well as a spicy Valpolicella Ripasso (£32.00)
There is also a Pasta menu for those who might prefer a change from pizza, a short but tempting list of desserts and quite excellent coffee. Do finish this entertaining experience with a Doppio Espresso (£2.20). This tiny drop of most excellent strong coffee sent me out into the Bull Ring singing O Sol a Mio! – but very softly, as even in my shower I am no Mario Lanza.
Thank you to James for letting us know of this great addition to the Birmingham food scene, we’ll definitely be going to sample the pizza and to enjoy the sights – that’s the wood fire oven and not the waiters of course!! 😉