Friday, November 30, 2012

“Oh, Authenticity!

“It’s something we all love, except when it clashes with our expectations” (David Nelson at

Ennui Alert! Here comes another blog about pizza.

I don’t know how I missed this one. This is our fourth year in a row that we have spent some time in San Diego and somehow never discovered Pizzeria Bruno which seems to have been open since at least 2009.
And not just any pizzeria but one with a VPN (Verace Pizza Napoletana) certified pizzaiolo who produces authentic Napoletana pizza.

David Nelson goes on to say: “Collar your nearest Italian buddy and demand his take on Pizzeria Bruno…A survey of my own Italian acquaintances—by which I mean actual citizens of Italy who live in San Diego—received the unanimous verdict that Bruno serves the most authentic pizza in town.
“’It tastes just like pizza does at home,’ says a pal from Lombardy who runs a small café downtown. ‘The first time I went to Bruno, I closed my eyes when I took my first bite and suddenly I was back with my family in Italy, eating pizza and drinking wine.’”
Pizzeria Bruno is open for lunch on Saturday and Sunday, and we found ourselves with the restaurant almost to ourselves the Saturday of our visit. There were a few customers dining at sidewalk tables and another couple dining inside at a table tucked off to one corner. But other than the one server and the pizzaiolo, the restaurant was empty.

Bruno’s décor was minimal with the visual space dominated by the giant wood-fired brick domed oven custom built in Naples by family craftsmen. While the restaurant, and therefore the oven, bears the name of the owner’s wife’s grandfather, to me the name has a much different association.
And it’s now time for a digression and a walk down memory lane. I remember late Saturday nights growing up in Iowa. My mother would go to bed just after the 10:00 news, and my father and I would sit and watch that period’s incarnation of WWE Raw. And one of the frequently featured wrestlers was Bruno Leopoldo Francesco Sammartino. So to me, Bruno is an appropriate name for a monster pizza oven.
Napoletana-style pizzas are usually plate size—ten to twelve inches across. We have learned that we can pack away two with no problem—the only problem is deciding which two. The classic Margherita is a given. But what to go with it? We finally decided on another Margherita with the addition of sausage.

These were the real deal. Again quoting David Nelson at “Bruno’s pizza sails through the authenticity test, but there are differences between the genuine article and pizza as many Americans have been educated, usually for the worse, to understand it. A real Neapolitan pie, which is the kind served at Bruno, has a high, wide rim darkened by the oven’s diabolical heat…
Yet as hot as the flames that roar inside the oven may be, the center of the pie usually is rather soft and moist, an effect not always beloved by those unaccustomed to this condition. The key difference is that Americans usually expect a wild exuberance of toppings…Italians take a more restrained approach, adding decorations with an eye to beauty as well as flavor, and taking care that the crust itself is given savory prominence.”

And, as we learned from Jeff Talbot at Ancora (in New Orleans), Napoletana-style pizzas are all about the bread or crust. And, as noted by Marie Tran-McCaslin at “Pizzeria Bruno Napoletano…turned heads when it first opened in San Diego, with its soft-centered pizza, crispy crust and perfectly developed gluten….Before it came along, I didn’t appreciate pizza crust. It was merely a carrier for whatever was on top. I would eat it, but it was a bland afterthought and not something to be savored. The crust at Pizzeria Bruno, however, is no afterthought. The flavor is complex, the result of properly risen crust, and it stands on its own, regardless of the toppings.”

Both of our choices were nearly perfect—especially the Margherita (above). “The pie emerged steaming from the oven, drizzled with olive oil and ripped basil. The pie sung with a purity of flavor, and the San Marzano tomatoes were well balanced by the creamy and slightly salty fior di latte and sweet basil. This pizza was a great example of a classic pie done just right” (Erin Jackson –

And the Margherita with sausage was its equal and was amply topped with good locally made fennel sausage.
But even after devouring two pizzas, there was still room for dessert—especially when said dessert are a pair of cannolis filled with a light ricotta-based cream and the ends decorated with chocolate chips and pistachios.
Before leaving, I had to ask about the window sign that was facing inward next to our table.
Yes, we learned, they do at times run out of dough. Since the “aging” process takes three days (which explains why the gluten is so well developed), they will sometimes run out on Sundays if it has been a particularly busy Saturday night. “Out of Dough” are words I don’t want to hear.

Pizzeria Bruno now takes over the third spot (replacing Pomo in Scottsdale, AZ) on our all-time favorite pizza list and earns 4.5 Addies.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Over in one corner of the San Diego Automotive Museum was a nondescript 1947 Cadillac. Located not far from the 1966 Bizzarrini (see yesterday's entry), this unrestored auto appeared out of place.

But this Caddy had a story to tell that went beyond mere glamor.

This was a story--actually, two stories--of function.

The Old '47 is the product of five years of Louie Mattar's inventiveness that produced a world endurance non-stop record across the United States, making the round trip of 6,320 miles in seven days--from September 20-27, 1952! (San Diego to New York City Round Trip, Non-Stop.)
And then, as if to show this amazing accomplishment was no fluke, Mattar's group made a second run--a non-stop goodwill tour from Anchorage, AK to Mexico City from August 10-28, 1954, covering a distance of 7,482 miles!

How were those feats accomplished?

Three men drove in five-hour shifts, refueling on the run from fast moving trucks at Kansas City, MO; Camden, NJ; and Omaha, NE. The trailer (below) held 230 gallons of gas (plus 15 gallons of oil and 30 gallons of water). The car was escorted by local police through all towns and cities.
The Caddy automatically refilled the radiator and changed the oil. Having drilled axles, the wheels could be inflated while turning and, also, hydraulic jacks could raise the car to allow the wheels to be changed while moving.

The platform that encircled the car enabled the team to retrieve a tire
and change the tire with the extended platform by the wheel.
A video display showed how this was accomplished.

For more complicated repairs and adjustments, the hood featured clear panels, which allowed the driver to keep on going, while the other two passengers fiddled under the hood, standing on movable platforms attached to the side of the car.

(By the way, the pipe shown in the photo (left) leads to a showerhead.)

And under the hood was an array of additional containers, tubing, and wires.
This display photo identified some of the components under the hood.

Louie's Cadillac is considered to be the first motorhome ever built. In addition to using the shower noted above, the three men who completed the grueling journey had other services of the rolling home at their disposal. The modified Cadillac featured many luxuries such as an electric stove, refrigerator, TV,

washing machine, chemical toilet, medicine cabinet, a kitchen sink, and even an ironing board, all integrated into the back seat.

Another function made more to meet Mattar's early interest in developing a vehicle for camping trips is this dining booth located at the back of the fuel tank.

Up front, the car had a nationwide mobile telephone, PA system, tape recorder,

a Turkish water pipe,

and a bar
It took Louie Mattar $75,000 to make his dream a reality. But this car was worth far more to Louie. He said, "If I sold that car and had all the money in the bank, I wouldn’t meet the important people I do. That's worth all the money in the world."
More information about this truly one-of-a-kind car can be found at the following web sites:

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Bizzarrini to Model T

One of the many museums at Balboa Park is the San Diego Automotive Museum, which "offers a nostalgic look at the icon of the 20th-century; it features more than 80 historic autos and motorcycles.
Considerable information was available on video presentations scattered around the auto collection and on printed background data on each vehicle.

We began our walk around the displays with the green car in the center of the photo above.
1932 Morgan Super Sports
"More than a motorcycle and not quite a car, the Morgan is the best known and the finest of the British 3-wheelers. Morgan's were popular during the 1930's in Britain due to a tax advantage that allowed three-wheeled car to be registered as a motorcycle.
"Low and purposeful, the Morgan Super Sports John Alfred Prestwich (JAP) engine is slung aggressively in front of a beautifully rounded radiator wîth its single rear wheel almost concealed. The engine was a favorite of motorcyclists" (
1966 Bizzarrini
Only three of this model were ever made. Giotto Bizzarrini worked for Ferrari, Lamborghini and other companies before starting his own company in 1964. Several concept cars in the 2000s bear his name (
1974 Lamborghini Countach 5000S
1914 Model T
The driver's door of this model does not open; the car starts by cranking it.
1915 Saxon Runabout
This diminutive two-seater was advertised as a "woman's car," easy to cntrol and care for. In 1917, the company produced 28,000 cars making it the seventh largest car maker in the U.S.
1911 Model T Speedster
This model was built for racing. Barney Oldfield raced this model.
1912 Pathfinder
The main market for Pathfinder, built in Indianapolis, was pre-war Russia. The beginning of World War I closed this market and Pathfinder was forced to refocus on the highly competitive US market.
The Pathfinder's slogan was "known for reliability," but an equally high emphasis was placed on the appearances of the vehicles themselves, especially the vibrant paint color combinations.
1913 Cadillac Model 30
In advertisements for this model, the company first used their
"Standard of the World" slogan. With precision manufacturing and in-house mass-production of a single line of cars, Cadillac had every reason to feel that the Model 30 was a world-class car within the reach of most buyers.
On an easel in a corner of the museum were these photos (above) of an automobile--a Cadillac. The parts of that auto hidden under the rust were reunited with some meticulous attention to produce the work below.
1931 Cadillac 452 Roadster V-16 OHV
The restored product was magnificent.
1909 International Harvester Model A Auto Wagon
"At the beginning of this new century, one of the most popular cars was the 'all purpose vehicle,' one that can carry the groceries, the lumber for weekend projects, and take the family on an outing. In 1907, the International Harvester Company introduced an earlier version of the 'one car to do everything'--the Auto-Wagon.
"In 1909, Auto-Wagons had horizontally-opposed, air-cooled engines - located under the front seat and bed--and its rear bed could be fitted with one or two passenger seats, carrying up to nine people. The tank on the front of the vehicle with the familiar IHC insignia is a gas tank, not a radiator, as the air-cooled engine didn't need a water reserve.
"By 1911, International Harvester was building "high-wheelers" in truck form only and less than a year later, they were out of auto production completely" (
1930 Model A "Rat Rod" Pickup Truck
This auto was about four feet high and made quite an impression as we completed the tour of the museum.

However, there was that 1947 Cadillac....

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Every Once in a While…

reality intrudes into the life of a Wanderer. Groceries must be purchased. Oil must be changed. Hair must be cut. And laundry must be done. And, since we opted not to install a washer and dryer in the RV, the latter task means a trip to a laundromat.

But after a morning of pulling clothes from a hot dryer, I expect a reward.
Fortunately, the local laundromat is located in the same strip mall as one of our Santee (CA) favorites—Red Lotus. The restaurant is owned by the Lin family. Mr. Lin mans the wok. Mrs. Lin floats between the kitchen and dining room. And the youngest son, Vin, serves as waiter. And sometimes on weekends the two older sons, Mike and Colin, are there to help out.

Needing to do laundry shortly after our arrival in the San Diego area, we had an early opportunity to again enjoy the Lin’s take on Chinese food. And we started with an order of the Spicy Fried Calamari. We have never eaten a meal at Red Lotus that didn’t start with this dish. As best as I can figure, the calamari steak is cut into strips two to three inches long and a quarter-inch wide which are then very lightly coated in something. Rice flour? Corn starch? I don’t know. But the coating is ultra light.
The fried calamari strips are tossed with bell and jalapeno—maybe serrano—peppers and scallions that have been just barely wok-cooked at a very high heat so that they turn slightly brown. With the mix of the calamari, peppers, and scallions, the essence of each flavors the others. This may be my all-time favorite calamari presentation.

We were each ordering lunch specials and the accompanying soup was the Chicken Corn, which resembled egg flower soup with the addition of small pieces of corn. Chuck stayed with that, but I
wanted something more flavor intense and asked if, for an additional charge, I could get the hot and sour.

It was wonderful. It was full of fungus, tofu, bamboo shoots, and egg threads in a rich broth that had just the perfect balance of hot and sour.
It was worth every extra penny—all one hundred of them.

For his entrée, Chuck selected the Kung Pao chicken. This “…dish is popular both within China and in westernized Chinese cuisine in North America….The dish is believed to be named after Ding Baozhen, a late Qing Dynasty official, a one-time governor of Sichuan. His title was Gong Bao (Chinese: 宫保; pinyin: Gōng Bǎo; literally ‘palatial guardian’). The name ‘Kung Pao’ chicken is derived from this title” ( In addition to the chicken and traditional peanuts, the dish contained scallions and lots and lots of mushrooms. Mine. All mine. Don’t see a photo? He must have been in a hurry to start eating and forgot to photograph his own meal.

I selected the Hunam (or Hunan) beef. Red Lotus is the only restaurant at which we have encountered this interesting preparation. Very thin slices of beef are fried until they achieve a texture that is only a few steps from beef jerky. The cooked slices of beef are then coated in a sauce containing soy, sugar, vinegar, and other elements.
The very chewy nature of the beef wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste, but I really like it.

Well, laundry day rolled around again, and it is time for my reward. To keep our streak intact, we again started with the Spicy Fried Calamari.

Instead of ordering two lunch plates, we decided to add another appetizer and then share a dinner entrée. The appetizer we chose was the Spicy Wontons. We had eaten spicy wontons in two different restaurants in Santa Fe and at each the preparation differed. At one—Wok the dumplings were floating in a spicy broth. At the other—Yummy Café—they were tossed with Chinese cabbage, carrot slivers, bean sprouts, scallions, and chopped peanuts in a soy, chile, and sesame paste sauce. Here, the steamed dumplings were bathed in an intense brown sauce that had an almost syrupy consistency.
I don’t know what the sauce contained, but the dish was delicious and was almost like a salty molasses.

For the shared entrée we selected the String Beans Szechwan Style. These appeared to be a variation on the Dry Fried String Bean recipe found in my favorite Chinese cookbook—Mrs. Chiang's Szechuan Cookbook by Ellen Schrecker. I have used this book so often that most of the pages were stained with soy sauce. This is a “popular Chinese restaurant dish featuring stir-fried green beans. It comes from the Szechuan region in western China, and like many Szechuan dishes, is highly seasoned. The secret to making Chinese green beans is a cooking technique called ‘dry-frying’ (gan bian)—frying the green beans until the skin starts to ‘pucker’…” (chinesefood.about.
com). The beans turn out tender, but not mushy, and this dish can only be done with fresh and not frozen beans.

It will soon be time for laundry again, and we’ll be returning to this friendly 5.0 Addie restaurant.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.