of being the food editor of this blog, I really don’t have anything more creative to say about pizza. But here we are again with another blog about pizza.
One of the bookmarks on our computer is the AVPN site (Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana or Association True Neapolitan Pizza) that I check whenever we are in a major city. And, to my surprise, Nashville was home to a VPN pizzeria—Porta Via.
“Founded in 1989 in Bellevue, a quaint suburb of Nashville, Tennessee, Porta Via serves authentic northern Italian cuisine. With passionate attention to detail and always the freshest ingredients, chef Giovanni Giosa and his team create authentic Italian food daily… Our pizza is traditional Neapolitan pizza, adhering to the strict principles set forth by the Vera Pizza Napoletana (VPN) organization of Naples Italy where pizza was invented over 250 years ago. Artisanal Italian Pizza requires great effort to make. The dough is made fresh daily… The ingredients are imported from the Campania region of Italy and our wood fired ovens are made of Italian Volcanic rock that cooks the pizza dough in roughly 90 seconds at over 700 degrees…” (eatatportavia.com).
As just another example that real time and blog time operate in different dimensions, the day of our visit was Father’s Day and the restaurant was virtually empty.
We started with a plate of house-made focaccia with a dish of good quality olive oil.
Have I ever bored you with the history of the Margherita pizza? A short version goes as follows: “According to popular tradition, in 1889, 28 years after the unification of Italy, during a visit to Naples by Queen Margherita of Savoy, wife of King Umberto I, chef Raffaele Esposito of Pizzeria Brandi and his wife created a pizza resembling the colors of the Italian flag, red (tomato), white (mozzarella) and green (basil). They named it after the Queen—Pizza Margherita. Pizza Margherita is to many the true Italian flag” (italymagazine.com). To me, it is the pinnacle of the pizza making art.
If there was one disappointment here it was the lack of char or burnt bubbles on the crust surface. Both of us highly value that almost burnt taste.
Now we expect all VPN pizzerias to have a Margherita on its menu. But we can only hope that we will also find one with prosciutto crudo, arugula, and shaved parmigiano-regiano. This pie can go by many names and at Porta Via it was the Bianco. And since the restaurant was certainly not busy, we asked if it could arrive after we had completed the Margherita. (This is a “special request” that some pizzerias won’t accommodate during really busy periods.)
While we were talking with her earlier, Chuck asked if they found resistance to VPN pizza. As Jeff Talbot at Ancora in New Orleans told us a few years ago, to appreciate VPN-style pizza “you needed to forget everything you learned about pizza as a kid.” In answer to Chuck’s question, she explained that the greatest problem people had was the pies arriving uncut.
The Bianco was perfect right down to the charred bubbles on the crust. It was salty, peppery, and creamery sweet at the same time.
We couldn’t resist the allure of house-made gelato and finished our meal with one scoop of raspberry (for Chuck) and one of salted caramel (for me).
While gelato is technically not ice cream, this description of salted caramel ice cream from epicurious.com seems to fit: “It might seem odd to describe something cold—ice cream—as sultry, but there is no denying genuine come-hither appeal. Based on a traditional candy from Brittany (and a favorite flavor pairing among French and American chefs), the combination of salty and sweet exerts an almost primordial pull, and cream, milk, and eggs provide lush, luxurious texture.” Couldn’t say it better myself.
Wait a minute. This blog is two typed pages long. How did I have that much to say about pizza? I’d better stop now and just give Porta Via 5.0 Addies.
To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.