A Snack Attack Journey
During our travels in Europe, in two countries—Italy and Serbia— where neither of us knew the language, the Chef and I had distinct modes of navigating. I go into a panic when asked to walk according to compass points. My modus, typically female, is to take a cursory glance at a map and ask people at each street corner, gesturing wildly if needs be. The Chef, utterly methodical in his approach, arms himself with printed directions and maps.
I not only ask for directions, but I also ask for recommendations, which is another embarrassment to the Chef. “What are you eating?” I will say (or gesture) to diners at a nearby table. As soon as we checked into our small but serviceable two-star hotel in Rome, I asked the young girl at the desk, “Where is the best pizza in the area?” She wrote a word that looked like “Venenzio” on a hot pink Post-it, telling us to exit left, cross the street and then turn right at a store or restaurant called Girasole on the corner. We would find our quarry somewhere up that street.
We headed out into the trendy, if scruffy, Trastevere neighborhood and dutifully followed the zig-zag lines on the Post-it, turning at the Girasole sign and walking up a trash strewn street full of buildings that had that “chiuso”—closed—lookand I wondered if this particular pizza place was still open. Aha, a woman with a stroller was eating a pizza, “Venenzio?” I pointed at her pizza. She looked confused but pointed down the street we had just come from. We walked back down, but, Oh, yet another embarrassment for the Chef is when I duck into one restaurant asking for the name of a different one. “Pizza? Venenzio,” I asked at that Girasole corner trattoria. A man pointed back up the street.
Finally after asking a group of boys, I hit pay dirt. What was once Venenzio is now “I Suppli,” named for a Roman type of fried rice ball (and don’t EVER EVER confuse it with arancini when you are in Lazzio!). Turns out we had passed this space multiple times, never realizing it was the source of the best pizza in Trastevere! This restaurant was no more than a concave dent in a peeling Roman wall, a counter, and two high metal stools. We ordered a slice of funghi pizza and another of prosciutto, both with thin layers of blistered mozzarella. You order by weight and, as you can see in the picture above, that €8 bought us a hell of a lot of pizza.
We brought the pizza, warmed in Suppli’s oven and wrapped in waxy paper, to a small trash-festooned piazza. Mangiere in a mangy space, but with pizza this good everything was good. Aside from having a trifecta of greasy, porky, earthy goodness, Suppli’s slices passed our rigidity test. You pinch the corner with thumb and forefinger and see if it droops flaccidly. So much of pizza in the United States has the equivalent of culinary erectile disfunction! The only other pizza that had passed the rigidity/flaccidity test is the Chef’s. We looked down at the mass of slices we had purchased. “We’re not going to eat all of that,” we said in unison. We ate it all.
Every. Single. Slice.
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