Wednesday, March 30

Trip to Italy

Copeland and I had an amazing dinner in Italy a couple Saturdays ago.  Okay, so technically we weren't in Italy, BUT the quaint Pizzeria we went to transported us back five thousand miles and two and a half years.  Yes, it was that powerful.  We had two recommendations in a single day to try Bella Napoli, a restaurant neither of us had heard of.  To our delight, it was nothing short of pure-pizza bliss.  Like all good things, we finished our meal wanting to shout from the rooftops and share the love we discovered in Edgehill Village.

We followed signs that were tucked in a secluded alley of an old brick building -away from the chatter of a bustling Saturday evening -straight out of the narrow streets of Sorrento.  As we turned a dark corner, white globe lights were strung between the fortress-like brick walls - illuminating a few picnic tables that carried fun and energetic conversations, all the while hinting that Spring had sprung in Nashville.
picture courtesty Bella Napoli

The Neapolitan owner selects a few key ingredients to be shipped from Italy, which I believe is the secret to it's authenticity.  Just like the food in Italy, most of the items chosen are free from additives and preservatives- something I'm sure is responsible for the amazing taste.  The pizzas are baked in a 900 degree wood-burning oven that lightly crisps the bottom, while keeping the rest of the crust soft and chewy.  Cope and I shared a pizza - mozzarella, prosciutto crudo, cherry tomatoes, arugula and parmesan.  Mmm.  And HOLY tiramisu! I don't even like tiramisu, but I had a hunch with this place.  It wasn't too boozy and the espresso was super mild.  If you're here in Nashville, you must pay Bella Napoli a visit.  And if you aren't, well then (cough -family and friends), this place alone will make your trip worth it and less expensive, I might add, than the real deal.

After the cleanse, I started introducing wheat and gluten back into my diet slowly, and each time it was like a punch to the gut.  I don't think I'm allergic to either, but maybe a little sensitve to them.  So lately I've been experimenting with Bob's Red Mill (gluten-free) pizza crust at home.  (Sidenote:  This in NO way compares to the real deal.  This only justifies the trip afterwards to Sweet Cece's.)  It has a heartier taste and texture than regular pizza dough, and if you're up for the healthier version, you should be able to find Bob's Red Mill products at most grocery stores.  Otherwise, below is a recipe for a standard pizza dough that creates a perfectly crisp and chewy crust when cooked on a hot pizza stone.        

Use your imagination for toppings... provolone and broccoli rabe, figs and brie (you know I'll be smuggling those across state lines when we visit California over the summer), or like below...

Three Cheese Pizza with Onion, Sage and Arugula 
recipe adapted from Gourmet Italian

Pizza Dough (below), shaped into a ball and allowed to rise
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 pound fontina cheese
2 ounces crumbled gorgonzola
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
6 large sage leaves, thinly sliced 
1/4 cup grated parmesan
4 ounces baby arugula

Preheat Oven:  At least 45 minutes before baking pizza, place stone in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment.
Shape Dough:  Dust dough with flour, then transfer to lined baking sheet.  Pat out dough evenly and stretch into a 14-inch round, reflouring fingers if necessary.  

Assemble Pizza:  Brush dough with oil, leaving a 1-inch border, then scatter fontina and gorgonzola over dough.  Scatter onion and sage leaves over cheese and sprinkle pizza with parmesan.  Slide pizza on parchment onto pizza stone.  Bake until dough is crisp and browned and cheese is bubbling, 10-15 minutes.  Slide baking sheet under parchment to remove pizza from oven, then transfer to cutting board.  Top with arugula.  

Pizza Dough 
1 1/4 ounce package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour, divided, plus more for dusting
3/4 cup warm water (105-115 degrees), divided
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Stir together yeast, 1 tablespoon flour, and 1/4 cup warm water in a large bowl and let stand until surface appears creamy, about 5 minutes.  (If it doesn't appear creamy, discard and start over with new yeast).
Add 1 3/4 cups flour, remaining 1/2 cup water, salt and oil and stir until smooth.  Stir in enough flour (1/4-1/3 cup) for dough to begin to pull away from side of bowl.  (Dough will be slightly wet.)  
Knead on a floured surface, lightly reflouring when dough becomes too sticky, until smooth, soft and elastic, about 8 minutes.  Form into a ball, put in bowl and dust with flour.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, about 1 1/4 hours.  

Buon Appetito!

1 comment:

  1. That first picture is really impressive! Total magazine shot, and I would know, we have like 14 subscriptions.