Culinary existentialism……

Twenty minutes outside of Verona, in the small village of San Bonifacio you’ll find I Tigli.  Except, when you walk in, you’d swear you were in Milan, or New York……its ultra-sleek and cool – sort of Noma-esque – or rather how I imagine Noma to be – ‘cause sadly I have not been to Noma.  I know, poor me.

Pristine I Tigli
Pristine I Tigli

Simone Padoan presides over the fanciest pizzeria I have ever been to, and is revered as a master of his craft.  A genius.

He must be.

He has figured out how to charge 30 euros for a pizza AND have a place that is packed every night of the week.

To start we had a modest Magherita pizza.  Tomato and fior di latte.  It was just fine.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  Decent, but not awesome. 

Then we had a pizza, that, well….did not look like a pizza at all.  It was more of an open faced sandwich. 

The foccaccia base – whole grain, light and chewy, was delicious.  I Tigli bakes the foccaccia with only a scant amount of mozzarella, cut it fresh from the oven into eight pieces, and artfully plate and construct each slice into a work of art.

We were permitted to order one pizza with two sets of toppings – so this pizza had smoked buffalo mozzarella, fior di latte and ribbons of shaved raw asparagus.  The other slices were graced with Ligurian pesto, Taggia olives, fior di latte (of course) and Pecorino Romano shavings.

I Tigli Asparagus 'pizza'
I Tigli Asparagus ‘pizza’

The table next to us was not impressed.   Two fellas from Naples were dying over the prices, and chortling at the thought Simone could make pizza better than their hometown.

“Is that what he calls pizza?  That’s not pizza!” they defiantly declared.

Much discussion ensued between Enrico and the Simone Padoan naysayers.  I smiled, nodded and ate.  They debated ingredients and oven types, the merits of thick vs. thin crust – voices were raised and hands were waved in order to make more firm their points of view.  You’d think they were discussing world politics or hockey – the likes I have never witnessed while noshing at Pizzeria Libretto here in Toronto.

I can only assume the boys from Naples were either not keen on the idea of raw fish on their pizzas or were on a tight budget, as they both conservatively ordered simple pizzas with tomato, culatello and fior di latte.  Maybe it was a matter of principle for them – tradition or bust.

“My daughter lives on pizza.”  Mr. Naples confided to me in Italian.

 “She loves frozen pizza.”  Pause to inhale a bite.  “She would love this.”

Ouch.  That’s rough.

Mr. Naples found out I was from Canada.   

Still in Italian…..this time with gestures of praying, and holding his heart: “Please.  This is not real pizza.”

Referring to the asparagus ribbons…

“THAT is not real pizza.  Go to Naples and go to Michele in the Tribunale area.  Order any pizza.  Any one.  It’s where Julia Roberts ate pizza in that movie about eating and yoga!”

(I wonder – was that was meant to cement credibility?)

San Daniele and Buratta, very un-Naples style
San Daniele and Buratta, very un-Naples style

Our third pizza – also foccaccia was crafted with these heavenly toppings:

Slices of beef tenderloin, fior di latte, lemon zest and arugula salad all topped with guanciale.

And my most favourite – fresh burrata with 18 month old ethereal San Daniele Ham and extra virgin olive oil. 


But pizza?  I don’t think so.  Maybe Mr. Naples had a point.  Best open faced sandwich of my life.

A little gelato after pizza never hurt anybody
A little gelato after pizza never hurt anybody

Here’s where I land on pizza politics:  Raw dough and toppings bonding together over 90 seconds at 800 degrees make a real pizza.  I believe you have to cut it yourself, and that slices should not be constructed.  I subscribe to a slightly charred crust, simple toppings and a small yet napkin requiring amount of sauce/olive oil/grease rolling down your chin.  And surely, it should not cost 30 euros.  But then should a sandwich?  Who am I to say?  After all, I Tigli is a mecca of ‘pizza’  –  an institution where my dear friend Enrico thankfully picked up the tab.

I must go to Michele and see what Mr. Naples and Julia Roberts were so excited about.  Eating pizza in Naples – it’s on my culinary bucket list.  For. Sure.I Tigli – If you want to stretch your ideology on pizza, go check it out – 20 minutes outside of Verona on the way to Venice. 

Araldo Arte Del Gusto – 15 minutes outside of Verona – they make incredible focaccia style pizza AND traditional Naples-style pizza.  It’s in the middle of nowhere – but really outstanding. 

Buratta and tomato pizza at Araldo Arte del Gusto
Buratta and tomato pizza at Araldo Arte del Gusto

Pizzeria Du de Cope – in the old city centre of Verona , order anything with Lardo.  You simply must.

L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele – in case you want to follow Mr. Naple’s advice.

And finally…..

Pizzeria Libretto – back home in Toronto.  Love.  Love.  Love.  I am certain even Mr. Naples would be completely impressed.

Araldo Arte del Gusto 'real' pizza
Araldo Arte del Gusto ‘real’ pizza

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