One of bob's usually unsatisfied food desires is crema di verdura style pizza where the topping is based on some kind of vegetable puree like cream of artichoke or cream of asparagus, a remnant of a decade's old memory of such a pizza experience in a notable rural pizzeria in the Castelli Romani near Rome where the pizza was served on big wooden slabs. Unfortunately this kind of pizza does not seem to make the usual list of traditional pizza varieties in most Italian pizzerias although bob is always studying the menus hoping for something exotic to show up. And the probability of rediscovering that pizzeria from the past AND then actually returning there seems to be near zero.
Instead a combination of circumstances lead to a sort of chance pizza revelation on San Pietro e Paolo Day, Rome 2001. Most Italians have not only a birthday which is an automatic gift from mother nature, but also a name day which they get to celebrate almost like an extra birthday [since most Italian first names coincide with the name of an existing saint or some slight variation of one each of which is assigned to a calendar day and there are plenty of such names to go around, which means that some of them have to share days since these are in shorter supply, limited by mother nature of course]. In addition Italian cities usually have patron saints, like San Gennaro for Naples, San Silverio for Ponza and San Antonio (not the Texas one) for Padova, the last of whom's tongue was part of the plot for a cute little movie bob caught in his amazing 5 movie attendance record at the 2001 Tenth Anniversary Philadelphia Festival of World Cinema, but that is another story altogether. Rome has two patron saints, Peter and Paul (hmm ... what about Mary?oops, a sixties connectionapparently no name day but she is covered by another category, will have to research this point later), since for some reason they share the same day (the fact that they both met their end in Rome might have something to do with it and their patron saint affiliation). And when a city has a patron saint, the corresponding name day is a legal holiday for that city. When this holiday falls on a Friday or a Monday, even better since it means a long weekend. Good for residents maybe but maybe not so good for tourists. Since the stores are all closed.
This particular June 29 was special in three ways. As a Friday holiday before the July vacation exodus, it meant people in Rome could leave a day early for their traditional month long vacation (either July or August for certain business sectors). Which they did all at once as usual (long weekenders plus long vacationers) creating enormous traffic jams a day early, making bob and ani's Saturday drive to northern Italy with donato a piece of cake. July 29 also meant no longer having to dial the urban access digit 0 before cell phone numbers, so bob had to reprogram all the numbers in his borrowed cell phone. And July 29 also meant ani had arrived on the usual Philly-Rome direct flight that morning, and since nothing was planned, it seemed like a good occasion to wander around the historical center window shopping. Hard to do more than that when almost every shop is closed. We headed for the Spanish Steps anyway where we found the usual tourist crowd milling about. Not much to do besides look in the windows and take a rest with an overpriced but genuine cappuccino to bust the jet lag blues which even bob seemed to share thanks to a poor night's sleep. Overpriced like the rest of the shops in this exclusive shopping district. Killing time before a lunch date at the home of some friends.
Which meant passing by the attractive little side street trattorias starting to emit those irresistible smells. But at a certain point passing up the airline breakfast caught up with ani right at this little pizza by the slice shop and a little solid food snack was in order. At first glance the offerings did not seem so appealing but then this strange purple pizza caught bob's eye and when the explanation came back radicchio, he knew this had to be the choice. A layer of mozzarella followed by a layer of cream of radicchio generously sprinkled with parmigiano. A terrific appetizer for the lunch that kept us from eating more. Fiorfiore at 1719 via della Croce, Rome. We'll be returning there. And not just for another slice. We'll ask for the pizzaiolo (pizza maker) and try to pump him for details. Who knows what we'll learn.