Tonight I indulged my love of cooking shows by treating myself to an episode of Eat the World with Emeril Lagasse. I discovered this Amazon Prime original series recently and placed it on my Watch List. What a delight to finish up a full day with a first peek at this culinary show.
With a trip to Italy planned for next summer, I selected the episode The Best Pizza in the World for my first experience. American celebrity chef Emeril teams up with renowned US pizza chef Nancy Silverton for a trip to the Campania region of Italy to sample the best pizza in the world.
Before meeting Chef Franco Pepe and tasting his incredible pizza, Emeril and Nancy tour the region, visiting the suppliers of fresh, local ingredients for Pepe’s creations.
The two chefs dine on perfectly prepared anchovies in Cetara, Italy, watch bufala mozzarella made from the milk of Mediterranean Water Buffalo in Il Casolare, and taste olive oil harvested from trees that are centuries old in Caiazzo.
At last Emeril is introduced to Franco Pepe, of Pepe in Grani, in Caiazzo. Born into a family of farmers who began making their own bread and pizzas from wheat they grew, Pepe worked in the family pizzeria before opening his own restaurant.
Pepe uses old school methods of creating his amazing pizzas. Dough is mixed by hand in huge wooden boxes and never refrigerated. He uses locally produced food for the finest, freshest ingredients. The fragile, soft dough is hand shaped and pressed, topped with local fare such as anchovies, tomatoes, bufala mozzarella, basil, oregano and olive oil, and cooked briefly in an extremely hot wood fire oven.
Says Pepe, “There is no recipe for the perfect pizza. The person who thinks he has the perfect recipe is not a pizza maker.” Pepe cooks with passion and creativity, crafting pizzas rather than duplicating the exact same pizza every time.
Pepe may not seek perfection. But Emeril felt he experienced it as he bit into his first Pepe in Grani pizza slice. Others apparently feel the same way. A three hour wait to enter the restaurant is typical.
I don’t eat traditional pizza anymore, although I recently savored a vegan pizza on a gluten-free crust. However, I thoroughly enjoyed this episode. I loved the passion evident in each person who contributed to Pepe’s final creation and that local providers were used. And I was inspired as I watched Pepe create a pizza that looked very different from what passes for pizza here. I think my attitude toward anchovies even shifted!
Franco Pepe told Emeril and Nancy that he communicates with scents and flavors. If they remember those aromas and tastes, they will remember him. I will remember him too, as a creative man who loves what he does. And perhaps next summer, Dayan and Elissa and I will find our way to the tiny town of Caiazzo, Italy.