Naples… but not exactly Naples… An island… but not just any island… Beaches… but not your classic beach… Pizza… but not just any pizza…
I present you… Isola Di Procida!
By chance some extra free days were offered to me at work recently. I grabbed it as an opportunity to make a superb mini break out of this rainy country!
Friday after work with some delays I took my flight to Rome, Saturday morning a train and a boat and before you know it… you are in paradise!
Procida is one of the three islands in front of Naples, along with Capri and Ischia. Procidia is the smallest one, and therefore the most beautiful one I think…the most untouched…
Movies trying to paint the overtly romantic quixotic Italy of the 50’s have used Procidia as their filming location (i.e. Il Postino, The Talented Mr. Ripley …)
The island is a volcanic island. The beaches are therefore not the white sandy beaches with azure blue water. The beaches are arsenic black with a fine-looking touch of silver. The water is crystal clear (like in the black pools you find these days in hip design hotels!).
So I explained to you the Naples part, the island part and the beach part… but not the pizza part!
Ah… The pizza…
We have Naples on the mainland; the capital of the pizza… Some say it’s the water, others say it’s the yeast… Whatever it is, pizza from Naples is incomparable to pizza anywhere else in the world. Even if they are Neapolitans who make the pizza elsewhere in the world, it’ll just never be as good as in Naples.
This weekend however I discovered the crème de la crème, the holy grail of all pizza’s; even Neapolitans’ pizza is topped by what we found on Procida.
Pizzeria Scotto is not your chic romantic restaurant… As the locals say: “è brutto!” But it’s the best, “è delizioso”…
The pizza we ate there is unsurpassed! It’s half a pizza, half a calzone. (Calzone is a pizza folded in two with a choice of filling (mostly cheesy) inside).
The dough is made of a mix of two flours (tipo 00 and pastry flour), yeast and water. No oil, no sugar they would burn the pizza and bring no extra advantages.
Depending on the season the dough rises 3 hours in summer, 7 hours in winter. But once pizza dough is ready it can be kept in the fridge for the next day; some say it’s even better then. This guy doesn’t use the classic complicated starter method for his dough.
The crust is classical Neapolitan; not ultra thin like in Rome and not super thick like in a focaccia. It’s still slightly doughy with the perfect crust that has the smoky wooden taste of the oven.
The filling of the calzone part is heaven. Cloudy creamy ricotta is intertwined with salami and prosciutto. The fat of the prosciutto and the salami are melted with the heat, whilst the ricotta stays lukewarm fresh.
The pizza part is your standard Margherita pizza: pomodori, mozzarella e basilico. The deliciousness is in the ingredients. The tomatoes are grown on the island. You taste the juicy sun and the volcanic grounds right in them. And here they use mozzarella di bufala Campana. Le top! It has this luscious rich milky taste. On the island they only sell this mozzarella and their biggest catch is the freshness. It has to be eaten within 6-12 hours to have the ultimate experience!
So the pizza was the best… But let’s see what other culinary highlights we had…
I’ll start with breakfast! Probably one of the few places in Italy were they actually have breakfast. Most Italians have a biscuit and a coffee for breakfast. Here on Procida we had ‘lingue di gatto al limone’. An ultra light crispy millefeuille is filled with lemon cream. The lemons grow on the island and are sometimes as big as watermelons! The millefeuille is lightly caramelized on top. The best is to eat these ‘cat tongues’ when they come fresh out of the oven! Warm, crisp, creamy… The water is accumulating in my mouth again, just by thinking about it!
Lunch included the Mozzarella di Bufala Campana I was talking about earlier, Prosciutto San Daniele and the wonderful home grown tomatoes. Finished of with the bread (zoccoleppe)… Ah the cracking sound of that crust…louder/more cracking than bubble wrap paper…!
Spaghetti ai Ricci di Mare and Ravioli di Gamberi were our delectable pasta dishes. Sea urchin so fresh… It’s like the sea melts away in your mouth!
And finally there fried food, fritto! Mozzarella in carrozza: two pieces of sandwich bread, inside mozzarella, outside mixture of eggs and breadcrumbs, everything fried! Highway to cholesterol heaven but scrumptious! Or similar but with potatoes (crocchette di patate) or rice (arancini di riso).
So Procida was just one big beach-relaxing cholesterol-heaven beauty weekend!
I would recommend it to anyone!
Just one remark… the rubbish problem really needs to get solved! Naples and surrounding islands are still full of rubbish everywhere in the streets. It’s a tragedy that can only be enjoyed by rats and street cats!