There seem to be two hinges that govern the flow of the pages of ‘La mia pizza autentica’, the brand-new book by Franco Pepe, and not just the book but his entire working life: past and future. A timeline in dynamic tension that unfolds masters and disciples, but also affections, since these figures coincide with each other in a pizza maker so atypical to become the exception to look at from five continents.
The legacy of the past, as we were saying. Grandfather Francesco and father Stefano: bakers, pizza makers, innkeepers; the future, with his son Stefano, a talented pizza maker who has already collected many awards.
All summed up in Pepe in Grani's present and in his pizza, the one that a now legendary Phaidon publication defined a few years ago the best in the world (see "Where to eat pizza", Daniel Young, 2016); a few weeks ago, he was awarded among the best pizza chefs in the world at The Best Chef Awards 2021 in Amsterdam. Because of this undisputed international renown, the book is available both in Italian and English.
The new era of Franco Pepe's pizza
Thoughtful and shy, Franco Pepe has managed to tell his story in this new book by Gambero Rosso publisher through the beautiful photos of Lido Vannucchi and the words of his lifelong friend, journalist Enrico Caracciolo. Caracciolo has well concentrated the professional and emotional journey that has made a physical education professor and pizza maker, son of pizza makers, a revolutionary of pizza. He’s capable of holding together (apparently) distant worlds, here too in tension between past and future: the dough is strictly handmade as in the past, the pizza of the origins, a product of the people; a modern team, perfectly organised to free an ancient craft from fatigue. Then, in tempore non suspecto, the intuition to network with producers, elevating an entire, unbelievably unknown, territory and its riches; the creation of a contemporary restaurant, where everything is studied in line with the creator’s ideas (the book title is the paper counterpart of the TV programme entitled La mia pizza è un viaggio – My pizza is a journey – and refers to the Sala Authentica). In order to achieve these objectives, Franco has fought, given up and put himself on the line: his passion is all summed up in his authentic signature pizzas, deeply personal, resembling none other than Franco Pepe.
Franco Pepe's recipes
The storytelling of ‘La mia pizza autentica’ starts first of all from the dough: the heart of this craftmanship, especially as Pepe means it, viscerally linked to the handiwork and to the senses to grasp the nuances that influence the living material, humidity, temperature, consistency. With the growth in popularity of Pepe in Grani and, therefore, in demand, the almost obligatory next step would have been to give up the absence of mechanisation: not here. Rather, the profession of pizza maker has been revolutionised through the creation, after a careful training, of a perfectly integrated team in order to have more than a single person. The rest is done by a blend of three flours, specially designed by and for Franco Pepe with Molino Piantoni, and by masterly baking in the marvellous Neapolitan wood-fired oven by Stefano Ferrara Forni. In the book there is obviously no lack of the legendary fried, sweet and savoury pizzas (making virtues of the synergy with Olitalia).
Forty recipes in total that tell the story of the Alto Casertano area and its riches in a way that no one else has managed to do so far: a synergy of traditional and contemporary good practice could only create wonders. Along with the small, virtuous producers of this area, Pepe's pizzas also feature great Made in Italy flagships, such as Grana Padano. And then there are the Contadi Castaldi’s wines, the excellence of Franciacorta, the land that hosted and still hosts Pepe's first major project outside Caiazzo: the pizzeria La Filiale inside L'Albereta Relais&Chateaux, which had Gualtiero Marchesi among its first protagonists.
The publication series
Large format, essential graphics, art photography: ‘I segreti della cucina contemporanea’ is the Gambero Rosso publisher’s series created to tell great Italian chefs’ stories and cuisines , enclosed in books with a special slant, halfway between popular manual and collector's volume. Here are three previous publications to ‘La mia pizza autentica’: ‘Il gusto di Igles’ by Igles Corelli (2015); ‘Com'è profondo il mare’ by Gianfranco Pascucci (2016); ‘Questa terra è la mia terra’ by Peppe Guida (2019).
Since 1850 it has been a leading player in the art of Italian milling, with a wide range of flours at the service of professionals, industry and private individuals. A company that represents the traditions, values and skills of people who have grown up breathing the air of the family mill. Producing flour is more than just a job: it is making the raw material for the daily life of an entire country.
Top quality milk, the cheesemakers’ craftsmanship in applying thousand-years-old rules and, above all, time. These are the ingredients that make Grana Padano DOP the most consumed outstanding feature of the Protected Designation of Origin in the world, guaranteed by the protection consortium. The raw material, the work, the tradition can be seen, felt and tasted from the first to the last wheel.
Stefano Ferrara Forni
A third-generation craftsman, Stefano Ferrara began his work alongside his father, from whom he learned the techniques and secrets of creating authentic Neapolitan pizza ovens. Still handcrafted brick by brick, appreciated and in demand all over the world, his ovens are unique pieces of Neapolitan craftsmanship, in addition to guaranteeing excellent performance in terms of cooking and heat retention.
A company specialising in oils and vinegars, it offers a wide range of products both for the retail distribution and the catering sector, where it is the market leader in Italy. The profitable relationship with the latter, thanks to collaborations with the best professionals and Italian and international associations, and its market presence on all continents make it a reference point for consumers from different cultures.
L’Albereta - Relais & Chateaux
Surrounded by a centuries-old park, among the vineyards of Franciacorta, L'Albereta stands on the Bellavista hill. An old late nineteenth-century neo-Renaissance residence owned by the Moretti family – Carmen, the eldest daughter, does the honours – with 53 rooms and suites, it is the buen retiro for those who want to dedicate themselves to wellness, thanks to the Espace Chenot Health Wellness SPA. Under the leadership of Martino de Rosa alongside the consulting firm atCarmen, it entices gourmets with its restaurant LeoneFelice Vista Lago and pizzeria La Filiale by Franco Pepe.
Contadi Castaldi’s tradition is dynamic, linked to its roots, lively and contemporary. The name summarises the history of Franciacorta: in medieval times, the ‘contadi’ were small territorial units renowned for their excellent agricultural production, while the ‘castaldi’ were the lords who were entrusted with the land management.
‘La mia pizza autentica’ by Franco Pepe – photo by Lido Vannucchi – Gambero Rosso publisher – pp. 192 – €28.50 – available online and in bookshops both in Italian and English
by Pina Sozio