Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Date Night in Italy
Sometimes events conspire to change the most engrained habits. And I hate that. Or I would hate it if the event in question didn't bring with it some dang fine eatin'. Which is why the other evening we found ourselves downtown…yes, the downtown that we've assiduously avoided for years because parking is awful, the restos aren't worth the trouble, etc., etc.…for a date night dinner at newly opened Via Tribunali.
Voodoo Doughnuts, it's on the corner of the same little avenue (SE Ankeny) that is home to the hotter-than-hot Central and the older-than-old Dan and Louis Oyster Bar. Its small footprint contains a long bar, a few booths, a scattering of tables and a huge mother of a wood-fired oven built onsite by a craftsman from Naples who used mortar dusted with ash from Mt. Vesuvius.
The ingredients for the pizza that comes out of that oven is in accordance with the Associazone Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN), which dictates the authenticity of everything from the pH level of the water to the pedigree of the mozzarella di bufala. But the genius of the finished product is the responsibility of pizzaiolo Gennaro Nasti (top and above left), who was brought from his native Naples to oversee the first firings of the oven and the training of the staff in what he considers the near-holy calling of making pizza.
For our antipasti we chose the misto salumi, a meat board of prosciutto di parma, speck, mortadella, porchetta, castelvetrano olives and grana padano. And we got to watch as the server went over to the giant red hand-cranked meat slicer on the bar and peeled wafer-thin slices off the big hunks of salumi he'd pulled out from behind the bar. The octopus that came next was a salad of firm sections of tentacles tossed in vinaigrette on a bed of whole radicchio leaves, simple and perfect.
Needless to say, when we got home Dave insisted on saving that portrait as a memory of our evening in Napoli. I prefer to remember Gennaro's hands gently stretching out the dough on the counter as he worked to transfer his passion to his young students.
Details: Via Tribunali, 36 SW 3rd Ave. 503-548-2917.