For the past month I have been traveling with my family in Turkey, Greece and Italy. Our goal was to eat as much bread, pizza, pita, pastries and gelato as we possibly could. We succeeded on all fronts and here is a quick look at some of the breads we devoured on our way.
Istanbul, Turkey. On our first day in Istanbul we were introduced to simit, which is as ubiquitous on the streets there as soft pretzels are in NYC. Not all of the vendors wear them on their heads, but they all have a personal flare to attract attention.
There were many bread shops, but our favorites were made fresh in the restaurants we visited.
This fresh pide (pita) was just one of many gorgeous breads being made from the wood oven at Ciya, our hands down favorite.
Here is a pide topped with a tomato, cheese and herb combination that was like nothing I’ve ever tasted, slightly tangy and rich. I will hunt for the recipe!
This is Serap, our friend and guide in Istanbul. Her presence was such a blessing and we ate and ate and ate together. She is a restauranteur in Vermont (Depot 62) and just happened to be in Turkey at the same time visiting her family. Not only did she introduce us to several traditional breads, but just about every sweet Istanbul has to offer as well.
This is a flatbread that is rolled impossibly thin, stuffed with fragrant ingredients and cooked over the oven that looks like a wok turned upside down.
These boat shaped pitta breads were very much like a Turkish pizza, although they are often stuffed with meats and other ingredients that are very traditional to the Turkish cuisine, filled with herbs and spices we don’t associate with pizza at all.
Greece. What I will remember most about Greece are the unspeakably gorgeous beaches, the mountains that must have made the Spartans weep, the Rooster who lived next door to our rental house, 100 degree days and our entire family getting sick. Yep, we took turns laying quiet, trying to keep cool and not eating a whole lot. That is why you will see very few pictures of all the pita bread I had hoped to find there. Even on the days we did venture out of our lovely home we found bread and no pita, and not very exciting bread at that. I will just have to go back and try again.
The plate of perfect tomatoes, cucumbers, pungent onions, olive oil that tasted like it was pressed at the table and feta I’d move across the ocean to eat more of made up for the lack of pita.
Naples, Italy. The birthplace of pizza. The guidebooks warned us about the traffic, the pick pockets and grit, but they undersold the place, it is all those things, but also one of the most dynamic and visually stunning places I’ve been to. Despite being stopped by a fake cop in the Metro, who tried to fine us for bogus charges, and getting lost on the way to our hotel after dark, we fell in love with the place. At 10:30pm my son and I went out searching for our first pizza, while the other two stayed at the hotel to rest. About a block away we found Sorbillo and wished we’d booked more than 3 nights in Naples. The wait to get in on a Tuesday night at nearly 11pm was about 45 minutes, which had become a familiar dinner hour for us. The Italians eat late and eat well!
The next day on our way to the “ULTIMATE” pizza shop we stopped for a few fried morsels at Di Matteo. Some are made of deep fried stuffed pizza dough and others are a ball of rice that is filled with peas and spices.
This is the arancini di riso (rice ball) with meat and peas, which tasted as though it had a slightly sour tomato sauce binding it together. Again a taste that was unlike anything I’ve had, but that I will figure out.
Here we are waiting in the hour+ long line to get a pizza at da Michele, which is regarded as the best pizza in Naples. The line of locals waiting outside was indication that not only the foreign food critics are fond of this place, it is the real deal.
The trick is that the wood oven is cranked up, the dough is made with love and the ingredients are left pure and simple and as fresh as can be.
The pizzas at da Michele come in only two varieties, the Margherita and Marinara. No need for anything else.
On the day we went to Pompei we stopped at a meat shop that was reported to make the best sandwich in town, a break from pizza so my family wouldn’t revolt half way into the trip. The proprietor sliced up fresh salad ingredients and then tossed it with oil, vinegar and thin slices of salami. We felt very smart opening up our gorgeous sandwiches while everyone else queued up at the prepackaged Pompei tourist cafeteria.
Here is a bakery in Pompei that dates back to 79ad. The large hourglass shaped towers were flour mills and the oven is way in the back. Based on the amount of real-estate this bakery took up I imagine they were cranking out a whole lot of loaves.
Here are the boys climbing into one of the ovens, to give you scale of how huge the ovens were.
Once they were in the oven they took a picture of the roof, it is a piece of functional art work.
Once we returned to Naples it was all about pizzas again, this time we went to da Michele’s rival across the street. Trianon, unlike their neighbor offers up two pages of toppings to put on your pie.
We stuck to the traditional Margarita and it was good, but we all agreed that it wasn’t quite as good as da Michele.
The last day we had lunch at Di Matteo, this time to check out their pizza.
It was a wonderful last impression of the city that kept us well fed.
As we were leaving we got a fried pizza stuffed with fresh cheese, just to make sure we didn’t get hungry on our train ride to Rome.
And as a reward for eating all that pizza we indulged in at least a gelato a day. At least one, but usually 2 and sometimes 3!
Stay tuned for my adventures in Bread from Rome to Venice. Including baking in a wood fired oven in Tuscany.