Want to make a real Italian Pizza in Italy?
We must have been asked the same question over a hundred times but we never tire of telling a story that we’re happy to recall: “So how did you find this place?” invariably the question is posed at our weekly pizza party at CASAL DEI FICHI, an evening at the start of the week to which we invite all of our guests, to join us making pizza at our traditional outdoor log burning oven. We make the dough using flour from the local mill and provide a range of toppings, we just ask our guests to bring a bottle and some inspiration. We don’t force anyone to bake one but we do point out that if nobody does then everyone will go hungry. We normally kick off proceedings, making a garlic focaccia, passed around while people are chatting politely over their first or second glass of wine. This sets the tone, it’s an evening for sharing, we’ll be sharing the swimming pool for the next week so have a piece of my pizza.
If it’s a good night, and they generally are, the competitive spirit will also be fired up, who can make the roundest, thinnest, tastiest, most original pizza – one guest from New Zealand successfully crafted a pizza in the shape of a kiwi bird! Relationships have been imperilled when partners have preferred the offering of a complete stranger to that of their beloved. Our role in the evening includes encouraging reluctant guests to have a go and Bob repeating his mantra, “less is more, less is more”, as another man (it’s always the men) realise that there’s one more ingredient that they haven’t yet heaped onto their wafer thin base. It’s generally a miracle if these creations make it onto the paddle (technical term peel) a trinity if it then comes off into the oven and finally can be salvaged and brought out again. These overloaded pizzas are invariably claimed as sacrifices by the God of the Pizza Oven, often she claims the whole pizza sometimes she will be kind and just take a half into her fiery belly.
Everyone enjoys the opportunity to chat with their fellow guests and if the bottle they brought is drained we’re happy to provide plenty more courtesy of our ludicrously cheap local vineyard. As the night progresses and Bob exhorts people to make sure their pizza doesn’t stick to the table with shouts of “flour your bottom” he finds that he is not the only one laughing to the joke he has made hundreds of times before. We generally hold our pizza parties on Monday evening and always notice two after-effects, firstly Tuesday morning comes late to CASAL DEI FICHI but when it does there is an enduring relaxed and friendly atmosphere about the place, poolside chats, shared barbeques even joint outings to the Macerata Opera Festival.
Sometimes the guests like to stick to tried and trusted favourites and we have to nudge people to think outside the box and away from the cheese, tomato, probably ham and possibly mushroom staple, so we sneak in and make a fig (off our trees) and gorgonzola pizza to remind our guests that there are other options and no, shock horror, you don’t have to use tomato sauce.
It’s often an evening for surprises, as the night draws on a guest may disclose their secret ambition or the whereabouts of an intimate tattoo though the most magical moment was when one of our visitors decided that the place and the time were perfect to drop to his knees and ask his partner to marry him. The wedding is next spring.
Once or twice a year we host wedding or special occasion groups. (Although you cannot have an official Civil Partnership ceremony here in Italy, there’s nothing to stop anyone getting all of their friends together for a great party – like we did.) The pizza party is a great way to get everyone mingling and meeting each other so come the wedding all of the guests are relaxed and know each other.
The evening concludes with a sweet pizza to a secret recipe honed over the 7 years we’ve been holding these parties. The many sceptics are always won over, but if you want to find out what’s on it you’ll have to come here and discover it for yourself. And while you’re here we’ll tell you the story of how we discovered CASAL DEI FICHI.
Written by Bob Garner and Ian Richards of Casel die Fichi.