The July 8 E-mail from Faith Willnger was like Faith herself; to the point, hold the bullshit.
"I wanted to tell you about a fantastic pizzeria in Caiazzo, Pepi in Grani, pizzaiolo Franco Pepe kneads all dough by hand, quite amazing "
For the next month, Fatih Willinger, an American-born, Florence-living author and expert on Italian food and restaurants, did not let up. Pepi in Grani made the best pizza in all of Italy. she told me and Nancy Silverton, who makes the best pizza in America. "You must go," Faith said. "You have to go."
So, as Italy MMXIII cruised toward the end of its journey, we went to the town of Caiazzo for some pizza.
Faith was right. Pepe in Grani (grains) made the best pizza I have ever had in Italy.
Nancy rarely eats pizza, but we spilt (well, 75-25) three large pizzas and a calzone filled with ricotta, burrata, escarole and ham that could be seen from the east side of Jupiter.
During dinner, the quiet Franco Pepe came over to our table - he knew Faith had sent us - and said that a restaurant in Los Angeles, "Sotto", had named a dish after him,
"Oh, yes. I know Steve and Zack," said Nancy, referring to Steve Samson and Zach Pollack. (Indeed, at Sotto, on Pico near Century City, the menu lists "Homage to Caiazzo" a calzone with escarole, capers, olives and burrata.)
Franco and Nancy chatted on for a few minutes in Engtalian, while I continued destroying a pizza that one of the servers described as "The Dream", which has anchovies, mozzarella, olives, capers, basil and tomatoes. Those ingridients were so bright they energized our weary taste buds to the point we considered ordering a fifth item. We didn't.
As we walked out, after a quick tour of the kitchen. we saw about 25 people outside on the cobblestone sidewalk waiting to get into Pepi in Grani. The look on those people's face was very familiar.