Italian postcard: Real pizza!

After two weeks as a wine judge and traveling wine writer, I’ve been dining very well indeed at some of the best eateries in Northern Italy’s Lombardy and Veneto regions. Not that there’s anything wrong with that: It’s a hard job, but somebody has to do it.

But on the eve of my flight home, I was almost desperately ready for something simple, earthy and divine: Pizza, of course, from the land of pizza, and if the Verona area isn’t quite as close to the mother lode of pizza as, say, Naples, it’s a lot closer than Louisville. What’s more, I could see a simple, modest pizzeria out the window of my room in Hotel Tower in Bussolenga, outside Verona, within an easy walk. As quick as you could say “Mozzarella,” I was greeting the friendly folks at Pizzeria Gardesana and taking a seat in its small but comfortable dining room.

It took a while to look over the entire menu – 53 variations on pizza, from the very traditional (Margherita with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, 3,80€) to the somewhat more modern, if not quite California style (Erika with tomatoes, speck (German-style ham) and, er, Philadelphia cream cheese, 6€).

I’m not really fluent in Italian and the staff wasn’t at all fluent in English, but we communicated easily in my bad Italian, and I soon had a big glass of cold Italian draft beer (3€) and a most excellent Romano pizza (4,50€) in front of me. And quick as a wink, my plate was clean.

This was one excellent pizza. And it wouldn’t seem entirely unfamiliar on a Louisville table. After all, it’s hard to mess with a dish as simple, or as perfect, as a pizza: Take a base of good yeasty bread made with high-quality flour, and roll it or spin it into a large, thin disk. Top it with a little tomato sauce … not too much, now … some creamy, melty mozzarella cheese … and your choice of toppings, again remembering that – for an Italian pizza at least – we’re looking for delicacy and a rational snack, not a three-course dinner on a plate.

This pizza was fair-size, enough to cover a large dinner plate, and it was almost paper-thin. The ingredients – just a paint-coat of tomato sauce, a discreet portion of tender, creamy cheese, salty anchovies and a good dose of dried oregano – seemed in perfect balance, drizzled with just a taste of green olive oil, and the base was crisp and cracker-thin, as flavorful as fine Italian bread.

If any Louisville pizza comes close to this Italian model in style, it would be the simple pies served at Bim Deitrich’s Primo, and before that at his old Allo Spiedo. It made a mighty good dinner, a welcome change from the fancy stuff, and a hearty dinner set me back just 8,30€, about the equivalent of US$10 for the pizza, the beer and a complimentary shot of limoncello as an after-dinner treat.

I’ve captured a glimpse of the experience in this short video: Click here to view.

Pizzeria Gardesana di Zaninelli Lorella
Via Monte Sabotino 2
Bussolengo (VR)
+39 045 7151387