Nomad in Italy: The fast train to Naples

Stalin Bedon and Tom Grim, who own the Nomad Pizza Co. shops near South Street and in Hopewell, N.J., closed down, packed up, and flew themselves and longtime staff to Italy for a 10-day eating excursion. It's all about pizza. "We think it is important that our staff gets a taste of the food culture and have a point of reference for pizza," said Grim.

Today's entry is by Grim:

Day 3. We took an early fast train to Naples. The trains are clean, quiet, beautiful and travel up to 240 m.p.h. A little over an hour from Rome to Naples. Much longer by car.

Antimo Caputo of Caputo flour met us at the train platform when we arrived in Naples. He put us in 3 taxis and took us to his flour mill, about 20 minutes away. We toured the lab, were briefed on how flour is made, how different wheat from around the world is blended to make consistent flour for pizza dough. We were shown each step of the milling process, from cleaning of the wheat berries to the packaging room to shipping.

Our tomato supplier met us in the Caputo lab to discuss his tomatoes. The tomato packing plant is closed in the winter. We use the same tomatoes as many well-known pizzerias in Naples - except, tomatoes shipped to the U.S. have a leaf of basil in the can. This addition of basil somehow reclassifies the tomatoes and lowers import duties.

Caputo then put us back in taxis and took us all to one of the best pizzerias in Naples. Il Pizzaiolo Presidente so renamed because President Clinton had pizza there. The Italians are very gracious hosts. We were treated to wine, beer, appetizers, pizza, more beer, coffee. We were serenaded by an Italian musician with the very jolly pizzeria owner singing and clapping. Caputo gave us all hats, neckerchief and aprons that pizzaiolas wear in Naples.

Then the owner of the pizzeria happily and proudly showed us his dough-making room. He demonstrated how to 'open' a dough, turning a dough ball into a flat pizza ready for the oven. He was very fast. I asked how many pizzas he makes in a day. He said today, when it is rainy and slow he would sell 800 pizzas. On our busiest day we make less than half that amount. In one holiday three-day weekend, he sold 7,500 pizzas. That is a crazy amount of pizza.

He explained how he makes dough, how he mixes the dough at 6 a.m., lets it rise at room temperature, and uses it that evening.

At Nomad, we make our dough and let it rise in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. Every pizzeria does it differently. He was a lovely person, and gave every one of us a a T-shirt. Stalin showed him photos of our oven, and our finished pizzas. We were told our pizzas looked very authentic.

It is interesting to note that, so far, we have not seen one pizza cutter in Italy. Pizza is always eaten with knife and fork. The pizza we had today was soft and pliable, not crispy at all. And soggy in the middle. One could never hold a slice. The pizza is way too soft and floppy. This is how pizza is made in Naples. This is how it has been made for a hundred years.

Our hosts went out of their way to make us feel welcome. We all sincerely thanked them and walked to our hotel.

We are all looking forward to tomorrow morning when the owner of the Buffalo Mozzarella farm is picking us at 9. Hopefully we will see water buffalo up close and see how the delicate cheese is made.


Catch up on the trip

Part 1 is here

Part 2 is here

Part 3 is here

Part 4 is here

Part 5 is here

Part 6 is here

Part 7 is here

Part 8 is here