Neapolitan ‘Pizzaiuolo’: It’s the Simple Things in Life That Bring the Greatest Joy

Well, we had to put a bit of a hold on the ranch work this week so we could fly back to Sandyhook, CT. It was our turn to care for our aging parents, Elaine’s mom had just spent a week in the hospital due to a stroke. I abandoned my quest to haul 40′ wooden poles for our entrance gate to go pull hospital duty. And after giving round the clock care for the last several days I was ready for a break.

Being relieved of duty for a few hours, I headed out into the freezing weather, a few minutes later walking into Figs, my favorite local Italian Restaurant. I needed warmth, sustenance and a Cabernet Sauvignon (or two). The hostess led me to a booth but then I heard the wisp of a voice from over my shoulder. “Joe, over here.” It was the wood-fired pizza oven. “Come get warm by my hearth. Come converse with my caretakers.” I heeded the call. As soon as the menu landed on the table I snatched it up, did a 180 and walked over to the kitchen bar.

The radiant heat warmed my face as the oak-fired flames licked at the edges of the brick oven. Pizza dough spun through the air with a trail of white flour like some distant spiral galaxy. It was 4:30 in the afternoon. Fig’s was mostly empty. Within minutes I was drinking a nice, full-bodied Cabernet while discussing the finer points of pizza cookery with the chefs. “Could you add a little more tomato sauce to that Napolitano?” “You can leave the pizza in the oven a few extra seconds, I like it crispy.” “800 to a thousand degrees? Wow!” I was soon sitting in front of a bubbling authentic Napolitano pizza. “Do you have any pesto back there? Thanks!” One of the owners walked over to the bar. We spent the next 15 minutes talking about my hydroponic basil garden and the art of making good pesto while “Beat Bobby Flay” played on a flat screen above our heads. The owner was probably trying to distract me from bothering his chefs but I was in seventh-heaven. I nodded and talked while strings of mozzarella cheese dangled from my chin. All the worries about my in-laws were a distant memory.

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