The art of pizza-making reaches its pinnacle in a town of fewer than 6000 souls in the hills of northern Campania. The artist is Franco Pepe, his studio Pepe in Grani. The pizzeria, housed in an 18th century building in the old heart of Caiazzo, is where Franco Pepe struck out alone (or rather with his wife Rita, son Stefano and daughter Francesca) a couple of years ago, after making his remarkable reputation in the family osteria (three generations of pizzaioli) a few streets away. Just like its chef-patron it’s contemporary but restrained, and seats almost a hundred over two floors, a spacious patio and a special table high up on a scenic terrace.
Because, like any serious artist or artisan, Franco Pepe is never wholly satisfied with his achievements for long. With the new project he can experiment and innovate while sticking with proven traditions, train the most promising young pizza chefs, bring together foodies and showcase the finest products of the Alto Casertano area while catering at the highest level.
So pizza dough, made with manic attention to factors such as flour type, gluten content, humidity and temperature, is kneaded by hand in a traditional wooden chest, using those long-established gestures that speak of authenticity and flavours almost lost. It rises naturally at room temperature. Toppings are rigorously selected and preferably local. And the finished pizze and calzoni emerge from a wood-fired oven housed in a state-of-the-art domed steel casing. The menu includes a few other dishes too, deeply rooted in local custom but masterfully prepared, and cheeses and cured meats which are specialities of the region. So too the wine list and an ample selection of craft beers. Caiazzo is a little off the beaten track. No matter: just make the detour.