A Tour of Sicily and Naples – Making Pizza with Angie and Scott

What better place to learn about pizza making than in Naples, the pizza capital of the world? And the instructors? Angie Rito and Scott Tacinelli, co-chefs and owners of New York’s Michelin star restaurant, Don Angie, and Michele Leo, of Naples’ Palazzo Petrucci, also a Michelin star restaurant. We were participants, not observers, actually making the dough for pizza.

Aprons

After a brief introduction about the ingredients used to make the dough (flour, water, salt, and yeast), the temperature in the oven (460 degrees Celsius, or 860 degrees Fahrenheit), and cooking time (less than two minutes), we took places at half a dozen tables that had been set up in the room. In metal bowls, we combined the ingredients and kneaded the dough, adding more water if the dough was dry, flour if too sticky. 

Tables set with bowls, flour, and water

Because the dough for pizza is usually left to rise overnight, we wouldn’t be using our dough for the pizzas we would later eat. However, Chef Leo came around to check on our progress and selected three people whose dough he felt turned out the best. That trio would then work with dough Chef Leo had made earlier to fashion actual pizzas, spreading out the dough and then adding the toppings – sauce, basil, and cheese.

I learned how to make pizza from my grandmother and mother and, apparently, have not lost my touch. I was one of the three Chef Leo selected and had the chance to actually make a pizza, although under his watchful eye.

Adding the sauce

After baking for a few minutes, my pizza was cut into slices for others to enjoy. The other two winners followed suit, providing more pizzas for the group.

Angie, Chef Leo, Charlene, and Scott, with Charlene’s pizza

Throughout the tour, we had the chance to chat with Angie and Scott. They have been gracious hosts, answering questions about their restaurant, their families, and the types of foods they love (besides Italian, of course). The exchanges were never one-sided. They were eager to learn about us, where we like to dine, where we have traveled, what foods we like to cook, and what we were enjoying most about the trip. 

Angie and Scott preparing their pizza

Since we have dined at Don Angie, we appreciated their talents for creating not only delicious but creative dishes based on the Italian-American foods they enjoyed growing up, Angie in Cleveland, where her family still has a bakery, and Scott in New Jersey, where his parents and grandparents were avid cooks. Don Angie’s pinwheel lasagna has become a classic dish and the restaurant a sought after reservation.

The list of famous faces who have dined at Don Angie is a who’s who, but the couple is modest about their restaurant’s success, and everyone who visits is treated like a special guest. Their fan base is growing nationwide because of their wildly acclaimed cookbook, Italian American.

Angie and Scott’s clam pizza

We were able to watch them prepare a dish up close, in this case a pizza topped with pesto, lemon slices, and small, tender clams. The pizza captured Angie and Scott’s genius for taking a well known dish and elevating it to a higher level. Their crust was airy with a light char. The lemons added tartness, while the pesto provided just the right amount of sauce. The clams were prepared earlier and were placed on the pizza after it was baked. Leaving some of the clams in their shells added to the visual impact of the dish. A fabulous pizza!

St. Catherine above the door in Made in Cloister

Following the pizza making, we had some time to relax at our hotel before departing for our farewell dinner at Made in Cloister, located in a small cloister of the Church of Santa Caterina a Formiello. In 2012, the Foundaziane Made in Cloister launched a project to restore this 16th century cloister, a rare example of Neapolitan renaissance and industrial architecture.

The cloister had been completely abandoned, but a fundraising event raised the money needed for the restoration. Made in Cloister’s goal is to reinvigorate Naples’ cultural heritage with a contemporary approach. One of the exhibitions now on display is Carole A. Feuerman’s “Crossing the Sea,” which, coincidentally, was recently displayed along Park Avenue South in New York City.

One of Carole A. Feuerman’s life like statues of swimmers

Made in Cloister’s dining table

The table we were to dine on was itself a work of art. Sections on the wooden table top were carved out and their edges burned slightly. Sketches and other artistic objects filled the carved out spaces and a glass top protected the art. While waiting to be seated, we watched the Made in Cloister’s chefs preparing our five-course dinner.

Angie and Scott’s buffalo mozzarella and peach course

Angie and Scott prepared the evening’s second course. Using local ingredients, the chefs’ dish included buffalo mozzarella, grilled peaches, chopped pistachios, basil, and olive oil. While the list of ingredients might signal a complex dish, it was simplicity personified. Grilled peaches added a smoky flavor to the cheese, the pistachios added crunch, and the basil and olive oil lent a delicate flavor. What better way to celebrate Naples’ best foods than in this simple and irresistible dish? It’s on our list to prepare when we return to New York.

Riaz Escobedo, Andrea Montemagno, Scott Tacinelli, and Angie Rito

Since it was our last dinner together, speeches and farewells were in order. Throughout the week-long trip, our guides, Riaz Escobedo and Andrea Montemagno, generously shared their knowledge and love of Sicily and Naples, patiently answering our questions and finding places for us to dine or shop on our own. Any problem encountered was dealt with quickly, with skill and good cheer.

Traveling in a group is always a challenge, but we all agreed that those who signed up for this Modern Adventure experience came together in a special way, bonding over our love for Italy, its people, culture, and food and wine. Riaz set up a WhatsApp for us to communicate within the group and, since it will continue to be accessible, we plan to keep in touch. Who knows? Another Modern Adventure may be in our future!

For more on Angie and Scott and their restaurant, Don Angie, go to their website.

For more information on Modern Adventure tours, go to their website.

To read Charlene’s other stories about A Tour of Sicily and Naples, go to the Living Around section.

About Charlene Giannetti (698 Articles)
Charlene Giannetti, editor of Woman Around Town, is the recipient of seven awards from the New York Press Club for articles that have appeared on the website. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Charlene began her career working for a newspaper in Pennsylvania, then wrote for several publications in Washington covering environment and energy policy. In New York, she was an editor at Business Week magazine and her articles have appeared in many newspapers and magazines. She is the author of 13 non-fiction books, eight for parents of young adolescents written with Margaret Sagarese, including "The Roller-Coaster Years," "Cliques," and "Boy Crazy." She and Margaret have been keynote speakers at many events and have appeared on the Today Show, CBS Morning, FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and many others. Her last book, "The Plantations of Virginia," written with Jai Williams, was published by Globe Pequot Press in February, 2017. Her podcast, WAT-CAST, interviewing men and women making news, is available on Soundcloud and on iTunes. She is one of the producers for the film "Life After You," focusing on the opioid/heroin crisis that had its premiere at WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival, where it won two awards. The film is now available to view on Amazon Prime, YouTube, and other services. Charlene and her husband live in Manhattan.