North Beach’s Il Casaro Pizzeria & Mozzarella Bar Opens

Salvatore, the pizzaiola at North Beach's new Il Casaro Pizzeria & Mozzarella Bar
Salvatore, the pizzaiola at North Beach’s new Il Casaro Pizzeria & Mozzarella Bar

A couple of months ago I told you about Il Casaro (the cheese maker), the soon-to-open North Beach pizzeria and mozzarella bar. Well it finally happened a couple of days ago and I stopped in to wish my friend Francesco “Buona Fortuna”.

He sat me at the end of the immense white marble bar. I almost cried when I opened the menu filled with Neapolitan street food (cibo da strada), fried rice balls, bacala cakes, potato crocchette. Then I saw the homemade and imported mozzarella, fior di latte, burrata and the pizza. It’s a tantalizing menu.

“Where should I start my first time here?” I asked Francesco. “Pizza” he said without missing a beat. As I glanced toward the tomato-red beehive wood-burning oven I saw that I knew the pizzaiola standing in front of it. That sealed the deal. “Pizza Norma” I told Francesco without missing a beat either.

It was Salvatore, who I knew. I waved and in his honor ordered pizza alla Norma topped with grilled eggplant. Salvatore is a very talented pizza maker. He checked my pie lifting it high in the oven a few times just before he pulled the pie out to make sure it was perfect, slid it on a plate and delivered his masterpiece to me himself.

Il Casaro's Pizza Norma with grilled eggplant
Il Casaro’s Pizza Norma with grilled eggplant

Francesco wasn’t wrong. The tender pizza came out of the oven with dark puffy blisters all around the edge. The sweet eggplant played against lightly salted homemade fior di latte mozzarella.

I ate the whole thing starting with a knife and fork that I soon abandoned. Fold the slice in half and pick it up with your hands. It’s much easier and fun that way.

Those Calabrian peppers are small but deadly. Just the right addition to the last 2 slices of Pizza Norma.
Those Calabrian peppers are small but deadly. Just the right addition to the last 2 slices of Pizza Norma.

That single pizza was a wonderful trip around southern Italy. I started with a Neapolitan pizza that swung by Sicily to pick up the classic alla Norma eggplant topping and finished in Calabria after Francesco doused my last 2 slices with that tiny red-hot Calabrian pepper and its oil.

Before I left Francesco gave me a plate with ribbons of shaved raspadura, a delicate, nutty, young grating cheese. Once the paper cups arrive you can get curly shavings to eat while you roam North Beach. If you sit where I did you can watch them shaving the big cheese wheel with a special thin metal band.

I’ll return to Il Casaro soon. I gotta continue eating my way through the menu. Wanna join me? 5 stars so far in the early Yelp reviews.

If you’re inspired to make pizza at home my Pizza Margherita episode will show you how.

Did you see my new pasta primavera episode we released yesterday? You gotta make this easy, simple spring vegetable pasta dish part of your kitchen repertoire.

Buon appetito!

Il Casaro: North Beach’s New Pizzeria & Mozzarella Bar

Il Casaro on Columbus Opening Soon
Il Casaro on Columbus Opening Soon

Ever had panmozza?

You won’t have to go to Napoli to eat some when Il Casaro Pizzeria and Mozzarella Bar opens in a week or two after a final inspection.

Francesco Cavucci who owns the wonderful Calabrian restaurant on Green Street and his partner Peter Fazio have put together a casual place with an impressive white Italian marble bar in the former Steps of Rome space on Columbus right across from Molinari’s.

“We’re celebrating the food of Naples,” Francesco told me this morning.

I was ecstatic.

Since both Pulcinella and Caffe Macaroni Sciue Sciue closed a few years ago North Beach hasn’t had a real Neapolitan spot.

“We making true Neapolitan pizza and our own mozzarella & buratta that you can eat while it’s still warm,” he said with a big smile on his face.

Francesco beamed more brightly when he told me “And we’re making panmozza found everywhere on the streets of Napoli.”

Panmozza are folded sandwiches made with a pizza dough that has shreds of mozzarella kneaded into the dough. Add your favorite sandwich goodies, fold over the dough and bake in a hot oven.

Francesco Cavutti and Il Casaro's beehive oven
Francesco Cavutti and Il Casaro’s beehive oven

Il Casaro’s pizzaiolo (pizza maker) is certified by the Association of True Neapolitan Pizza in Naples.

In fact, the whole operation is certified.

You gotta use San Marzano tomatoes, certain mozzarella and zero-zero flour. The dough mixer for proper dough aeration and the wood-burning beehive oven have to be certified by the Association too.

I applaud the efforts to keep the traditional ways pure.

“This will be a casual neighborhood place where you can drop in every day,” Francesco said.

I can’t wait for Il Casaro to open.

I’ll be sitting at the bar right in front of the red beehive oven eating my panmozza.

You should drop in too. I’ll let you know when the doors finally swing open. And maybe I’ll post a panmozza recipe too.