It never ceases to amaze me what can be produced with flour, water, yeast and a touch of salt. Bread is, to me, magical; within hours you can have the foundation for a fantastic meal. The Italian’s seem to have this down to a fine art with bruschetta, pizza, calzone, panino (panini is the plural – think cappuccino), focaccia, ciabatta, breadsticks and something on the sweeter side, panettone!
I was lucky enough to be invited to Ciao Italia in Dunfermline to spend the morning with 25 year old, Fabio, the head chef.
Now this is the man who would know about bread and pizza – born in Naples, yeast must run in his blood. He explains that he only makes an all-purpose dough that can be used in a variety of ways. It’s a simple recipe and method that can be added to with ease, transforming the white mound into various shapes, sizes, stuffed or unstuffed. Now if, like me, your experience of panini (note the lack of an ‘S’) is a uniform oblong roll with banded striation, a thin offering of processed ham and orange cheese that has been squished in a toasting machine, think again. Fabio makes something totally different and utterly delicious. Rolling out dough into a circle (like a pizza base), he then fills it with diced mortadella (a large Italian sausage dotted with pork fat and the occasional pistachio), salami Napoli and Milano, and mozzarella. Rolled up, sliced like sausage rolls, it is then place on a tray and popped into a hot oven to bake for 15 minutes. I will never look at the poor offerings we get in the same light again. Oozing with cheese and meat, I nearly burn my fingers and mouth as I eagerly tuck into it.
Every morning, his first job is to make the dough for the day. House bread in any Italian restaurant is important. To me it’s a benchmark; something so simple can make or break a meal. Fabio makes three types of loaf, a huge round pane casareccio that can be toasted and served as bruschetta or sliced for dipping in olive oil and balsamic; a plaited stick and a long loaf with deep slashes in the top.
Pizza and focaccia are made to order; if you are in for lunch and have the chicken burger (fresh, whole chicken breast not mulched up rubbish), the baps are made from the same dough, shaped and baked for each check.
Fabio asks if I’ve ever had sweet pizza. “Very easy,” he says. “Shape the base, put on strawberry jam instead of pasta sauce, add mascarpone like mozzarella. For olives use cherries. You bake it like you would normal pizza and grate over white chocolate like parmesan!”
By the time the breads are out of the oven, lunch service has begun and the staff nip into the kitchen to finish the panini and the sundried tomato and olive focaccia.
It’s time for me to take my leave, letting Fabio and his team feed the locals with some fab breads; the sea bass seems to be a hit along with carbonara and the chicken burgers stuffed into his homemade rolls with pesto mayo and rocket.
I maybe saying, “Arrivederci, Ciao Italia!” but I will be back.
13 Nethertown Broad Street
Dunfernline, KY12 7DS
Tel: 01383 726669
Monday to Friday: 12 – 2pm and 5 – 10pm.
Saturday and Sunday: 12 – 11pm.
(C) Lea Harris, Off the Eaten Track, 2017.