Visit to Naples..
(Low pizza content, but relating to Neapolitan pizza)
I remember sometime Marco (pizzanapoletana) made some comments about possibly the best tomatoes for Neapolitan pizza and he tipped me off about the the “Il Miracolo Di San Gennaro” tomatoes. (see http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,2007.0.html
Prior to going to Europe, I decided to try and track these tomatoes down and I managed to find out the name of the person in charge ( a gentleman by the name of Sabato Abagnale) and tried to email him on both of the two email addresses I had for him. Unfortunately one of the emails bounced back and from the other I got no reply. I found out his mobile number and rang him. Small problem here: he only speaks Italian and I don’t speak any… so he hung up on me.. so it looked like a dead end street.
Then last September/October we spent 5 1/2 weeks in Europe, including some time in Italy.
We only had 4 days in the Campania area, where we spent most of our time on the Amalfi coast (mainly Positano and environs) , although we did manage to get to Naples for one day and visit some pizzerias. (another story)
We were leaving that part of Italy on our way to San Gimigniano and I said to my partner: “ I have the address of this tomato guy and his village is only about a 15 km detour (Sant Antonio D’Abate), so why don’t we try and see whether we can find him? She thought it had all the hall marks of an utterly wild goose chase and hence agreed (
), so we set off.. I did say to her that if this place turned out to be a factory or shop then that was all cool, but if it was a residential home, we would just leave it.
After some time, we did manage to find the right street, parked the car and started walking looking for the right street number. The place was unfortunately a residential apartment, so we walked around it, looked it up and down and were just about to leave when a young woman walked past and asked us what we were looking for (at least I presume so, because I couldn’t understand a word of what she was saying). So I said in my best Italian: “pomodoro… Il Miracolo Di San Gennaro … Sabato Abagnale” She started smiling and beckoned us to come with her. We walked just around the corner to a bar and as we entered, I could see a can of the said tomatoes sitting on the shelf behind the counter. They found a young guy who spoke a little bit of English so we managed to get some conservation going. It turned out she was a relative of Sabato Abagnale (probably a sister??) and the guy behind the counter was a friend of the family. He showed me lots of pictures on his digital camera of their most recent crop and how it was processed in their factory (mainly really small scale processing, primarily manual labour with everybody pitching in.) They seemed intrigued by the fact that some crazy Dutchman from New Zealand knew about their product in the first place and was crazy enough to spend half a Sunday looking for it… They got me a couple of jars of their smaller variety of tomatoes (pomodorini) and a jar of the real stuff: the genuine “Il Miracolo Di San Gennaro” tomatoes. The young woman also rang Sabato Abagnale on his mobile (he was on the other side of Italy, Rimini for a few days) and told him about our visit. We tried to have a conversation on the phone, but the language barrier was (again) to great..
I then asked for some fresh tomatoes (pomodoro fresca) and they looked puzzled and said: “the jars you have are really, really fresh.. they were bottled yesterday”. I then (somehow) managed to get across that I was hoping to get some (non – canned) tomatoes and they got me a bag of tomatoes out of their cool store that were “seconds”: not good enough for inclusion in the regular production, but OK for sauce etc. They gave us a bag full of these, most of which we ate over the next few days of our travels. Finally they got out some wine (Prosecco, a bubbly wine) and wanted to have a drink with us before we left.
They refused any payment for the jars of tomatoes and said it was a gift.
We were really blown away by their hospitality to a couple of total strangers and their obvious pride in what they were doing. It was one of the highlights of our trip.
I managed to get these jars of tomatoes all the way back to New Zealand (and that was a major effort, given our customs people etc) and now have this dilemma:
When do I open up my solitary jar of “Il Miracolo Di San Gennaro” tomatoes???
BTW, not all of the fresh tomatoes that we got were eaten; a number of them were dissected, the seeds dried and stuffed into my jeans pockets upon re-entering New Zealand (where you can just about get shot for doing something like this..) I have attached some pics of our visit with the Abagnale family / friends as well as a picture taken tonight of a nice crop of tomato plants…