by Tracey Paleo

Adding to the ever-growing trends in Italian food, is an idea currently “bubbling up” to the mainstream.   According to Executive Chef Owner, Saverio Posarelli of Café Fiore in Woodland Hills, the newest version of two culinary hotspots in North Hollywood, CA, cuisiniers and cooks alike, all over Italy are beginning to experiment with what is being dubbed, “Natural Pizza.”

It was the first time I had heard about this technique which apparently has been making its way around for some time.   And during Café Fiore’s, “Sip of Italy” cocktail and small plate tasting event, this au currant discovery, now being featured at the Bistro, was more than a delightful surprise.

Dedicated, adventurous foodies seated family style on a high banked table and stools, gathered to sample the fare, surrounded by a stylized decor, as the chef proudly explained [the chairs, love seats, floors, bar], had been curated from various woods of old World War II planes and beveled glass from extinct bottle factories in Chicago; re-invented to provide a comfortable, homey, masculine, wood fire grill chic.

Primi piatti included routinely served homemade breads, braised lamb sliders and crab cakes followed by samplings of Butternut Squash Tortellacci and Risotto Alpina (Porcini mushroom risotto stuffed with speck and Fontina).

But as the meal progressed the “taste” of the matter, the Pizza made its way to the table.

At its simplest, Natural Pizza is a softer, lighter, less burnt version of our American style handhelds as well as traditional watery centered pies served in Venice or Rome and definitely not deep dish.  It also, most specifically has no yeast.

When I asked the chef about the difference, he excitedly blurted out, “it won’t make you feel too full.”  And as I sampled the soft, slightly under-cooked tasting flat bread (but not really), topped with various cheeses, meats and vegetables, I began to understand its delicate simplicity.  The Porchettara Pizza topped with Pomarola, buffalo mozzarella, roasted pork belly, green olives, and Fresno chili, was the“hit” of the evening and true to Chef Posarelli’s word, I left feeling completely satisfied without being overfull.

Simple in taste, the preparation, however, is not an easy task to complete.  Making the vinegar based liquid that enhances the doe (rather than yeast) takes months of “feeding” until it is ready to mix and must be done at least 2 days in advance of cooking.  It is a labor of love in detail with a sophistication that delivers on taste, especially for food lovers with distinct palates.

One other thing you won’t want to miss are the Margherita’s.  My personal choices are the Strawberry Basil and the Watermelon Sage.  But the Avocado Martini made with Cruzan mango rum, mango, fresh lime and muddled avocado, as a popular favorite is something everyone should try at least once.