Mamma mia, che buona pizza!

"32?? Tonight?? You've got to be kidding!!"

My mom is as incredulous as I am that winter's last hurrah a few weeks back was NOT its last hurrah.

Well, April Fool's is 5 days past, so, no, I'm not kidding. It's supposed to go down to 32 (!!) degrees (F) tonight. And that means: Drag the plants in yet once again. I think they're as tired of making the journey back and forth to the lightless garage as we are. Thanks to an injured rotator cuff, J got to transport the plants all by himself this time around. Let's hope it's the last time before the fall migrations.

On the bright side, the cold snap means that I don't mind having the oven on for all sorts of things. Like toasting almonds. And baking nocciola brownies. And pizza. All of which I did this evening.

So, after my mom and I got off our respective soapboxes about our dislike of the cold weather "and that wind!!" the conversation naturally turned to food. One of her friends "had ordered a specially-made gluten-free pizza," my mom continued, "and was so disappointed because by the time she got the pizza home, the crust was thick and chewy....and not in a good way."

I grew up in Northern Italy among a cult of pizza-worshippers. We regularly went to Tony's pizza place in Vicenza, il Corsaro Rosso, for a margherita (tomatoes and fresh bufala mozzarella), or quattro stagioni (four seasons: each quarter is topped differently), or funghi (mushrooms). But never with tomato sauce. And never with oregano. The dough was started in the morning, rested all day, and then was hand-thrown, topped as requested, and shoved into a wood-burning clay oven that had been heated to perfection. The fairly thin, yeasty dough blistered and "set" immediately. And upon emerging from the blazing hot forno, was anointed with an intensely fruity olive oil and rushed to its adoring fans who could hardly wait for it to cool by even a degree...and regularly suffered seared palates. Mamma mia, che buona pizza! And we washed it down with a glass of coke -- room temperature with a slice of lemon.

I returned to Vicenza in 1992 with my son, Alex, who was 6 at the time. We were going to visit friends who still lived there, and from whom I'd ascertained that Tony and his pizzas were still going strong as Tony's Pizzeria on Via Todeschini Maffeo, 66, just off Viale Trieste. I'd been telling Alex all about the Italian pizze we used to eat: how they were made, how the toppings were different from American pizza, all about Tony's. "You'll see," I'd tell him, "you're gonna love 'em." And love 'em he did -- room temperature coke with lemon and all. His favorite was frutti di mare -- seafood.

Sixteen years later, Alex is still raving about Tony's pizza -- and every other pizza he ate while we were in Italy. Matter of fact, he loved ALL the food we ate during our visit: the pizza, polenta, bigoli, gelati, krafen, you name it. Of course, while he loved the pizza, what he found really interesting at Tony's was the bathroom: the hole in the floor, with little elevated "footsteps" to stand on while you do your business, and the long flush chain extending directly from the ceiling. After seeing that toilet, he learned how to say, "Dov'e il gabinetto?" "Where's the restroom?" was always the first thing he'd ask wherever we went. Boys!

And sixteen years later I'm eating gluten-free pizza. I call it my pizzetta. The brown rice tortilla dough, or base, is of course nothing like pizza, really. It's just a flat receptacle for toppings. And the toppings? Well, they've evolved to things I can find here. The taste? "Wow! These are good!!" is the usual response. And then a few days later it's: "I made these tonight and everybody loved them."

Well, they're easy and quick to make, they're pretty tasty, and they're gluten-free. You can top them with just about anything you like. Just make sure you use the best. "No tomato sauce??" one of my friends recently asked. No, and once you make these you'll see why. Meat? Well, I'd never, but feel free to.

Give them a try and let me know how you like your pizzetta. Here's how we like mine....

My Pizzetta

GF brown rice tortilla, 1 per person....or more
evoo....extra virgin olive oil
zucchinis, sliced very thin
eggplant, sliced very thin
marinated artichoke hearts
cerignola olives, green and/or black
sun-dried tomato pieces (the kinds packed in olive oil, garlic, and herbs)
manchego cheese, sliced
feta or cotija cheese, crumbled
herbes de provence
crushed red pepper

1. Heat your oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Brush the tortillas with evoo.
3. Top the tortillas, as desired. I top them with the listed ingredients and in that order.
4. Bake the pizzas for about 12 - 13 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the cheese melts.
5. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with red pepper, if desired, and cut into 4 or 6 pieces.
6. Enjoy hot -- with a glass of vino.....or warm coke and lemon :)

Note: The toppings need to be fairly dry/drained; otherwise the tortilla will become soggy and limp. With brown rice tortillas you want a crispy crust. Also, I like my cheese to lightly blanket, not smother, the rest of the toppings. And is summer, I like to add shreds of fresh basil.

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