Discovering the roots of Minnick’s pizza

Pepe exchanged the visit from Sarah in Caiazzo, joining her in Portland. Here’s how the lesson for Identità was born

23-02-2017

Sarah Minnick at the counter at Lovely's Fifty Fifty, her pizzeria (and gelateria) in Portland, Oregon

During his latest trip to the West Coast, Franco Pepe didn’t just go to Los Angeles, as Nancy Silverton’s guest of honour at Chi spacca. After preparing and baking pizzas the whole day on Sunday 12th February, the pizzaiolo from Caserta, owner of Pepe in grani in Caiazzo, moved to Portland, Oregon. From the sun and palms of the City of Angels, to the woods and rain of a town on the border with Washington State, two rivers, lots of hills, with a nice river port and a pizzeria that was the reason to go.

On Sunday the 5th March in the Auditorium hall at Identità Milano, Pepe will hold a lesson together with pizzaiola and gelatiera Sarah Minnick – at Lovely's fifty fifty the strong points are at the opposite ends of the thermometer, they’re either icy, or are cooked in a wood oven. Hence that 50 and 50 what with gelatos and pizzas.

Sarah Minnick hanged this sign in a corner at Lovely's Fifty Fifty in Portland

Sarah Minnick hanged this sign in a corner at Lovely's Fifty Fifty in Portland

Minnick has her home and pizzeria-gelateria in the Mississippi Historic District. I don’t know exactly where the former is, but the latter is at 4039 North Mississippi Avenue. Born in Portland, she arrived here some 15 years ago when the neighbourhood had a terrible reputation what with gangs, violence and plenty of drugs, but you could tell the wind was about to change. Today a colourful wooden villa on two floors can cost 600 thousand dollars compared to 150 at the turn of the century. Of course things are better now. The use of cannabis is legal and the bad days are far behind.

What annoys people who have always been living in Portland is the growing popularity among Californians. As they’re richer, they buy land and property making prices rocket and eliminating locals from the market. Sarah speaks of this and of the anger for president Trump’s politics but then she lightens up as soon as she turns to her culinary creations.

Lovely's Fifty Fifty on the day the restaurant is closed

Lovely's Fifty Fifty on the day the restaurant is closed

Minnick hasn’t always been a pizzaiola. Before then, she was chef and owner with her partner of the time of Lovely Hula Hands where hula hands refers to the liveliness and sensuality of Hawaiian dances with all their hand and arms, hips and legs movements. Then a few years ago she changed location, working in the dining room and preparing salads and little more as she wanted a clean break with the previous place, so that nobody would be looking for her to eat what she used to serve, but in a simpler and cheaper setting.

«Four years ago I started to knead and I soon learnt that I really enjoyed making pizzas. I love pizza». And then in mid January she joined Franco Pepe in Caiazzo and then welcomed him at her place a few weeks later. The lesson at Identità is the result of their love for the products offered by the territory surrounding them and of their double journey between the US and Italy, which she’ll replicate by herself on Monday 6th as part of Identità di Pizza.

Under a canopy at Ayers Creek Farm, in Gaston, Oregon. Owner Anthony Boutard fixed two incredible Citroën models that made car history: a DS family car (to the left) and even a Traction Avant

Under a canopy at Ayers Creek Farm, in Gaston, Oregon. Owner Anthony Boutard fixed two incredible Citroën models that made car history: a DS family car (to the left) and even a Traction Avant

Little over 48 very pleasant hours, as we also were so lucky as to find a sunny day on Tuesday the 14th. A truce between two storms: «Snow is rare over here. In winter we usually get rain, irritating. When spring comes, though, nature offers incredible colours and repays you of any bother you might have suffered». After an Italian meal on Monday at Ava Gene’s, owned by Joshua McFadden, the 14th was characterised by a visit to Ayers Creek Farm, in Gaston Valley, an organic farm run by Anthony and Carol Boutard. Under a canopy they had two perfectly kept and incredible Citroën cars that made history: a DS family car and even a Traction Avant. Enough to immediately fall in love with them.

1. To be continued

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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