Pizza is food, says Marco Caputo, and it should be cooked so that all the ingredients' flavors emerge — some patiently, others powerfully — to be enjoyed as a meal.
When Caputo talks pizza, your mouth starts watering for a taste. He's the owner-chef of Boston's Mast' Restaurant & Drinkery on Province Street, which specializes in Neapolitan-style cooking. In June, Gambero Rosso, the global authority on Italian wines and food, selected Mast' to host one of its Top Italian Wines Road Show 2019 tasting events. (The apostrophe refers to Neapolitan slang for "maestro.")
Marco, who grew up in Naples, Italy, was excited when Gambero Rosso chose Mast', which he launched in 2014.
"They wanted the old-fashioned, traditional way of cooking Neapolitan-style, and this is the right place for it," he said.
While Mast' offers a hearty lunch and dinner selection of southern Italian cuisine, it is Boston's only certified Neapolitan pizza vendor — and Marco has the international culinary licenses and the authentic brick oven, transported from the old country to Beantown, to prove it.
"Since 785 A.D., people in southern Italy have been cooking dough into food," said Marco, who rises early each day to make the restaurant's fresh homemade dough and pasta.
The secret to crusty pizza? "We don't say crispy," Marco says. "We say burnt. When we cook Neapolitan-style, we want people to taste food like they've never tasted it before."
I will never again look at pizza the same after tasting the oven-baked mastery of Marco and his two professional pizza chefs. Neapolitan food is cooked at Mast' to be savored, and the right Italian wine definitely enhances the adventure.
At the event, Gambero Rosso editors Lorenzo Ruggieri and Giuseppe Carrus selected wines for each of Caputo's six specially prepared plates. Here are my impressions on the pairings.
Cusamano Alta Mora Etna Bianco 2018, Sicily
A soft-textured and aromatic white made from Carricante grapes grown on the volcanic slopes of Mount Etna. Crisp with mouthwatering minerality, it was a dream match for porketta tortelloni in a Boscaiola (forest mushroom) sauce.
Sella & Mosca 2017 Torbato Alghero Terre Bianche Cuvee 161, Sardinia
The rare Torbato grape lends this mesmerizing white a bright, yellow gold color. "Terre Bianche" refers to Sardegna's white calcareous soils. Ripe apricot and tropical-fruit flavors dominate. A touch of oak adds richness. Accompanied by a very tasty mortadella ravioli and fontina fondue.
Leone De Castris Fives Roses, Salento
In the 1940s, Five Roses became Italy's first commercially sold rosato, and today it is an Apulian speciality based on the native Negro Amaro grape. It's abundant in ripe cherry and citrus-infused flavors. Zesty. Meshed perfectly with a fried half-moon granbiscotto in porcini sauce.
Medici Ermete Concerto Reggiano Lambusco 2018, Emilia Romgana
This highly saturated, dark-purple wine is served slightly chilled and boasts a cool, frothy mousse of juicy plum and black fruit flavors. It was scrumptious with a smoldering Mortadella Rovagnati pizza laced with fior di latte cheese, lemon and basil.
Lamole di Lamole Chianti Classico 2016, Tuscany
From an excellent vintage for sangiovese, this young wine boasts tart cherry, coffee and chocolate traits on a silky frame. Paired with mini-calzoni and wood-oven granbiscotto stuffed with provola and ricotta cheeses.
Salvaterra Valpolicella della Amarone "Cave di Prun" Riserva 2008, Veneto
I searched my soul deciding whether to longingly sit and smell this dense, dark, ruby-red wine and its majestic violet, licorice and black cherry aromas, or drink it. I surrendered to the latter. It's a savory, penetrating, velvety, complex Amarone. Chef Caputo paired it with Panuozzo, a classic pizza sandwich from the Amalfi coast featuring porketta Rovagnanti, scamorza and eggplant. Simply sensational.