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Jul 20, 2006 07:09 PM

[AUS] Enoteca Vespaio: Question about Pizza and A Note About Their Salami

When I had dinner recently at Enoteca Vespaio. I noticed that the prosciutto and arugula pizza had changed since my last visit. It was saltier, with a crunchier crust, and was topped with much more cheese. I myself am not of the school that holds “the more cheese, the better.”

Have any of you who have been eating their pizza regularly (that is, on more than a couple of visits) noticed a change, too? I’m usually there for lunch so I suspect any difference could be attributed to someone else in the kitchen or the effect of evening crowds on food quality. Their cooked-to-order supplì were blander than usual, but the pre-made (in-house) vegetable antipasti—roasted tomatoes, green-bean salad, and caponata--were better executed than I remembered.

I just noticed that Enoteca Vespaio is carrying three or four kinds of salami by the excellent Molinari Deli. I’m so happy that they expanded beyond Niman Ranch. Here's an older thread that discussed their charcuterie:

Mandola’s just carries Citterio, which they pronounce “Seth-ro,” to rhyme with Jethro. I mention this so you won't think they're saying Zerto, which is a different brand.

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  1. Are they -- and Mandola's for that matter -- carrying anything that Central Market and Whole Foods isn't?

    1. If I remember correctly, and I could definitely be wrong, Whole Foods mostly has the line of salami's and cured meats from AppleGate farms. In my opinion the best selection of salami's in Austin has got to be Central Market. Molinari, Zerto, Columbus, Citterio, Boar's head, etc. Its nothing compared to a classic Italian Salumeria but its close. The most limiting factor for all these places is that we are in the United States and the FDA does not allow the import of many kinds and varieties of salami's because of the curing process. Its a shame, because there is an incredible world of selection out there available from Italy which we can't get our hands on.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ChrisStein

        It's so easy to get good charcuterie at every corner salumeria in Italy!

        In addition to the quality and chop of the meat and the packing material, many things affect the final product: such as the mode, length, and temperature of fermentation or curing, as you mentioned. But also the subsequent storing of the cured meat; the date when the chub is cut into; and proper slicing and packaging. These last three items are where things can really go wrong in this state. A grocery store can have a wide selection of cured meats but lack the skill-set of employees at Italian-specialty-food stores in other parts of the country. That also affects a brand’s “taste.”

        My favorite salami outside of Italy are the ones from small old-world and artisanal places that cure it themselves: Salumeria Biellese and Faicco’s Pork Store in NYC; Salumi, Columbus, and Molinari on the West Coast.

        Volpe and Citterio make solid use of high-quality meats but are at least a rung lower than the brands above. Of course, they really stand out compared to mass-produced salami that tastes like the Hormel pepperoni used at pizza chains. But in my opinion they're not of the same quality as the artisanal U.S. product that approximates the best in Italy.

        And you remember correctly, Chris. Whole Foods stocks Applegate Farms and Niman Ranch. Currently they have prosciutto di Parma and San Daniele prosciutto, but not for much longer--due to animal-treatment issues that they've learned about.

        Comparing Enoteca Vespaio (which is really a sit-down restaurant with a small but well-selected deli/alimentari section) and an upscale grocery store is like comparing apples and oranges, however. In-depth discussion of salami and cured meats that are available nationally should probably be posted on General Chowhounding Topics.

        I’m still hoping someone will have a comment about my pizza question! Did you ever try it?


      2. What are you favorite pizzas at Vespaio? I like the Toscana (I think that's what it's called).

        5 Replies
        1. re: Kent Wang

          It’s not clear if you liked the Toscana (but it’s the only kind you’ve tried), or you consider the Toscana the best of all Vespaio’s pizzas (and you’ve tried them all). There’s a big difference there.

          I prefer the Batali-inspired combos ( ). Assuming the bad crust I noted in my OP was an aberration, these are my favorites:

          * prosciutto, arugula, and fontina cheese, with a sunny-side-up egg on top that lets egg yolk run all over the pizza—This is good, but I wish they’d add a version of this pie that is just a baked pizza bianco (cheese only, in this case, though bianco sometimes means just olive oil and salt on the pizza dough), topped first with layers of prosciutto crudo, then fresh arugula, and finally sprinkled with shavings of parmegiano.

          * lardo—I’d be thrilled if they would lose the arugula and use fresh rosemary instead, like Batali does; or, they might just throw the arugula on top of the cooked pie to wilt slightly from the heat instead of layering the greens under the lardo, making them a soggy, grease-laden mess.

          * funghi and taleggio

          1. re: MPH

            I've only had three of them and the Toscana is my favorite of those.

            Thanks, those sound good. I'll try them next time. I don't eat pizza often, so when I do I try to eat only the best.

            1. re: Kent Wang

              A word of warning: Taleggio (a very pungent cheese) and lardo (cured pork fat) are acquired tastes and not for every palate. I've even overheard customers asking for no egg on the prosciutto pizza because it seemed "weird" to them. Personally, I wouldn’t like this prosciutto pizza as much without the egg, and I love both taleggio and lardo. These kinds of richly flavored pizzas are for savoring, though, not scarfing down.

              You already said that these sound good to you. If these toppings don’t sound appealing to other chowhounds, the variations on standard sausage or cheese pizzas might be more accessible choices.

              1. re: MPH

                Based on your suggestions, I tried this (the prosciutto, arugula, fontina, & egg pizza) last night at Enoteca. The first couple bites of the first slice had some flavor combinations that were slightly jarring. I quickly adapted to it, and by the second slice, I was really digging the pizza.

                Thanks for the tip. As a "gringo" who rarely eats authentic Italian food, I found it different but quite accessible. The egg, oozing yolk everywhere, really sets the whole thing off.

                For anyone who wants to try something different, this pizza is really quite excellent.

                Oh, someone at a nearby table ordered the Taleggio pizza. The aroma was fierce enough that it made the entire surrounding area reek of something between rich, melting chocolate and a locker room.

                1. re: tom in austin

                  One more thing:

                  Unlike conventional American pizza, the pizza from Enoteca does not microwave well. My leftover slice lost much quality due to my careless reheating. It especially degraded the crust: previously a semicrispy, slightly flaky substance, I converted into something like barely-damp cardboard.

                  Next time, if I have a leftover slice or two, I will use the oven to reheat instead of the microwave.

        2. MPH and others,

          Does Enoteca Vespaio make Neopolitan-style pizzas ? I'd also be curious to know what kind of oven they use, what temps it can achieve, etc. I've been learning more about Neopolitan style pizzas lately, and how one can actually have the capabilities to achieve such a result (flour/dough, ovens, etc).

          The lardo/taleggio pizza has been tantalizing me for a couple of months now - I just need to find the occasion to stop by there.


          1 Reply
          1. re: Nab

            At Vespaio, the pizza crust is ultra-thin, bubbly, not too cracker-like but not very pliable, either. It's based on Mario Batali's griddle-cooked pizza at Otto, which is, in turn, inspired by Sardinian flatbread or similar pizza found in the north of Italy. In other words, it's not based on the Neapolitan model. Vespaio is using a wood-burning oven rather than griddling the pizza, but their oven doesn’t seem to get very hot.

            The pizza in Naples, Italy, on the other hand, is very simple and very good, due to the use of fresh, delicious ingredients; the technical know-how of the pizzaioli; the super-hot coal- or wood-burning ovens that char the crust just the right amount in a matter of minutes; and a demanding, pizza-crazy populace that won't accept inferior product. The best example of pizza napoletana is the margherita, with its scattered chunks of fresh (sometimes buffalo) mozzarella; sparingly applied tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes, with just a touch of garlic; and a few fresh (not baked) basil leaves on a light, springy, and chewy crust that's been topped with salt and olive oil.

            It’s delicious, but I’m afraid that no one’s doing it in Austin. It’s hard enough to find a decent New-York-style pizza in town, which is based on the Neapolitan model but favors a thinner, crisper crust, among other differences.

            Did you see these older threads on pizza in town?




            Please let us know if and when you find a pizza that you like.


          2. Cippolina on West Lynn. Good blistered crust from a real wood burning oven with actual wood!(nothing is worse than restaurants that have the gas flame going and no wood).

            2 Replies
            1. re: boshtx

              It's true that they use a wood oven, but I don't think their crusts are that great. They're pretty bland and the texture is too cracker-like. I think it's more like the pizza I had while in Rome than Neopolitan pizza.

              1. re: Brian Lindauer

                I enjoy the Neopolitan pizzas b/c the emphasis there is on a good bread, and good quality ingredients used *sparingly*. That's just my bag. I'm not too big a fan of cracker-crusts, but I'm actually heavily drawn to Vespaio for the toppings in this case.