For Fabrizio and Valentina, Pane Cunzato - pizza & more has been a long time coming. To make their gastronomic dreams a reality, they decided to take the ultimate leap of faith, saying goodbye to their life on Lipari, a small Aeolian island, and moving to London with their 5 and 6-year-old children.
Their goal was to bring a new delicacy to the city: "pane cunzato", a dialect term meaning seasoned bread. Found throughout Sicily, it represents a cornerstone of traditional Sicilian cuisine. With humble origins as a peasant food, ancient Sicilians would rub anchovies on their bread for a touch of luxury. Today this dish can be enjoyed in countless combinations: with fish, with vegetables, with meat, etc. There are two key versions: the first is found in the Aeolian Islands, consisting of a toasted bread base topped with raw ingredients (see photo above) such as cherry tomatoes, capers, onions, grilled aubergines and baked ricotta.
The other version is eaten throughout the rest of Sicily, from Trapani to Agrigento, and consists of bread stuffed with Sicilian cheese and other local ingredients, which is baked then brushed with extra virgin olive oil.
This dish reflects and encompasses the philosophy behind the restaurant: Fabrizio truly believes that only fresh and unadulterated ingredients can retain their full flavour and nutritional properties. Because our health is so closely connected to what we eat, the restaurant uses only carefully selected flour, imported from Sicily alongside the rest of the main ingredients.
For both versions, the bread is made using a blend of 4 flours: Russello, Timilia, type 2 flour (supplied by a small mill in the province of Ragusa that still uses stone grinding techniques) and a small amount of white flour. The dough is left to prove for 48 hours, with a hydration level of over 50%. This makes the bread fragrant and easy to digest.
Pane Cunzato - pizza & more will be celebrating its 1st birthday on 1 February. From an island chain to a chain of restaurants, Fabrizio wants to expand his business to seven locations, inspired by the seven islands of the Aeolian archipelago. The first is called Pane Cunzato Lipari, and is decorated according to the colour scheme of the island, namely the white and grey of the local pumice stone. The next, Vulcano, will draw on the sulphurous colours of the volcanic craters, and so on and so forth. Instead of a soulless series of carbon copies, each of the seven locations will have its own identity and unique features, meaning that customers can enjoy a culinary exploration of a single theme (pane cunzato) in seven different spaces, colour schemes, islands.
This project is therefore also raising awareness of the Aeolian Islands—a World Heritage Site since 2001—among the English population, with the hope that their journey through new tastes, scents and fragrances will encourage them to discover the incredible Aeolian archipelago for themselves.