by Catherine Schofield Sezgin
One of the reasons for our fondness for the restaurants in Amelia is certainly due to the ubiquitous owners who have to close their eating establishments to get any time away from their businesses. Valda, as she is known by her customers, the smiling and gregarious owner of Porcelli's, arguably serves the best pizza in Amelia. Personally, I favor the gargonzola cheese with sliced pears and crushed almonds. My children love the nutella pizza that Valda often presents to regular customers at the end of a late meal. Then there's a salad that's only on the Italian menu that has greens, kiwi fruit, and walnuts dressed with a vinaigrette.
Many people prefer pizza from Napoli. However, when my family and I tried the pizza in Napoli, I had to agree with my husband -- even as I enjoyed a seven cheese pie -- when he said, "This pizza is not as good as our pizza." I understood he wasn't talking about pizza from Pasadena. Because after living in Amelia for a month, 'our pizza' had become pizza from La Misticanza or Porcelli's. The pizza in Amelia typically has a thin crust, with cheese topped with thin slices of toppings such as zucchini, eggplant, red peppers, prosciutto, or even truffles. Oil does not drip through the pizza boxes or congeal on the plate as in California. With whole pies selling from three to eight euros, we ate pizza daily.
Valda, with her trademark dark eyeliner and long eyelashes, opens her taverne in the evening and keeps it open for as long as her customers and musicians play. It's not unusual for someone to arrive at midnight. Porcelli's is carved into the hillside and has spacious dining rooms stretching into caverns whose walls are decorated with art by Valda's deceased husband. The space is perfect for musicians to perform long into the night without disturbing the neighbors. However, the customers smoking outside Porcelli's doors on Via Farratini may not be so accommodating if the party is particularly good. And the party, like the pizza, is always good.