INCENT SCOTTO and his sister, Donna
Scotto, sat in Gonzo, their Greenwich Village trattoria, eating
Chinese takeout and arguing about their grandmother's savory Easter
pie ́pizza rustica.
Mr. Scotto, the chef, likes to serve it with tomato sauce. "The
tomato sauce pairs well with all the meat," he insisted.
"I just like it plain," rejoined Ms. Scotto, the traditionalist
who manages the restaurant.
Pizza rustica squabbles are not uncommon this time of year,
especially among Italians and Italian-Americans who grew up ́as
these two Brooklynites did ́sampling countless versions.
The meatiest and cheesiest of southern Italy's Easter pies, pizza
rustica is a Neapolitan antipasto designed for breaking Lent. But
the recipe is hardly sacred: it may be as dainty as quiche Lorraine,
with flecks of boiled ham suspended in eggy custard, or ridiculously
weighty, served in strapping slices that may or may not include
prosciutto, capicolla, pancetta, cooked sausage, soppressata,
pepperoni, salami, ricotta, mozzarella, pecorino and hard-boiled
eggs (the token symbol of the holiday).
Even the crust is contentious. "My grandmother always added
sugar," Mr. Scotto said with a grimace, recalling the sweet-salty
contrast with distaste. After she died, sugar was yanked from the
family recipe. But sweet pastry crusts ́similar to those used in
the region's famous ricotta desserts ́are traditional. "During
Easter, what was sweet became filled with meat," said Giuseppe
Longo, whose family runs Mami Camilla, a Neapolitan cooking school
in Sorrento. That progression from sweet to savory may explain why
his father's meaty recipe calls for raisins. Their inclusion, which
is also evident in the writer Elizabeth David's recipe in "Italian
Food" (1954), never took off in the United States.
The pie suffers similar identity crises around Naples, where Mr.
Longo says it is also called pizza carnevale or chiena, the latter
meaning "full" in Neapolitan dialect. "Yeah, some customers call it
pizza GAYN-a here," said Louis Faicco, articulating its alias with
the proper accent. He flies through about 500 pizza rusticas at his
family's pork stores each Easter. They're full pies, indeed: based
on his Neapolitan family's recipe, they encase dense mixtures of
nine cured meats and three cheeses in flaky pastry made with lard
(but without sugar).
Mr. Scotto's version, above, on Gonzo's menu through April, is
less full and more refined. A fluted tart arrives like a little
present on the plate, hiding a hard-boiled egg, chewy cubed
mozzarella and fresh parsley below the upper crust. Diced prosciutto
and cooked sausage lend bursts of salt and spice to the ricotta
binder. The pizza rustica renegade places it on a puddle of
Pizza rustica is $11 at Gonzo, 140 West 13th Street, (212)
645-4606; and $20 to $25 a pie (half pies are also sold) at
Faicco's, 260 Bleecker Street (Leroy Street), (212) 243-1974, and
6511 11th Avenue, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, (718) 236-0119.