A pizza, if you take the trouble, can be really delicious! Those made by Gilberto, whose Italian grocer's has been one of old Lille's star addresses for the past decade, combine authenticity, lightness and nobility of the products.
Thirty-nine year old Gilberto d’Annunzio is a well known character in old Lille where he has set up near the famous Rue de la Monnaie. It was he who, in 2000, caused a sensation by publishing a charity calendar of Rue de la Monnaie shopkeepers posing in the nude with him as the leader: 'To begin with it was a joke, but there has been such success that the idea has been copied in many parts of France!'
By creating La Bottega in 1997, Gilberto has allowed Lillois to discover some exceptional products like olive oils from Sicily, Umbria, Abruzzo or even Lake Garda ('I feel those from Tuscany are slightly overevaluated both financially and qualitatively'). His bottles of balsamic vinegar without colorants or caramel are admirable, as is his dry artisanal pasta (produced by Martelli) or pasta with eggs (Spinosi). And we could wax lyrical about his Umbrian porchetta: boned pig stuffed with wild fennel and liver and then cooked for ten hours... 'A marvel which is well worth being enjoyed with a Sassicaia, Italy's greatest wine!'*
Then, in 2005, probably bored somewhat, our friend Gilberto got it into his head to create, just opposite his grocer's, a pizzeria of a new kind. Advised by the famous baker from Wattignie, Alex Croquet (article), Gilberto learnt to make a fantastic pizza dough, the secret of which is basically two things: long fermentation (24 h) and a higher than average quantity of water. The result is a very aerated dough, fine, light but dense and extremely tasty!
Far removed from ordinary pizzas that will set you back 12 to 15 € on average, Gilberto made the wager to sell 'luxury' pizzas for 10 €. For instance his traditional Margarita (representing the three colours of the Italian flag) is composed of genuine Buffala Mozarella (topping added only at the end of cooking), organic tomato sauce, fresh basil leaves and Umbrian olive oil... An absolutely splendid pizza that immediately gives rise to the question: why aren't all Margaritas made according to the same model?
His pizza with fresh rocket, Mozarella, shaved Parmesan, candied tomato and porchetta is also a little masterpiece of a white pizza, as his is tuna pizza with capers, anchovies and black olives. For Christmas, Gilberto also developed a pizza with white truffle and olive oil which caused a sensation. 'Today 7 pizzas out of ten I sell are white, and only 3 with tomato. The public's taste is constantly changing.'
Provocatively, he has dubbed one of his latest creations 'Materazzi' (the famous footballer who suffered the head butt from Zidane): 'A reminder so that the chauvinistic French don't forget who won the World Cup!'
Each autumn, Gilberto d’Annunzio leaves for the Abruzzo region to go to Giuseppe Ursini's, one of the most remarkable Italian olive oil producers. The olive harvest, a visit to the mill, a dinner at a restaurant built on piles above the Adriatic in the presence of Nicolas Roni, elected best world wine cellar specialist in 2005… This gastronomic expedition, to which Gilberto invites all the food buffs met in his shop, is for him a return to the sources as much as a way of bringing together men from all over the world for whom love of taste and artisanal food are noble goals.
*In 1996, an international jury did a blind tasting, in irreproachably strict conditions, of 69 prestigious Bordeaux wines among which an intruder had been maliciously slid. Surprise, it was precisely the 'pirate' wine, the 1985 Tuscan Sassicaia 1985, which beat Pétrus, Château Margaux, Haut-Brion, Latour and Mouton-Rothschild!
8 bis, rue au Peterinck
59 800 Lille
Tel.: 03 20 21 16 85