Focaccia di Bari
This past Wednesday, I had the opportunity to attend Pizza Nova’s IGT Focaccia Barese launch. I admit I went because I couldn’t believe that it could be done. When a product is labelled IGT (Identificazione Geografica Protetta), it means that there are strict rules governing the use of the product’s name and recipe. Officially designating a dish is not uncommon in Europe. It’s a trend sweeping that continent in an effort to define and promote each region’s unique identity. It brings in tourism dollars, of course. But, more importantly, it’s a sure way of keeping particular foldaways alive and under each community’s control.
Think about it: there’s so much homogenization already. Do we really need another McDonald’s-style approach to food and drink? The fact that Pizza Nova, a fast food restaurant is now adding an IGT-designated dish to its menu is both inspiring and frightening to me. How could a chain restaurant be able to stay true to this focaccia?
So, before I prattle on anymore, let me describe it to you. Focaccia Barese is a very light dough, different than pizza. It’s topped with Olio Terra di Bari (cold pressed from 100% Coratina olives), oven baked black olives and Pachino tomatoes. (Pachino tomatoes are about the size of small apricots and are very sweet.) Although the oil and olives are imported from Bari, the tomatoes are grown here.
If you’ve ever had authentic Italian food (or any culture’s authentic food) you’ll know that often the execution in fast food restos leaves much to be desired.
The launch was held at historic Wychwood Barns in Toronto. The structure houses a farmers’ market, artists-in-residence, a gallery and a garden that grows heirloom plants. Pizza Nova chose the site as a reminder of its connection to its cultural roots.
Throughout the presentation references were made to the Primucci family’s desire to maintain authenticity and quality. Still family run, Pizza Nova is owned by Sam Primucci and his son, Domenic. By this time, I’d had my sample piece. Wow. The focaccia was incredibly light. The salty olives were tempered nicely by the sweet tomatoes, and the drizzle of olive oil added a hint of fruity flavour. I probably could have had a few more pieces. The Primuccis had the dough nutritionally analyzed and discovered that it’s a good source of Omega-3 polyunsaturated fat.
Ok, I know this reads like an advertisement. But, I really was impressed. Pizza Nova certainly doesn’t need my help in marketing their products, and I didn’t receive anything from them, except for the sample focaccia. I do think it’s important for fast food outlets to strive for a higher standard. Just because the food is cheap and quick, doesn’t mean it should be unhealthy and of poor quality and flavour. We pay for these products. The least that restaurants could do is treat us to good food.