Beyond the olive oil-cured red hot chili peppers (peperoncini), there’s not much Calabrian about Caffè Calabria in San Diego.
Back in Seattle, he said, where he first became a coffee connoisseur, owner Arne Holt had seen the rise of so many pseudo-Italian venues with meaningless name that “I just randomly pointed my finger on a map of Italy and landed on Calabria.”
Plenty of other folks have chronicled Arne’s inspirations for Italian-style, in-house roasting of his coffee beans. And Arne was noted for the excellent coffee at the caffè long before he fired up his Neapolitan pizza oven (which evidently sat dormant for a number of years before he began making pizza here).
Tracie P and I were thoroughly impressed with the quality of the products and execution of the pizza when we visited with our San Diego crew on Sunday night: the pies were undercooked in the middle, as per Neapolitan tradition, and the toppings were fresh and rigorously canonical.
The pizza was great but the thing that really took it over the top was the way Arne’s staff slices the prosciutto. His Berkel slicer is out of commission, he told me, and so he’s using a conventional deli slicer. But he slices the prosciutto just thick enough so that the heat of the blade doesn’t melt or cook the cured pig thigh.
We liked the prosciutto so much (served above with a domestic burrata) that we ordered a second serving of just prosciutto.
My only lament would be that I wish Arne had a more adventurous wine list that reached beyond the usual suspects (mostly modern-style commercial wines).
The bright, fresh Bianco Classico by Terlano at $38 was ideal in any case with the salty prosciutto and the heat and richness of pizza.
Arne does allow corkage and BFF Yelenosky had brought a bottle of Produttori del Barbaresco 2004 Barbaresco Asili (!) to celebrate Georgia P’s first visit to San Diego.
The wine was extremely tight and very tannic, more so than the last time I tasted this vintage from Asili about a year ago. Earth dominated the fruit as the aromas and flavors began to express themselves and the wine’s savory notes almost had an au jus tone to them. They were held in check nonetheless by the dark berry notes and brilliant acidity of a wine that I believe will be one of the greatest vintages delivered by the Produttori (similar, in my view, to 1989). A stunning wine even in this closed moment…
The icing on the cake was watching one of my oldest and closest friends, a brother really, Irwin, holding little baby Georgia.
He and I have known each other since our early teens and we’ve remained super close since those tender years. What a thrill for me to share the joy of our little baby girl with someone who’s known me nearly all my life.
Buon San Valentino a tutti! Happy Valentine’s Day, yall!