The calzone seems to have originated in Napoli in the 18th century. That shouldn’t be too surprising. Flatbreads with toppings on them have been around since we figured out how to mill grain, but the pizza as we currently conceive it came from Napoli too. They are a clever town.
As I understand it, the calzone was concocted so people could grab one on the go, thus the name “calzone” meaning trousers or pants legs since people ate them while walking as opposed to the soft crusted Neapolitan style pizzas that practically require a fork and a knife.
The original calzones were smaller affairs than what we are used to. They were sandwich sized and easy to carry around. If you’ve ever had a pastie in the Nordic tradition you know what they were like. Of course, now we present a monster that takes up the plate. I’m going to attribute that to the same basking in luxury that over took our mid 20th century wave of Italian immigrants. That diaspora saw twenty-three or so million Italians leave the poverty that gripped their home country and head for better pastures. You hear about Americanized Italian food having too much sauce and too much meat. That wasn’t a bunch of Yankees misreading a recipe and overdoing it. It was a bunch of dirt poor Italians arriving in the land of plenty and embracing fully the opulence available to them. Our calzones are huge.
I was in Sardinia in 1996. This was a brilliant time to be in Sardinia as the national or sub-national or whatever team (Federatzione Isport Natzionale Sardu) was doing brilliantly in the Euro Cup. Every bar was alight. The streets were buzzed by locals flying flags and singing soccer songs.
I got into a conversation with this woman – Debra. Her English was about as awful as my Italian but we kept trying and kind of got a few ideas across. I was a tourist. She was an art student on break. I can’t believe that this is something that they let students do but she was touching up (no idea what that entails) Botticelli paintings. Not quite a ninja turtle, but you know he was in the conception conversation. That’s pretty good.
Anyway, Debra was charming. I tried to get her to explain the difference between Polizia and Carabinieri and she put her hands forth as if in handcuffs. I probably should have explored that further, but I was young and stupid and if you reflect too much it’s regret all the way down.
We were in this open courtyard. There were several restaurants that no doubt vied for business, but with so many of them open to the area I’m assuming a detente had been arrived at. No one seemed to care where you bought your beverage or in whose realm you sat to drink it. It was very ecumenical.
Debra took the lead. She gave me this “hold” gesture with her hands forward. We had done our best to communicate between broken languages so I just held fast. I had no idea what she was doing but I wanted to trust her. Tight jeans and a smirk. You would have wanted to trust her too.
She came back with a bottle of wine. Argiolas Costomolino. The smirk was a smile. No irony.
I’m having trouble explaining it. Crisp and brilliant white wine. I say that independent of my attraction to the girl, by the way. She had stunning brown hair. The wine had wonderful minerality. I won’t, and didn’t confuse the two. Sometimes two life altering moments happen at once.
So she poured, and those deep brown eyes that had dissected Botticelli looked up to me and said “You no have better.”
We have it now. Argiolas Costomolino. $6.25 a glass.*
*I made all that up. I had it at a wine tasting in Birmingham. But still. Really good.
You think about stuff when you’re trying to not think about stuff and fall asleep.
Ideally you’d be able to coax yourself into a pleasant dream where you’re the heroic general on the up side of some interstellar conflict piloting toward a pleasant retirement on a Rigel like sex planet but as you lull off your subconscious pulls up some weird scenario where a composite uncle is screaming at you because you put decaffeinated as opposed caffeinated Darjeeling in your long deceased grandmother’s medicinal chili and that kind of nonsense will wake you up quick.