Capperi: Dinner Inside a Pizza Oven during a Heat Wave

On the hottest day ever recorded in the history of Bordeaux, two friends and I made a reservation at a pint-sized pizzeria where the dining area is about 1 meter from a 350° C wood fire burning oven. After some hesitation and a few longing glances in the direction of Aphrodite, a breezy Greek terrace restaurant with a mean tomato, cucumber and feta salad, we decided to honor our reservation and manger sur place at Capperi. A feast of hot dough and cheese in an unairconditioned, oven-heated room, tightly packed in with 3 other tables, on a 42°C July evening? For the pizza at Capperi, it turned out to be worth it.

This gem of pizza spot, nestled into the maze of cobblestoned restaurant streets near Place Saint-Pierre, is run by two charming Italians named Bartolo and Julia. The 12-guest capacity and the open nature of the kitchen creates a cozy, authentic and intimate vibe, that kind of Italian feeling that enhances appetite the moment you sit. At Capperi, pizzas are “created” (not simply “made”) following the principles of Slow Food, that is to say slowly and with great care. At the root of it all is a super light dough made with organic semi-wholemeal wheat T80 flour from France and allowed to naturally leaven without the use of yeast. The olive oil is produced by Bartolo’s family in Sicily. The charcuterie and cheeses are imported from Italy. The seasonal vegetables are sourced in France. The menu presents 14 options, ranging from the simplest Margherita to the more meatier Boscaiola and some funky things like a saffron-scented carrot cream and pistachio pizza in between. The thin, fine layer of dough cooks through and develops a sensational crust in the Italian stone oven, where it spends 3 to 4 minutes at 350° C. Cheeses melt here and caramelize there. Everything comes together in a beautiful, fragrant symphony, one fully experienced simply by sniffing the air in the place. And to pair, Capperi offers a selection of Slow Food approved Italian wines, produced through sustainable processes with an eye towards environmental conservation.

I ordered the restaurant’s namesake Capperi, a pretty good representation of what they do here. Compared to the pizzas I’ve recently been eating, it was absurdly good, and a reminder of what pizza should always be. The crust was beautifully tanned with exciting lumps and crunchy ridges here and there. It was also wonderfully thin and light, offering just enough support without overwhelming the star ingredients on top. The homemade tomato sauce was wonderfully mild and sweet, the Sicilian oregano full of flavor. Here and there, bright white patches of fluffy, fresh ricotta added a creamy, smooth texture and clean cream flavor to the mix. Contributing a piquant burst of acidity and freshness to each bite were capers from the island of Saline, hand-picked from a volcanic lava terroir and fiercely protected by the Slow Food movement. And in the center, an epic ball of AOP mozzarella di bufala sat regally, patiently waiting to be torn into pieces.

We shared a bottle of Etna Bianco and chatted about life, occasionally wiping away beads of sweat before they would drip down to pollute the precious pies. An absolutely must-try for pizza lovers in Bordeaux, a place I’ll be revisiting as soon as temperatures cool down a tad.

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