Friday, October 22, 2010

my visit to Molino Caputo

Man, this is just getting better and better. Read and weep folks, my visit to Molino Caputo.
When I was planning my trip during the last few months, I sent an email to the Molino Caputo company, asking if I would be able to visit when I was in Naples. The email encouraged me to contact them upon my arrival, although there was no commitment.
Yesterday, I called and asked if I could come by. They sounded tepid about the visit... "we don't do tours for just anyone." Well, I made my case and they agreed. I was to show up at 10 AM this morning, sharp. I arrived a bit early. Actually, I wasn't sure I was in the right place. The building is very nondescript. There is no "Molino Caputo" sign outside. However, by chance, the bay doors opened when I arrived for a delivery of grain. I peaked in, and sure enough, there was bags of flour back there... bingo!
Before heading in, I grabbed un caffe at the bar down the street.
I entered and met Antimo Caputo and his uncle. I introduced myself and told him my plans for pizzicletta.  I received some questionable glances and the inevitable question, "How old are you?"
The tour began in the lab. Here, they test all the grain they receive from all over the world.... the US, France, Russia, Ukraine, Estonia... the list goes on. I felt like I was back at NAU... sort of. The first photo above is the raw grain from the different countries. They grind each batch and make dough and then test it for elasticity and extensibility, as well as how much water the flour can absorb. I thought this discussion was very cool because these are all factors that I consider when making dough. I determine these factors by feel, but they use machines that slowly pull the dough apart and measure the two factors above. I also asked questions about the importance of grain size, which rather impressed them and they gave me a fairly long explanation. Basically, the size of the grain will determine how quickly or slowly the dough will rise. Too fast and the dough is too extensible and will rip. Too slow and it can become to elastic and will act to much like a rubber band, always returning to its original shape (rather than a nice round, flat disk).

Next, we visited the mill. This was awesome. They showed me the 22-consecutive stages they employ to turn the grain into the flour. This is a delicate phase and by doing so many stages, they are able to preserve the protein from the raw grain. If you would grind down in one or a few stages, it would obliterate protein in the grain. Next, the ground flour is shot back to the top of the mill and separated from the husk or the bran. I captured a video of these shaker machines doing the separating. Pretty cool (and loud).
Now down one level to the packaging. Here they bag up the flour. During this part of the tour, I learned what the difference was between the "red" and "blue" label flour. The blue pizzeria flour (which is what I use) is more delicate and is ground finer. The red is more coarse and is meant to be used if you plan to make a lot of dough for use over many days. The red is better for warmer climates where the blue dough might over-ferment. I was happy to hear I've been using the correct flour for my pies in Flagstaff.
After packaging, the flour is loaded onto trucks and taken out for delivery. When I asked if business was good, they emphatically said "yes" and attributed much of it to the Neapolitan-boom in the US.

We ended the tour back in the office where we talked more about pizza, the business, my cycling trip and the origins of pizzicletta (home oven, cycling, etc). I stated how I was here because I wanted to know the origins of the food that I use and serve and the story behind that food. They were kind of blown away and really dug it. It was one of those moments when you look someone in the eye and you really connect.
Finally, there were big smiles on their faces and they stated "you are now our ambassador, please tell the world what we do here." I could tell there was much pride in their work. It convinced me that I will continue to use Molino flour. To top it off, Antimo said, "wait one moment," left, and returned a few minutes later with an awesome gift bag with hats, apron, stone tile... I felt quite honored.
But I had one more question... "Where do you go in Naples for pizza?" Recall, I still have one night left here! They stated a couple of places (Pizzeria La Notizia and Starita). The former is owned by Enzo Coccia, whom I've read a great deal about on Slice. The latter makes a fried pizza, that is apparently quite good. Sounds pretty crazy, but I think these guys know a thing or two about pizza. Both pizzerias are a ways away on the west or north side of town. I need to do some research about the travel before deciding where to go tonight. Stay tuned...

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