by Enzo Coccia
They came to the pizzeria with the ricotta cheese and the Neapolitan salami, some people brought the tomato sauce too from home… (obviously, to save money!) and they asked us: “Could you make the cappello del prete (priest’s hat)?” What am I talking about? I am talking about the stuffed Neapolitan pizza, you can also call it calzone but I prefer cappello del prete because its round shape recalls the wide-brimmed headgear worn by the clergy.
It comes to mind the faded memories of the 70s when the families, even the poor ones, didn’t renounce to eat it but, to save money, they purchased what was needed for the filling (ricotta cheese, fiordilatte, tomato, Neapolitan salami, pecorino cheese) and brought it to the pizzaiolo who proceeded with stuffing the dough. And to do so, a lot of attention was and is still required: you have to roll the largest disc of dough, top it, making sure to leave the edge free of about 3-4 centimeters; at this stage the filling is covered with the upper disc (with a lower diameter of around 2-3 centimeters) and you seal the edges by acting with fingertip pressure and, lastly, you garnish the top with the pizza margherita toppings before baking it near the oven mouth, so as to let the filling cook slowly for two-three minutes.
Et voilà the cappello del prete, a calzone also mentioned, in 1847, by Francesco de Bourcard in his book “Usi e costumi di Napoli” (Traditions and customs of Naples) and listed, still today, on my pizzeria’s menu.
It has always been synonymous of sharing food: a pizza to share between 2 for lunch or for dinner, or it is a perfect appetizer for 6 people. I challenge anyone to eat a cappello del prete all by itself, unless he has been without food for 2 days at least!
I know, now you are wondering what the poor pizzaiolo of the 70s earned by stuffing the calzone with the ingredients the client brought? Let’s say, he was paid the scomodo, or rather the service. A simple gesture, fruit of that Neapolitan tradition which is able to create a community around food at affordable price.