Third generation of a family of pizza makers, Ciro Salvo was born in Naples and trained in his grandmother’s pizzeria in the Portici neighbourhood, first as a baker and then kneading the dough. His pizza is unique in the world, with a highly hydrated dough, very light, digestible, dreamy. Not to mention his fried pizzas and his pasta fritters.
Ciro Salvo in London
In 2014, a pizzeria named Kalò opened a few steps from the Mergellina seafront in Naples: a name not accidental because 50 is the bread in the Neapolitan cabala, while kalò is the local pizzaioli’s ancient jargon for “good”. In March 2018 50 Kalò opened in the heart of London: Tre Spicchi recognition and then an award for best pizza in town in our Top Italian Restaurants 2019 guide.
We went to visit the Trafalgar Square venue. “My favorite game as a kid was making pizza, my hobby is making pizza. I made my playtime my job, now my fortune. I am someone who wakes up and goes to a pizzeria. I enjoy it: it’s priceless!”.
Why London and what was the idea behind it?
London is in many ways the capital of Europe, an important showcase: I wanted to leave an indelible mark on Neapolitan pizza. I had the idea several years, but I am a very meticulous and attentive, so I would never have opened just to put a sign on the door. Offering a good product is more important than money, income is the consequence of what you do, if you work well, economic success will come. I wanted to transfer the identity, the soul of the restaurant: those coming to London must live the same gastronomic experience like the one in Naples. The basic know-how needs to be transferred to the people who work here, without the team behind you, you go nowhere. All the guys here have been working in Naples 4/5 years with me, they know my modus operandi. The ingredients are practically the same. I wanted to bring the air of Naples to London.
Do you offer hands-on advice to other pizza entrepreneurs?
I have lots of requests but I don’t offer this service because I don’t believe in it. Advice ends when you leave the pizzeria, it has a start date and an end date. It’s temporary, venues need to be taken care of over time, otherwise they tend to go off track, and lose identity. I come to London every month for a week, otherwise what’s the point of having a restaurant there?
Your idea of pizza.
My pizza is my interpretation of Neapolitan pizza, a pizza with a precise identity that nbears the imprint of the artisan pizza maker, and myself. I have always been fixated on mastering the perfect dough, today I am 41 years old, I started kneading after finishing high school at age 18, I took the family recipe that has been handed down for generations and I evolved it through research, study, my curiosity towards the reason for things. I created a very soft mixture, rich in water. I was the precursor of hyper-hydrated doughs. But let’s remember that dough is always a combination of things, there are a series of details that must be taken into consideration: it’s the union of things that gives the best results. Plus, how to stretch and how to bake the dough, it takes a lot of experience in handling: it’s so easy to ruin a pizza!
Do you truly believe in wine and pizza pairings?
I am always all for substance, I could get have had a wine list designed by top consultants. The wine list I have is only the result of my own work, I’ve tasted the wines, and don’t want to take shortcuts: I want to make mistakes with my own hands. Yes, I like challenges. I studied alone, drinking, reading wine guides, or trying to read, that is. I think I know the wines of Campania well, there is an offer of wines that can satisfy the request for pizza. Campania wine and Neapolitan pizza are simply the best together.
Foreign labor, which is fleeing from London, is now very difficult to find. Think dishwashers. The city needs foreign labor, Londoners don’t come here as waiters. For the sake of their economy, I really hope that they won’t cut their own legs off, it would be a sensational defeat.
According to myth, real Neapolitan pizza can only be made in Naples: the water, the air of Naples, the city’s moisture. We are now beyond this, don’t you think?
Very simple: pizza is made by pizza chefs, not water or flour. A pizza maker who knows how to work, knows how to choose the right flour, can adapt to the climate of the place. Pizza is always a combination of factors: finding the right balance with the knowledge of the subject matter and experience, Neapolitan pizza can be made in any corner of the world. And it’s not certain that the best Neapolitan pizza is necessarily the one from Naples. Sure, pizza was born in Naples, it has its roots there, the city boasts the greatest number of pizza makers but we can’t exclude that tomorrow someone born in Ecuador may make better pizza than us Neapolitans.
By Lorenzo Ruggeri