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Phantom Gourmet: Volturno Pizza In Worcester

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WORCESTER – Sometimes a pizza is more than just a pizza.

Sometimes, it’s a work of art.

And in this case, art has never tasted so good.

At a gorgeous new restaurant named Volturno, owner Greg Califano is bringing authentic Neapolitan pizza to Worcester.

In fact, he has such passion for pizza that he actually traveled to Italy and trained to be a certified pizzaiolo, crafting pies in accordance to the strict guidelines set forth by the Italian government.

“The crust has to have a really nice rise; it has to be charred on the outside; the center has to be evenly thin, using buffalo mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes,” Califano described. “Really strict guidelines, but it holds the character of the pizza and it gives a product that’s unlike anything else.”

The ingredients are all top notch, and so are the ovens. Located right in the dining room, the wood-fired Italian imports reach a blazing nine hundred degrees, allowing the pizzas to cook in just ninety seconds, which means each work of art requires the utmost attention.

“This is just like Picasso painting. You’re watching every single thing you’re doing. You’re watching the bottom of the pizza; you’re watching the side; you gotta go right back and keep checking it over and over again,” said Califano. “That way we get the perfect pizza every time.”

When it comes to crafting the perfect Neapolitan pizza, Volturno’s Margherita is just what you’re looking for. It’s made with just a few simple ingredients, but the results are sensational.

“A little bit of San Marzano tomato, some fresh green basil, a little bit of Pecorino cheese and some fresh mozzarella, a little bit of olive oil, and right in the oven.” Greg says that’s “where the magic happens.”

After just a minute and a half in the oven, the result speaks for itself.

“These pizzas look fantastic. They have the characteristic blistering, wonderful color; you check the bottom you see the spots, the beautiful char, and when you rip into the dough, it’s not dough; it’s air. You can actually see how light it is, and how delicate it is.”

There are plenty of other great pizzas on the menu at Volturno, and many of the best are made with some unexpected toppings.

There’s the Lemone, a unique combination that’s a favorite of Volturno’s Executive Chef Neil Rogers.

“That’s actually my favorite pizza,” Rogers said. “It has thinly sliced lemons, some fresh basil and smoked mozzarella. It’s very fresh.”

“You’re going to get the smokiness of the mozzarella. You’re gonna get the freshness of the basil. Then you’re gonna get that acidity from the lemons. It’s like an explosion in your mouth, it’s delicious,” agreed Califano.

Another great choice is Clam and Bacon pizza with ricotta, mozzarella, and thyme.

“Clam pizza is just one of those classic pizzas. Like clams and bacon together, salty the fresh sea, a little bit of cheese on it, some thyme. You get the smoke from the oven; it mingles with the smoke from the bacon, nice salty clams. It’s wonderful,” described Chef Rogers.

But of all the pizzas on at Volturno, the Pistachio pizza is the most unexpectedly delicious, made with fennel sausage, melted mozzarella, and amazing housemade pistachio pesto.

“Pistachios, Parmigiano Reggiano, some extra virgin olive oil, basil and arugula that we blend all together,” said Rogers. “Smear that on a pizza. What that does it form a nice aromatic, nutty flavor to the pizza that goes well with the house made sausage. It’s sweet, savory, salty all at the same time.”

A meal here MUST include some pizza, but that’s not all they offer.

There are appetizers like Grilled Calamari with chickpeas, a Bruschetta Platter with all kinds of different toppings, and a crock of oven roasted Meatballs made in true Italian tradition.

“We tried to do meatballs the way that they are done in Italy,” Califano said. “It’s not a gigantic meatball. We did small meatballs and we focused on great ingredients inside of them.”

Volturno also makes all their pastas fresh every day, like the Garganelli that’s tossed with olives, tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella, or the Ziti that’s baked with eggplant, ricotta, and Pomodoro.

“Baked Ziti, it’s comfort food. I mean that’s what it’s all about. It’s about stick to your ribs, delicious flavor, something that’s a little bit richer and something that can make you feel like you’re full when you leave,” said Califano.

Customers are certainly satisfied when they leave, but they’re just as impressed when they first walk into Volturno. The restaurant is housed inside a building that dates back to the early 1900′s, and for decades was home to the oldest Buick dealership in New England. Now it’s completely remodeled, with soaring ceilings, recycled woods, and giant windows flooded with natural light.

“We wanted a wow factor,” Califano said. “We wanted people to walk in and say, ‘wow I can’t believe that this is a restaurant.’”

“Food has always been a passion of mine. I’ve always loved cooking, and that’s what really inspired this place. It was all of my knowledge and all my experiences from going to Italy and taking that and bringing that back to Worcester and saying, ‘you don’t have to get on a plane. You can take a five minute car ride, come down to Shrewsbury Street and experience the exact same Neapolitan pizza, the exact same pasta, that you would if you went to Naples, Italy and you can get it right here in Worcester.’”

You can find Volturno at 72 Shrewsbury Street in Worcester, or online at volturnopizza.com/.

Watch Phantom Gourmet on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 and 11 a.m. on myTV38.

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