Fig.1. Stefano Faita is genuine and passionate about pizza; his shirt says it all.
I received an email from the CBC asking me if I would review and blog about a documentary entitled Al Dante: Respect the Pizza. Al Dante is part of a six part summer series showcasing food, film and music in Montreal. While the show is about pizza, it’s also about local food celebrity, Stefano Faita. The show follows Faita on his quest for pizza, the premise (which feels slightly contrived at times) begins as Faita is seen speaking on the phone, presumably to his editor, about how his next article (Faita writes a weekly column for the Journal de Montreal) will be about pizza. What ensues is a quest, not solely for pizza itself, but rather, for reasons on why a simple pizza can be so sublime.
Faita’s passion for food and Montreal help make this documentary a treat to watch.
The documentary takes a look into Faita’s family history as well as the Faita family business: Montreal institution, Quincaillerie Dante. Faita`s background parallels the history of thousands of immigrants who made their way into this city, especially in the area of Little Italy. The documentary also does a great job showcasing the importance of the Jean Talon Market as a hub, a nexus fed by the masses of immigrants who over the years have made this market into the marvel it is today.
Faita visits the Jean Talon Market in search of fresh ingredients (the part where Faita seeks the help of Mr. Birri and his cohorts is especially amusing); he visits Bottega where he samples pizza made in a real Napoli pizza oven, and eats Nutella pizza for dessert (which is still very popular all over Italy) but what stands out for me is Faita’s emphasis, probably unbeknownst to him, on how with a bit of practice, great pizza can be made at home. He makes pizza for breakfast, he makes pizza with his daughter and he shows people (in his cooking school) how to make pizza at home.
Having sought out pizza all over Italy, New York, Boston, New Haven and Montreal, I can confidently tell you that the quest for the best pizza is an unattainable quest; but, Faita shows us that making pizza yourself brings you one step closer to sublime pizza, and your family and friends (and especially your kids) will think it's the best pizza they've ever had.
The Montreal summer series, which will air in September, is hosted by CBC news co-anchor Andrew Chang. For the complete schedule or to watch Al Dante: Respect the Pizza on the Internet, visit http://www.cbc.ca/montreal/features/cbcmontrealpresents/