The enogastronomic tradition of Campania has so many typical products, both primary and artisanal. These, together with the cultural and landscape richness of our land, make Campania a relevant tourist destination both at an international and domestic level.
Among the excellence of the land and the great Neapolitan classics, in the most recent tradition there is another tasty and very special product: the Panuozzo of Gragnano. It looks like a flattened and large sandwich, but by observing it better and by letting oneself be captured by its fragrant taste, it is possible to perceive the perfect fusion between pizza, from which it derives its birth, and homemade bread.
Every restaurant in the area, offers a wide range of fillings all strictly made of typical products of the Agro Nocerino area with its fragrant cold cuts and countless cheeses, as well as cherry tomatoes and other vegetables grown in the nearby areas.
The recent origins of Panuozzo
The great Panuozzo of Gragnano, which has become the unquestioned symbol of street food in the Sorrento Coast, was invented in 1983 by the Mascolo family. It is said, in fact, that one evening, in its historical pizzeria in Gragnano, the founder of the family, Giuseppe, prepared it for dinner for his sons, creating, with the dough of pizza, a long and narrow shaped sandwich stuffed with bacon and mozzarella.
The children were so enthusiastic about the goodness of this maxi sandwich that one of them, Pasqualina Mascolo, chose the name and the product was immediately added to the menu.
The customers, intrigued by this huge sandwich of about thirty cm that was presented as a delicious alternative to the classic pizza, soon tasted it.
What followed was a great success. Gragnano, which has always been known for its famous pasta and the homonymous wine, had a further strong economic boost. The few pizzerias of the area, in fact, made of panuozzo their fortune to the point that, in a few decades, they opened at least 40 new restaurants.
The exquisite variants of Panuozzo and the “great classics”
Even though it is the Mascolo family to hold the patent of this irresistible excellence of Campania, the panuozzo is proposed in every pizzeria and restaurant of the area, and it attracts not only many international tourists, but also the same Campanian inhabitants coming from the other towns nearby. The festival of Panuozzo, then, is a real feast of taste which is held every year since 1996, witness of the countless evolutions of its variants.
Nevertheless, there are four great classics. The “First” Panuozzo remains the mozzarella and bacon one, just as it was conceived by its inventor. Then there is the classic one which takes all the taste of Campania, stuffed with sausages and friarielli. For those consumers who are more careful about their waistline or are looking for fresher flavors, there is mozzarella, tomatoes and arugula.
Finally, a classic dish probably thought by the most “nonconformist” gourmets is also the one stuffed with provola cheese and eggplants (white or “mushroom” with sauce).
Finally, in addition to the variants proposed by restaurants and the “great classics” there is also another version, always new and unexpected, the one that is ordered at the counter, composing your favorite panuozzo.
The inimitable unique flavor of panuozzo
Panuozzo owes the great fortune and fame gained so quickly, also to its uniqueness. Like the pizza from which it derives, since the same dough is used, it is difficult to reproduce the flavor and consistency of the one made in a pizzeria. This is because first of all it must be cooked in a wood-fired oven in order to allow the dough to swell and crack in order to disperse the steam accumulated inside.
The secret of its external crunchiness, then, despite the inner crumb is soft and elastic, is given by the second cooking of a few minutes, called “the ripasso”, which the pizza maker performs immediately after cutting and stuffing. This phase also serves to better mix the flavors of the ingredients used to fill this special sandwich. Finally, the stuffing must be categorically made with genuine products from the Agro Nocerino Sarnese area.
Another proposed variant, even if less common, is the one made with the dough of the typical “pane cafone” of Campania.
In short, the panuozzo can be consumed as a take away food or comfortably eating it in one of the many pizzerias of Gragnano. However it remains a local delicacy to be tasted in that specifical area or at the most, in few other pizzerias of Campania which were able to learn its secrets in order to offer it in a version very similar to the original one.