That Italian cuisine overseas is one of the most debated and debatable topics is certainly not new. Just think of the hilarious moment of the movie “Quo Vado?” by Checco Zalone who, in less than a minute, immortalizes all the frustration of those who find themselves in front of anovercooked spaghetti, shouting revenge.
Anyone who has left Italy for other shores soon realizes that he will have to jealously safeguard the “taste of home” in his mind and heart, perhaps finding more satisfaction in exploring new cuisines, given the impossibility of tracing the authenticity of its gastronomic history.
In Muscat, the capital of the Sultanate of Oman, the visionary project of three very young Omanis is so daring that it aims directly at pizza, the heart of Italian cuisine, with the intention of becoming the reference for the best Made in Oman pizza.
Wafa, Haider and Hajid, energetic and enthusiastic, all around thirty years old, saw in the 2020 lockdown the opportunity to reinvent themselves and give life to a project full of passion. In the long year of lockdown, making pizza has become their motto, the subject of study and daily practice, sifting through recipes, following tutorials on the internet, Italian pizza makers and trying and the dough again and again.
And at the end of this “mad and desperate study”, just under a year ago Impasti was born, the first all-Omani pizzeria that prides itself of having a special secret in its dough.
- 48 hours of cold leavening and high percentage of hydration, a mix of carefully dosed flours, of which the only one revealed is the 00 type. The rest is top secret – Hajid tells me with a sympathetic wink – We only use organic products and we have invested all in the quality of the ingredients and in the dough, of course –
The young team of Impasti, in addition to the recipe, has thought about how to make pizza a cultural instrument to transfer the Art, Beauty and Tradition that revolve around it.
Proud and satisfied to have been interviewed by an Italian, they welcomed me with a contagious smile in the new branch of Ruwi, in the south-eastern part of the city.
The first store, however, was born in the Al-Ghubra area, and is a very small concept store of only 20 square meters, as Haider defines it.
- We were still under full Covid when we opened – he continues with determination – an uncertain scenario and a market that is not easily predictable. We focused on take away and delivery to guarantee a service that could reach anyone easily and without having to face the loss of staff in the dining room -.
Today, in such a short time, they have already opened five other branches in various other points of the city (Al-Khoud, Al-Amerat, Ruwi, Al-Mabelah, Al-Hail) and they plan to expand further, perhaps even thinking about a new concept not limited to take away ..
- We are “the people’s pizza” – Wafa tells me – Our pizza is for everyone and everyone can afford it – The price, in fact, is more popular than ever: the margherita costs only 1 Omani rial (which corresponds to just over 2 euro) and has the right size to be eaten in a bite and to immediately want to order another and another. This is also no coincidence, of course.
The project is truly amazing. Today they have about 40 employees, most of them Omani in whom they have invested in training. By reaching out to universities and colleges of the area, they offered a training opportunity to young people looking for work, starting from the profession of pizza chef and then giving space to individual inclinations and forming a staff that also deals with logistics, marketing, development ..
- Omanis love to cook and love food, it was not difficult to make them passionate about the fantastic world of pizza –
They gave me the opportunity to speak closely with one of the youngest employees, Anas, 23. Having recently completed his engineering studies and looking for a job, he began as an intern by attending the 45-day training in which he learned the rules of dough, topping, how to bake as well as the regulations on catering and safety. Today Anas works in the offices as a Project manager, dedicating himself to logistics and the development of Impasti. Anas is happy with his path and working in the offices but he reveals to me that in the evening he loves to go back to Al-Ghubra where he learned how to make pizza.
In the Ruwi branch, we chatted amiably for almost two hours and between one word and another they offered me a calzone stuffed with vegetables (it will soon be a news of the menu ..).
The dough is excellent, nothing to say about that. Soft and crumbly, it remains light and easily digestible. The mozzarella is fresh, the delicate vegetables do not overpower but harmonize perfectly with the tomato sauce. Then, he basil tip, a refined note that reminds you of the pleasure of ancient tradition. It tastes like Italy.
Perhaps the only weak point is the tomato sauce because the garlic aftertaste can be felt.
- We know it. But it is the compromise with the local taste that we had to give in -.
It’s true. In Asian cuisine, garlic is a must and it is hard to get used to the more neutral flavors.
They look at me pleased, they know that the Impasti made in Oman pizza is good for me too, an Italian.
- After all, we too would be amazed to know a good date producer in Italy! – laughing heartily.
The secret, I think, is precisely in sharing the joyous moment of which pizza has always perfectly reflected the image.