Elio Tavolieri has had his hands in 00 floor since he was a boy.
His father, Elio Snr, moved to Ireland from Italy in 1972, married a Kerry woman and they have been running pizza restaurants in Cork ever since. Like most offspring of restaurant folk Elio and his siblings were drafted in to help at every opportunity, so he has spent most of his life making pizza.
He decided to take it further, and moved to Naples and to work with Ciro Salvo, a masterful pizzaiuolo who owns a famous pizzeria in Naples where they are known to serve up over eight hundred pizzas on a quiet day.
Elio came back to Cork committed to the traditionalism of Neapolitan pizza and, along with his brother, opened La Tana on Barrack Street, then in 2015 he opened his flagship Palmento Sourdough Pizza, a 55 seater restaurant in Douglas.
The heart of any pizza restaurant is the oven. In Palmento the three tonne wood burning oven was shipped fully assembled from Naples. They installed it and then built the rest of the restaurant around it. The oven fires up to about 480-500 degrees and cooks a pizza in about sixty seconds. These workhorse ovens have been known to last for eighty years.
The pizza is stunning. It’s one of the few sourdough pizza places in Ireland, and it all begins with a sourdough yeast starter. Elio’s is almost two years old and I was delighted to hear it began life as a West Cork yogurt (all of the best things are from West Cork don’t you know?) The starter’s aromas had an almost champagne like quality to it, and the starter is mixed with 00 flour, water and salt and the resulting dough left to slow prove for twenty plus hours at room temperature.
Add to this a San Marzano tomato sauce from Italy and finish with some savoury topping from local producers including smoked Gubbeen cheese, Bresnans sausage or Flor di Latte cow’s milk mozzarella from the Toonsbridge Dairy.
As the dough is cooked at such a high temperature for a short time the result is a soft and fluffy base with nice charring and a pleasing elastic chewiness. The wet centre makes eating by the slice nigh on impossible, but this is the Neapolitan style and whilst some people might be put off by the “soggy” centre, I loved the tender slurpiness of the whole thing.
They do a new pizza special bi-weekly to keep things interesting, and an above average drinks menu offers excellent beers on draft from local microbrewery Eight Degrees and a concise list of natural wines from importers La Caveau.