Breaking bread with baking brothers Alessandro and Pierluigi Roscioli
Food & Drink, Culture
29 June 2020
Fulvio Pierangelini chats with Alessandro and Pierluigi Roscioli, who tell the story of their bakery in Rome, a few metres from the famous market square of Campo dei Fiori. They produce the artisanal bread for Hotel de la Ville and Hotel de Russie.
Can you tell me about your origins?
“Our humble story began about a hundred years ago, in the Marche region, a beautiful and, at that time, very poor region. Our father's grandmother gave birth to eleven brothers. The oldest, in the twenties of the last century, left for the USA in search of fortune, was successful, returned to Italy to Rome, and opened an oven (bakery). It went well. He called his brothers one by one to help him. They learned well and in turn, they too opened new enterprises. Eleven brothers, eleven bakers. My father is the son of one of them. For ten years he was a shepherd, then he got called to Rome. He started his apprenticeship too, he was intelligent, learned quickly and opened his own bakery. The cartmen of the Campo de Fiori market were his first customers.”
I love your bread, to me it’s the best...
“It looks like me, it reflects my character; a bit rustic, sour, slightly rude, a bit rude, as you’d call it...”
We talk (too much) about sourdough, mother yeast, leavening. I continue to support the supremacy of the gesture.
What do you think?
“I agree, when you treat a living matter you have to put your heart into it, you have to invest your emotion, your passion, you have to take it in the right way. The baker must convey his sensitivity and bring it out. Over time I have developed two types of yeast with different acidities, and I spent hours checking the values... now I don't use the instrument anymore, I don't control it anymore, I'm free and I follow it...”
Learn the technique perfectly so you can forget it,
I always say…
“Take for example our panettone; you can immediately perceive that it is made by a baker and not by a pastry chef. When you cut it you feel the living yeast, not the aromatization, the reaction of the essential oils of candied fruit attacked by lactobacilli gives a scent of biscuit, a sublimed bread rather than a sweet...”
Flour, a complicated world...
“I have always worked with a family mill in Lazio, in the province of Frosinone. They are artisans, sometimes they make mistakes in milling, I send back the flour and they replace it. This is for me a guarantee of craftsmanship in an otherwise standardized world.”
“Grain is one of the most difficult materials to trace; the so-called ancient grains are actually recent grains, spelt is the only real ancient grain. I have tried to recover an ancestral product, high altitude wheat, which has not hybridized. Difficult to work with, it requires long fermentation, difficult for the current taste, but I won't give up.”
Are you fond of your archaic oven?
“With the same professionalism, the difference is always the instrument. We have always preferred a brick oven of ancient conception; we are aware of the lower functionality and heat output but only in this way do we get our favourite cooking. It keeps the heat in, it takes longer but I can do a real study on the crust and drying. I love working with residual heat to accompany the baking of desserts.”
Is that where your miracle maritozzo with cream is born?
“Yes, the cake that best represents Rome, from the opulent city of the Popes to the miserable one of the first years of the last century. In fact, Roman confectionery has always been popular, with many ingredients unknown; only with the arrival of pastry chefs in the wake of the Piedmontese has it evolved.”
But the maritozzo resisted...
“The technique has been refined a little bit but it has remained faithful to its principles, it has remained a bread to all effects to which you give a dignity and a moment of celebration reserved for the precious occasions of a frugal existence.”
I'd like to talk about another great passion, Roman pizza. For me it is a pride of this city, an ephemeral monument that is worth a fountain, an imperial forum... and yours is the best.
“You make me blush... Once again, it’s a mix of genius, necessity, gesture. Not to be confused with pizza as we know it today, born in the ovens from the dough of the bread, the head and tail of the processing is spread with the hands with the virtuous and confident gestures of a jazz pianist.
Given the success and the possibility of greater earnings in the first post-war period (around 1950) my uncle perfected it, with a few small tricks including a few grains of salt and a drizzle of oil brushed on top after baking becoming a must. It was sold in bakeries in dairies cut into strips and soaked in milky coffee. That little touch of salt was appreciated. Today, more than ever, it has entered our DNA and we love it both in confectionery and chocolate... then it becomes a street food to lose your head over, stuffed with mortadella or ricotta cheese or ripe figs. A naive nursery rhyme from my childhood games read: "pizza, ricotta, Oreste, bum!"
What do you like about RF hotels?
“I come whenever I can; I know and frequent Brown's and the Italian hotels. I appreciate the elegant style, the careful and scrupulous selection of raw materials. The wonder of the continuity between location and gastronomic proposal, the polite and respectful but warm and attentive welcome that makes you feel appreciated and welcome.”