If you read my last post, you learned that Mrs. Pie and I were not enjoying the beaches of beautiful Sanibel Island. So, we decided to leave the bugs and smells behind and pay a Sunday morning visit to the Sanibel Island Farmers’ Market. I’m never really opposed to visiting these kinds of things, mostly for the opportunity to walk about on a pretty day and maybe shoot some cool photos. I was also in need of my morning coffee, but who would have thought I’d find two guys dressed in white cooking pizzas from a portable wood-burning oven!
There was no sign saying who they were, and I jokingly asked if they were “The Pizza Place with No Name.” I found that both men spoke little English and responded by giving me a business card with the aptly titled name of Al Forno Al Fresco, which loosely translates to “baked outside.”
The plain white card carried a Naples, FL address of 6215 Taylor, Road, Suite A which from the satellite photo does not seem to be a retail site. My only other clue was that one of the duo had his name, “Rene Balderas,” monogrammed on his pizza-making suit. Forgive me for not doing more investigation while I was there, but my guess is that these gentlemen are in the business of a travelling pizza show. But whatever their deal is, they make one incredible tasty Neapolitan pizza!
While it was still a bit early for lunch, I just could not pass up this opportunity to taste this rather-enticing looking pizza. Especially after I test-tasted one of the tiny sliver samples on display. But since it was still only 9am, I grabbed some coffee first and came back in about an hour.
Although most folks were taking a par-baked pie (with cooking instructions stenciled on the pizza box) home for later enjoyment, I wanted mine fresh from the oven right now. There were pictures posted of the five varieties available, and I opted for a “full-baked” $7.00 Margherita. The pies looked to be about 12 inches in diameter and were being cut into eight small slices.
I took my pie to a shady spot to eat along with a second cup of coffee. Without wasting any time, I started right in to find that these small slices were “two-biters.” The first bite took you all the way to the end crust and the second one finished things off. And man, was it delicious!
In true Neapolitan mode, the sublime-tasting crust was soft albeit with some char on the top. The cheese and tomato sauce were as equally exquisite. It was just perfect with a really strong flavor kick coming from the added oregano and basil added on top. I think it took me about 30 seconds to eat the entire pie. It was so light filing that it left me with thoughts of having another—even though it was just 10am!
What a way to start my day and possibly the earliest in the morning I have ever experienced a new live pizza experience. Fantastic!
I know it’s been a while and I am not sure what these gentlemen have been up to, but I do see that the Market is currently COVID-closed. Nonetheless, this pizza was simply too wonderful to not tell you about. If you happen upon the left coast of Florida, I hope that you too can get lucky and come across one of Mr. Balderas’ creations.
PS – As farmers’ markets go, this one is pretty incredible with a wide assortment of great specialty foods to eat both now and later. Check it out if you ever get the chance.
PIZZA SNOB RATING ***** Sets the Standard
Al Forno Al Fresco
At the Sanibel Island Farmers’ Market
800 Dunlop Rd.
Sanibel, FL 33957