A person without a soul is nothing but a corpse. It’s similar with food. It doesn’t matter how great the ingredients are or how wonderful the recipe is, a good dish needs soul. For me this culinary soul, this thing that turns ordinary food into a real gastronomic experience, is the sum of various factors, including, but not limited to, the ambiance (the special atmosphere or mood created by a particular environment), the chef”s passion for what he’s doing and the staff attitude towards the food and the customers.
It was late afternoon and I was driving with a motor-home around Innsbruck/Austria heading to a camping place I’d chose a couple of weeks before on the Internet. For my surprise the place had closed down. The only alternative was to rely on the Garmin GPS and let it choose the nearest camping, which was “Camping and Pizzeria Stigger” in the small village of Völs. What a nice surprise.
The owner, Mr. Walter Stigger, proved to be the most wonderful host. We found a good spot for our motor-home (even though the camping place is rather small), and what was even better, a warm and friendly atmosphere in his pizzeria. He even offers “caipirinha” (the Brazilian national drink) in the menu, probably a resquice of his years married to a Brazilian.
We had more than a couple of his pizzas, but also a few shots of his homemade “Schnaps”, a strong, clear, colorless alcoholic beverage distilled from fruits. He took us to the restaurant kitchen, which is nothing more than a extension of the main serving saloon, and made us taste several different types of them. The one made from pears (“Birnenschnaps”) was something special. You could really feel the pears on the side of your tongue as an aftertaste.
We also had some Austrian beer, which the ever smiling Cuban waitress would serve whenever she remembered in between her sips of red wine (sorry, but I didn’t write down her name). As a matter of fact she seemed to be more a friend than a waitress, what only helped to improve the overall atmosphere.
The price? I forgot (probably a side effect of the “schnaps”), but I believe it was around US$ 15,00/person, including a couple of beers.
Were the pizzas good? Yes, they were very nice, with the right thickness and the right amount and distribution of toppings. I wouldn’t say they were great (it would be a bit too much), but definitely they were part of an experience full of soul, this thing that turns a simple body into a living being. They are prepared right in front of you by Walter himself, with the aid of a beautiful and also ever smilling assistant (she would assume the whole preparation from time to time when Walter would sit down and chat with his friends and customers – or customers friends).
Although he would not give me the entire dough recipe (“it’s a secret”, he said) I was told that an important part of this secret is the use of lard (pork fat) (sorry Walter, I just couldn’t resist telling everyone else). If you ever happen to be around Innsbruck (Völs, in fact) stop by and tell Walter I said hello. He may even offer you a Cuban cigar.