A restaurant with the unlikely name of God Bless Broccoli could not help but attract my attention. It turned out to be a hole-in-the-wall pizzeria in the Belleville neighborhood. In spite of the mention of the green vegetable of the cabbage family in its name, however, the restaurant is not vegan or even vegetarian, although broccoli and many other vegetables do make an appearance on the menu. It is, however, organic, preservative- and additive-free, and mostly locavore.
God Bless Broccoli is the fief of Giuseppe Romani, a native of Calabria who takes great pride in the quality and origins of the ingredients he uses and is always prepared to offer a short history of them. He explained to us, for example, that the lovely and inexpensive wine we had ordered, Cantine De Luca’s organic Gocce di Marinelli white from Calabria, was primarily made with Greco Blanco grapes, probably originally imported from Greece long ago.
We had a riotous time at the restaurant, mostly because of the insouciant server, who kept us laughing throughout the meal. When we asked for an ice bucket because the wine wasn’t cold enough, he said he didn’t have one, but then went to the back of the restaurant, cleaned up a big plastic bucket that once held crème fraîche, threw some ice into it and brought it to the table. In the meantime, however, Romani, who keeps a close eye on everything happening in the restaurant even while churning out pizza after pizza, had already replaced the tepid bottle with a fresh one straight from the fridge.
The server, in the course of the conversation (we were the only seated customers for most of the evening), later informed us that he was a member of a heavy-metal group called Crucial Abuse. My friend Perry, a musician himself, came up with a brilliant title for the album the group is working on – “Metal illness“ – but our new friend didn’t seem to appreciate it.
The pizzas, all of which had jokey names, had a fabulous thin, tender crust made with organic rye sourdough. The best of the three we tried was definitely Perry’s white (cream instead of tomato sauce) pizza Friarelli ed i Suoi Fratelli (friarelli – turnip greens – and its brothers), topped with fior di latte mozzarella, ricotta, sausage, pecorino and pepper.
Lucy ordered the vegan option but requested that it be transformed into a vegetarian pizza with the addition of cheese. Non c’è problema. It was also adorned with tomato sauce, onions, mushrooms, organic sun-dried tomatoes, broccoli, artichokes and extra-virgin olive oil. She pronounced it “simple, fresh and delicious” and especially enjoyed the broccoli, which turned out to be a great pizza topping.
Being addicted to spicy sausage, I had the excellent “spicy carnivore” pizza called Vivaldi Was a Rolling Stone (don’t ask me why), with fior di latte Mozzarella, onions, artichokes, spianata (spicy Calabriian sausage), Grana Padano cheese and basil. Perfetto!
When we asked Romani if he had gelato for dessert, he said, “No, because I can’t make it myself.” He did have homemade tiramisu and pannacotta, however, so we indulged in one of the former and two of the latter, one with coffee and the other with strawberry jam, all deliciously creamy and flavorful. I especially loved the pannacotta with coffee, a variation new to me.
Why is the restaurant called God Bless Broccoli? Romani has an explanation, of course: because broccoli is known around the world and has been cultivated for thousands of years without changing much. It’s also full of vitamins and, best of all, originally came from Calabria, “like me!”Favorite