Why do they call it Charlie Brown?
I’ve eaten at Charlie Brown on two occasions with my friend Claudio Chianura, whom I first met on the bus from Bangalore to Mysore, neither of which is in Italy or rhymes with amore. It is a neighborhood place for him, just around the corner from his apartment. It’s known as a pizzeria, but they have a reasonably large menu of Pugliese and Tuscan specialties (I’m guessing there are partners from both regions), so you could probably call it a pizzeria-trattoria.
I was bowled over the first time Claudio took me there. They have a fabulous antipasto buffet, with a copious array of hot and cold items. I remember particularly the exquisite alici—fresh, white anchovy filets, lightly marinated, sweet and delicate in a way unthinkable in canned, cured anchovies, and similar to the Spanish boqueron; the alici clung to the back of my mind with great tenacity for the couple of years between visits. They were given the place of honor on my antipasto plate the second time around.
Claudio was born in Puglia, so the first time around, post-antipasto, I dutifully followed his suggestion and tried a Pugliese specialty, cavatelli with broccoletti, simply prepared with olive oil & garlic. If such simplicity appeals, and you’re in New York, I strongly suggest you head over to i Trulli (also Pugliese) for their excellent cavatelli with broccoli rabe and almonds.
The second time, two or three years later, we went with a group of musicians and improvised music promoters after a concert that Claudio had co-produced. As you enter the restaurant, the daily specials are displayed on a presentation table. This time I spied an offering that I coveted and said to Claudio, “That suckling pig has my name written on it.” Claudio looked perplexed. His English is pretty good, but sometimes an idiom will creep up and take him by surprise. He looked closely, but the name Peter Cherches was nowhere to be found on the little porker’s skin. So I explained the phrase to him. Now, if I can ever get him to visit New York, Claudio can say, “That pastrami sandwich has my name written on it.” The roast pig, by the way, was memorable, as were the attendant roast potatoes.
In addition to the cavatelli, Claudio recommends the octopus with potatoes in tomato sauce and the horsemeat ragu, with your choice of pasta. Charlie Brown is at Via Spartaco, 37, Milan, 20135; Tel: +39 0255010609. We may never know why they call it Charlie Brown, but Claudio informs me that there is another, completely unrelated, pizzeria in the neighborhood called Snooppy. Why they spell it that way, we may never know.