Of the two recipes Lydia Shire learned during a trip to Puglia in the ’80s, only one became a menu mainstay at Scampo, her longtime Boston restaurant.
Tenderizing octopus in a washing machine set to agitate somehow didn’t translate outside Italy, though Shire acknowledges it worked splendidly.
But ciccio—a two-ply sauceless pizza stuffed with cheese—certainly did. It landed on the menu of Scampo—the ground floor of an imposing 170-year-old former jailhouse built from granite—in 1989. It’s been there ever since.
The appeal is obvious and instant, a good example of Shire’s blending of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern. Between two terrifically thin sheets of dough, she tucks robiola and ricotta salata cheeses, a play between creamy-soft and salty dry. She also adds white truffle oil for good measure.
Which makes it sound a bit like a calzone, that unpleasantly doughy folded cousin of the classic pizza. But ciccio (pronounced CHEE-cho) is different. To start, it’s made from two layered doughs, not a single folded one. The dough is also much thinner, closer to pita bread. A generous brush of olive oil, which seeps in deeply, sets it apart, too.
“The oil kind of drips down into the bottom of it,” she says. “It almost kind of fries the dough. That’s why it’s crispy, and that’s why it tastes so good.”
Eaten on Scampo’s patio on a warm summer night with the help of a bottle of rosé, it’s easy to love. It has the familiarity of pizza, minus the heft. Sauceless pizza can taste … wanting. But ciccio is complete—crisp, light, flavorful.
As we developed our own version of ciccio, we kept in mind a few pointers from Shire, all related to the density of the dish: Keep it thin. Keep it vented. Keep the cheese in check.
Our pizza dough worked well, as it was designed to be easy to handle. But purchased dough (warmed to 75°F) also worked.
To keep the ciccio light, the dough rounds are rolled thin before being layered with cheese, then rolled again after stacking. Cutting slits in the top layer is also key; it prevents the dough from puffing up during baking.
Finally, the cheese. This isn’t deep-dish, so a light hand is key. We liked Shire’s robiola, but it can be tricky to find. We instead paired the ricotta salata with salty Parmesan. To balance the richness of the cheeses, we sautéed shallots and garlic with rosemary, adding an herbal-piney note.
The result was light, crisp and flavorful. No spin cycle needed.