“I call myself an international pizza consultant,” says Anthony Falco, who spends up to half the year on the road, consulting on projects across America and abroad. He makes a living helping people create pizzas and pizzerias from the ground up, consulting on kitchen design and menu development as well as training staff and perfecting natural fermentation techniques. “I find people who love the business and who want to be the best when it comes to pizza,” says Falco, whose pizza expertise ranges from Neapolitan and Sicilian styles to classic New York slices to the Midwest’s crispy, party-cut bar pies.
Despite the pretty cool job title, Falco, who played a pivotal role in the development of the widely acclaimed, new-look Neapolitan-style pizzas flying out of their wood-fired ovens at Roberta’s in Bushwick, Brooklyn, is quick to point out that it’s not always the dream job most people think. “People get excited about the idea of eating pizza all day,” says Falco, and though it is not yet noon, he has already tasted through six different pies while putting the final touches on the menu of a new pizzeria in Portland, Oregon. “Imagine something you love,” he says. “You love ice cream? Great. Why don’t you eat ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for three years straight?”
Which is why, if Falco invites you over to his place for dinner, he almost certainly will not be serving pizza. Pizza is work. At home, he’ll go with his grandmother’s recipe for meatballs, which he serves in a big bowl, family style, alongside a platter of pasta tossed with a homemade tomato sauce that’s been simmering on the stove all day. There will be bottles of funky natural wine from around Mount Etna; he’ll offer a little Sicilian salad of fennel, blood orange and onion, and a contorni of roasted vegetables. And between courses, he’s fond of a midmeal Averna intermezzo.
After all, the Sicilian-style amaro is an expression of his roots. Falco’s father’s family immigrated to the United States from Sicily in the early 1900s, passing through New Orleans before becoming farmers in central Texas. The environments, Falco says, are not as different as they sound. “I went to Sicily for the first time with my dad when I was 23 years old,” he recalls. “And when I looked around at the landscape of Sicily, Texas made a lot of sense.” Sicily changed his understanding of what food could be. “The idea of seasonality in Italy is so important,” he raves. Sicily also introduced him to the possibilities of Averna.
Like a lot of chefs and bartenders, he first encountered the amaro as a shift drink, enjoyed after the end of service. Eventually, though, he began to see it pop up in different contexts: in a cocktail, spiking coffee, as after-dinner drink. And—as he serves it to his guests—as a cleansing intermezzo. “An Averna on the rocks with an orange peel and a sprig of fresh mint is delicious between courses,” says Falco, who isn’t against adding a splash of soda to the mix. For Falco, it isn’t just a way to add punctuation to a big meal, it’s a moment to pause, sit back and enjoy the moment.
“It’s nice to sit around the table and swirl it around in the glass,” he says. “It kind of resets everything for me.”