It is difficult to say whether seventy-five years are few or many for a man; the same can be said of the life of a company. Assessment of time is subjective.
Between 1939 and today, much water has passed under the bridge at Olona, as we say here in Milan.
In 1939, Primo Ambrogi took over as owner of the flue-making company run for decades by Carlo Bossi, the previous owner. It was a small workshop located in Via Festa del Perdono, formerly Via Ospedale, right in front of the State University in the historical centre of old Milan. A covered courtyard, illuminated by a light on the road, contained a succession of artisan shops and workshops. At the time, the telephone contained few digits – the number was 83322 to be exact; it was one of the first functioning telephones in the district and in those days gave prestige to the company.
Primo Ambrogi immediately and successfully built the first wood-burning oven for baking pizzas but certainly did not think that this new job would be the future of himself and his family.
Have passed since then seventy-five years of hard work and unpretentious, age where the desire to please our customers in the best way was not only a necessity but also a source of pride, because they look happy with our clients to work completed was, and still is, more than rewarding.
Day after day, the good times, the bad times and the endless headaches stimulated us into an even greater commitment and, “thank God”, turned out to be the the basis for continued growth.
From Primo to Franco and Pieremilio, and then also with Luciano and Giada, the personal touch has characterised Ambrogi’s production. We are often asked how we build an oven, how we introduce technological innovations and new materials. In our business, there is an important component linked to experience and personal qualities, so I usually just respond by quoting the saying “chi va con il mugnaio s’infarina” (literally, “if you hang around a miller, you get flour on your clothes”), because it is by doing this craft with passion and seriousness for seventy-five years that we have been able to renew continually while remaining with the tradition.
Sensitive to the needs of customers, especially in recent years, we are committed to offer products that are more up to date and technically advanced, we were rewarded with the “advertising silent” word of mouth of those who were satisfied with our work.
Going back through the memories of decades, I wonder if what we have achieved was really what we aimed for, and even whether it’s good or bad to have so many memories: I don’t have the answer.
Three-quarters of a century has gone by and, obviously, we would like to repeat that.
Those were the early years after the war, the years when I roamed the streets of Milan city centre, where we had our company, initially carried by my father on the front of the bicycle and then, a little bigger, I helped him with my little bicycle and looked at the few pizzeria premises where we had just installed our first pizza ovens.
I remember that in the central Via Agnello, in addition to the pizzeria “Saint Lucia” (which had already existed for a few years and was home to the first wood oven made by my father Primo Ambrogi) we had recently built the oven for the famous pizzeria “di Gennaro” for the bar “Agnello” and then later for the pizzeria “da Peppino”. In those days the via Agnello was nicknamed “the pizza street” because of the number of pizzerias.
Entering from the back, in the working area of these pizzerias, there was always a typical, slightly acrid, smell of dough.
Thus I began to observe and to listen to the speeches of the “greats” on how to make pizza.
The rise was obtained from the dough; the dough kneaders were beautiful wooden boxes (trays) where the kneading paddles were the powerful arms of the pizza maker.
The “pelati” were tomatoes first blanched then peeled and crushed by hand.
I think I am not mistaken in saying that the mozzarella used was real buffalo mozzarella, well drained of course.
The balls of dough from which the pizzas were made were very small (when compared to those of today).
The pizza dough, once stretched, may not have been even 20 cm in diameter.
In fact the pizzas were served on quite small plates.
The pizza was topped more or less as follows:
- mozzarella (about 20/25 grams)
- a decent sprinkling of pecorino and parmesan
- basil in the centre.
This was the “pizza margherita”! With the addition of anchovies, capers and oregano you had, just like today, the “pizza napoletana”.
I do not remember other types of pizza except probably a few “pizza marinara”.
It is hard to explain how good it was, but I can give an idea of how good it smelled by telling you that when I happened to walk carrying the wrapped up pizza (yes, pizza take away even then!) there were so many people who followed the trail of the scent with their nose, intoxicated by that unmistakable fragrance.
And how are pizzas today? Very large, many different toppings, an overwhelming number of choices.
And how will pizzas be tomorrow?
One thing is certain, yesterday, today and tomorrow, the pizza is enjoyed, liked and loved!