Pica is the Lithuanian word for “pizza,” which helps some of us remember that the Lithuanian “c” makes a “ts” sound. Now, pica is one of my favorite things, along with kava (coffee) and ledai (ice cream). And everyone knows that the very best pica, kava, and ledai comes from Italy.
We have tried the two main pizza outlets in Šiauliai, which are called Čili Pica and Can Can Pica, and found them to be pretty decent if you’re really hungry. But we’ve been hearing that the very best pica is to be had from a hole-in-the-wall establishment on Vilniaus gatvė about three blocks from our flat. The sign outside says Pas Itala, which means something akin to “Of Italy,” or “From Italy.”
We’ve tried numerous times to give Pas Itala a try, but it is almost never open. The sign on the door reveals that business hours are quite limited to begin with, and these are often trumped by a whimsical note—Gone Fishing, or Back at 5:00.
At noon today we discovered Pas Itala open, and we were able to grab the one table outside; there are two just inside the front door, making for a maximum capacity of six. Once inside, I could find no menu, no blackboard, no list of daily specials. The drill is to belly up to the counter. When it came my turn, I asked for a pizza for two people, with mushrooms and bell peppers. It turns out that the proprietor is a genuine Italian, and he had just returned from an extended Easter holiday in his hometown, which lies somewhere between Rome and Naples. Between my fractured Italian and his fractured English—and with no help at all from whatever we shared of Lithuanian—we agreed to call mushrooms and bell peppers funghi and paprica, respectively.
It turned out to be pica to die for. That’s Jane tucking into her half in the photo above. Actually, she’s tucking into a quarter of the pizza, since the proprietor insisted on bringing it out a half at a time for better temperature control. I wasn’t able to find out how this talented chef happened to settle in Šiauliai in the first place. Nor was I able to get him to reveal what kind of cheese he uses as a substitute for real mozzarella, which is not available in Lithuania. I did, however, get him to admit that his view of the work day is typically Italian: it should be short, punctuated by a long siesta, and thrown over entirely if it gets in the way of la dolce vita.
It gets one to thinking. If the European Union can’t make buffalo mozzarella and French pastry generally available throughout Europe, then what good is it?