Casa Inferno: Tromsø’s hottest Italian flame
Text: Jo Iivonen | Photos: Casa Inferno
Opposites attract, and where else to put this idea into action if not up in the Arctic? Other than its nature attractions and a busy calendar of cultural attractions, Tromsø is known for its vibrant culinary scene, and Casa Inferno’s wood-fired magic goes to show that icy climes and an Italian flame are a match made in foodie heaven.
Off the beaten path, yet just a stone’s throw away from Tromsø’s centre, Casa Inferno is quite possibly the world’s northernmost Italian eatery. But a quick glance through the windows proves that this is not your typical pizzeria selling cheesy Italiana on chequered tablecloths.
The steampunk inspired décor is perhaps as odd a match as the whole idea of stumbling across a restaurant manned by an all-Italian crew at 69 degrees north. Yet Casa Inferno’s vibrant, seductively all-Italian flair ticks all boxes to melt the heart of anyone who’s ever fallen for the charms of la dolce vita. And, let’s be honest, who hasn’t?
But there’s something more – such as the element of surprise, that of coming across the perfect Italian joint up on a wind-swept street in northern Norway. Step inside and you’re surrounded by the sort of scene you might expect at a godmother’s townhouse in Bologna, with the whole family around for Sunday lunch: loud voices, plenty of gesticulating and apparent chaos all abound.
In other words, this is a world away from the stoic, ever-calm Nordic realm outside – which is perhaps just what the doctor ordered after a day of ice fishing, solemn tundra trekking or experiencing the latest in Nordic Noir.
The odds of finding perfectly ripened Pecorino Toscano up in the Arctic might seemingly come close to a snowball’s chance in hell, but Tromsø’s culinary standards are high and Casa Inferno stands out as the most authentic Italian on offer. “We handpick the best regional ingredients from across Italy,” says Giacomo Reggianini, the charismatic Emilia-Romagnan at the helm of the whole concept since its inception in January 2015.
Demand for an all-Italian experience has exceeded all expectations. Five years later, and approaching its fifth birthday on 16 January, Casa Inferno will soon serve up its 50,000th pizza. “We weren’t expecting the response we got,” Reggianini laughs. “It’s been pretty busy ever since, but we’re passionate about what we do, so I guess that shines through.”
Lucky stars may have brought Reggianini, then an adventure traveller, to the Arctic back in 2015, but not much else was left to chance when it comes to orchestrating Tromsø’s most authentic Italian affair. Together with head chef Daniele Di Luca, Reggianini has created a close-knit, predominantly Italian team that’s the backbone of the whole show. “None of this could’ve happened without the dedication of the crew. We’re like a family. And when a customer walks in, we treat them the same. That’s all part of the experience.”
100 per cent Italian
A family affair it may be, but one with a steampunk edge, complete with a wood-fired oven that resembles a rough-around-the-edges foundry and delivers pizzas to match: the no-nonsense, back-to-basics kind you wouldn’t expect some two thousand miles north of Naples. The oven is a central piece to the décor and cuisine alike, delivering the sort of crust that pizza aficionados the world over lust after.
Gluten-free and vegan options are also available. Otherwise, the menu crafted up by Reggianini’s trusted right-arm man, Di Luca, relies on tradition. “From antipasti to pizzas, it’s all about the quality of the ingredients,” Di Luca says. “And the right technique, of course.” Reggianini nods, the team-of-two in obvious unison. “We’re not looking to reinvent the wheel by cooking up some fusion concoction like a reindeer pizza,” Reggianini adds. “Sure, we could do that, and I’m sure we’d do it very well, too, but that’s not what we’re about. We’re Italian. 100 per cent Italian.”
Up in flames
There is, however, one exception: Pizza Inferno, the restaurant’s namesake dish that’s delivered to the table in naked flames. “It’s definitely not traditional, but it’s something that we came up with right here in Tromsø,” Reggianini says. “Obviously, it looks amazing, but the flames do leave a pretty interesting aftertaste, too.”
Pizza Inferno features fiery toppings such as spicy salami and chili, but the real twist comes once the woodfire-caressed creation is out of the foundry-looking oven. “We sprinkle it with our in-house pyrotechnic mix,” Reggianini explains, in a Corleonesque manner. The recipe, featuring something “pretty stiff, a splash of Tabasco and a few other ingredients”, is a secret – a family secret. “Then we set it on fire and off it goes to the table.”
If ever there was a dish to symbolise the unlikely, but undoubtedly scorching match between Italian fire and Arctic cool, Tromsø’s favourite pizza might just be it.
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