The longest night of the week at the bakery in Izzalini is on a Friday. When I join them at 10pm the air is already doughy and thick, as the first round of bread bakes and the second wave rises. By morning these men will have dispatched 5 vans, with a combined load of over 800kg of bread. Their night’s work won’t be over until noon tomorrow. I fumble briefly, trying to manage multiple lenses, a flash and a tripod. It isn’t long before I ditch everything, aside from the body and a fast 50mm, even the battery grip is jettisoned as I stretch, lean and duck to stay out of their way.
The bakery has two ovens, one gas fired, one wood. Both will run through three cycles before the night is over and nobody wastes time. The apparent chaos is belied by the efficient and practised way that each stage is completed on time, with dough rising as the previous batch cooks, the mixer spinning as the previous batch rises. The space is frenetic, busy with people and flour.
The gas oven burns at a consistant 210° cooking much of the bread, the pizzas and confectionary. The wood fired oven cycles between 350° and 180°, being lit, fueled, spread, and cleaned between each batch. The bread from this oven will cost your more per kilo than the one fired by gas, and will last a little longer too.
There is considerable laughter and fun, punctuated with breaks for air in the cooler air outside. People stop by on their way elsewhere to chat and catch-up even as the dough is cut, rolled, and placed in racks.
At around 2 the bread is piling up, and Mirella arrives to make and roll the pizza dough. Cornettos are filled with cream, the last batch of dough means the clean-down can begin, even as the fire is lit once more in the hot air of the back room.
When 5.15am comes they are bagging bread for local shops and restaurants, loading the vans and eating blisteringly hot pizza as it spills from the oven.
I try to thank Massimiliano, Giacomo, Michele, and Roberto for their patience and hospitality in broken gesture, make my excuses, and head out to photograph the sunrise.
There’s a full slideshow from the night here on vimeo.