"Italy's super power has always been deliciousness – with pizza as the ultimate proof."
History of pizza
The history of pizza as a flatbread dates back many centuries. It was only after tomatoes were brought to Europe in the 16th century that Neapolitans began using them as a topping for their flatbreads and pizza evolved into what is known today as Neapolitan pizza.
What is Neapolitan pizza?
Neapolitan pizza, also known as Naples-style pizza, is usually made with tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.
The tomatoes must either be San Marzano tomatoes or tomatoes grown on the volcanic plains of Mount Vesuvius.
The cheese must be buffalo mozzarella from Campania, a DOP cheese made with water buffalo milk.
Cows milk mozzarella (fiordilatte) can also be used.
What are the two main Neapolitan pizzas?
Pizza Margherita: topped with tomato, buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil leaves, and a drizzling of extra-virgin olive oil.
In 1869 Queen Margherita of Savoy visited Naples and the baker Raffaele Esposito, who worked in a Naples pizzeria, prepared a pizza in her honor. The pizza colors were those of the Italian flag: red tomatoes, white mozzarella, and green basil.
Pizza Marinara: topped with tomato, garlic, oregano and extra-virgin olive oil. There's no cheese on this pizza. Supposedly the pizza takes its name from la marinara - the seaman’s wife - who prepared this pizza for her husband when he returned from fishing trips.
Laura Rysman's pizza pilgrimage through Campania
Laura spent four days tasting as many delicious pizzas as she could in Naples and the surrounding areas in Campania, mostly tasting pizza from pizza tasting menus.
Laura says that Neapolitan cultural anthropologist, Marino Niola, told her that “Pizza has become a culinary excellence, but because it was born as sustenance for the poor, it will always be tied to the concept of food for all."
For Laura “the tasting menu is a nod to the Michelin guide; Italy's super power has always been deliciousness – with pizza as the ultimate proof."
Laura’s top three pizzerias where you are guaranteed to experience a delicious Neapolitan pizza tasting menu:
Concettina ai Tre Santi - famed Naples pizzeria in the city center’s Sanità neighborhood.
Pepe in Grani - Owned and operated by Franco Pepe, located in Caiazzo just outside of Naples.
I Masanielli - in Caserta, owned and run by Francesco Martucci.
Official recognition of Neapolitan pizza
The Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN) was founded in 1984 in Naples with the aim to certify that pizzerias use proper artisan traditions of authentic Neapolitan pizza.
There are just over 100 restaurants in Italy with certification. There is also an American branch of the organization.
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Certain requirements must be met to obtain certification
The dough must be made with refined 0 or 00 wheat flour, fresh brewer’s yeast, water, and salt. It should be kneaded by hand, or with a low speed mixer.
It must be formed by hand without the use of a rolling pin.
The pizza should be topped with uncooked puréed Italian San Marzano tomatoes.
Two kinds of cheese can be used: fiordilatte made from cow's milk, or buffalo mozzarella made from water buffalo milk.
Neapolitan pizza is topped with fresh basil leaves and extra-virgin olive oil.
All the ingredients must be fresh and all natural.
Baking the pizza
Pizza is baked from 60 to 90 seconds in an 800°F wood-burning stone oven.
More Recognition of Neapolitan pizza
- Neapolitan pizza has a protected status granted by the Italian standardization body and administered by the AVPN.
- The European Union has recognized Neapolitan pizza as a traditional specialty guaranteed since February 5, 2010.
- The Neapolitan pizza-making technique is one of the few culinary items on the UNESCO intangible heritage list.
Lots More about Pizza
About Laura Rysman
Laura is a contributor to the Times, and T magazine, the central Italy correspondent for Monocle, and the author of the Wallpaper Guide to Milan. She's lived in Italy for 12 years and now resides in Florence. Her writing covers a vast array of topics, mostly focusing on what's best about Italy.
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