There’s a common saying among Italians that goes: “Rome is the heart of Italy, but Naples is its soul.” The second biggest city of the country may lack stunning architecture, but it holds one thing to its name that has boosted its global popularity: it is the birthplace of pizza.
The universally adored food can be enjoyed almost anywhere across the globe. You can buy pizza in Downtown Vancouver, at a quirky restaurant in Falkenberg or a convenience store in Taipei. Pizza is available in various (and sometimes innovative) flavours, with an array of toppings, even spurring the debate of whether pineapple is an acceptable topping.
Of course, the Italians agree that nothing will beat the original Neapolitan Pizza, pizza Napoletana or Naples-style pizza. This original recipe boasts an interesting history.
Stripped Down to the Basics
Neapolitan pizza is composed of basic dough, fresh mozzarella cheese, raw tomatoes, fresh basil and olive oil. No other toppings are allowed.
What sets it apart from other pizza types is that there’s often more sauce than cheese. The pizza is not served by slice because the middle of the pie is wet or soggy. Neapolitan pizzas are usually about 10 to 12 inches and are served for one person.
The lower classes in Naples were the first to eat pizza in the 18th century. They took flatbread, a known commodity, and topped it with tomatoes. Mariners and tradesman soon added easily preservable ingredients, like basil, oregano and garlic. This variant was known as Pizza Marinara, made by the wives of fishermen.
A baker named Raffaele Esposito created the first recognized pizza. He topped it with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and basil to replicate the Italian flag, then served it to Queen Margherita of Savoy. This variant became known as Pizza Margherita and has become the standard of the Neapolitan pizza that we know today.
Preserving the Value of Neapolitan Pizzas
Neapolitan pizza is special not only for its historical relevance but also for its Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) designation by the European Union. The law mandates that pizzerias that want to serve Naples-style pizza must follow the original recipe and use controlled ingredients.
Pizzerias that want to serve the “Original Neapolitan Pizza” must also be certified by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (VPN). For a pizzeria to be certified by the VPN, they must make their pizza according to these instructions:
- Use type 0 or 00 flour, fresh brewer’s yeast, salt and water when making the crust.
- Knead the crust by hand or with a low-speed mixer.
- Top the crust with San Marzano tomatoes or sweet tomatoes from Mt Vesuvius, fresh basil and extra-virgin olive oil.
- Bake the pizza in a wood-fired oven for 60 to 90 seconds at a temperature between 430 to 480 °C.
Although getting certified seems like a challenge, the effort brings benefits. Certification guarantees the consumer that the pizza was made following regulations, ensuring an authentic taste. Pizzerias can also leverage their VPN certification and take advantage of the marketing opportunities the organization provides.
Neapolitan pizza has evolved from being a poor man’s meal to a dish embraced around the world. Enjoying its delicious flavour doesn’t require a trip to Naples, but it’s recognized that no other pizza variant anywhere else tastes quite like it, at least, until you stumble upon a pizzeria with a VPN certification.