My love for Pizza Napoletana or Naples Style Pizza started the first time I ever tasted a pizza straight from a wood burning oven. I had only been in Italy a couple of days and was not prepared for what I was about to eat. These were the early 90’s, before food blogs or the internet. While I knew that Italy was the birthplace of pizza, I was uneducated when it came to the significance of Napoli in the history of pizza. More importantly, I was unaware what made Pizza Napoletana different from the chain pizza I was raised on growing up in the States. It was quite simply the greatest thing I had ever tasted.
But a deeper passion for pizza was not born until I understood the tradition of the pizzaiolo (pizza makers) that have been making pizzas on the streets of Napoli for over 300 years. I have been on a quest ever since to understand the methods and try appreciate them.
Neapolitans are extremely passionate about pizza. Naples, the birthplace of pizza, as we know it has countless Pizzerias and wood-fired ovens dotting their narrow streets.
Due to the large number of pizzerias in Naples, the “Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana” (“True Neapolitan Pizza Association”), was founded in 1984 to certify the pizzerias using the proper ancient artisan traditions of authentic pizza. They have illuminated signs outside of pizzerias that follow their methods so Neapolitans know where to go for the real stuff.
They set out very specific rules that must be followed to create an authentic Neapolitan pizza, including using ‘00’ flour (highly refined Italian flour), San Marzano tomatoes (grown in volcanic soil surrounding Mount Vesuvius, and are less acidic and slightly sweeter than other tomatoes), and Mozzarella di Bufala or Fior-di-Latte (fresh mozzarella made with either buffalo milk or cow milk).
The dough must be hand-kneaded by pizzaiolos’ and must not be rolled with a pin or prepared by any mechanical means, the pizza must not exceed 35 centimetres in diameter or be more than a third of a centimetre thick at the centre, and it must be baked in a wood-fired, domed oven at 900°F for no more than 90 seconds. Recently we purchased a wood fired oven that will make it capable for our Walden members to share my passion for this wonderful food. This summer come join me on the deck in my pursuit of what I consider the finest food in the world.
Cheers, Chef Pete