Naples' Crowning Culinary Achievement
Pizza is a ubiquitous comfort food beloved around the world, and it’s easy to see why. With its gooey cheese and savoury tomato sauce, warm dough and mouthwatering aroma, pizza has scientifically been proven to be highly addictive. To trace pizza’s humble beginnings, we look to the vast Southern Italian city of Naples.
Most historians agree that Naples was the first to take a flatbread and top it with tomatoes, and later cheese. Initially, when tomatoes were brought to Europe from Peru in the 16th century, they were thought to be poisonous. Out of hunger and perhaps curiosity, Neapolitan peasants took tomatoes and placed them atop their flatbread. Once word caught on around the 18th century that the flatbread was more delicious with a savoury topping, visitors from near and far began seeking out the local specialty for themselves.
Baker Raffaele Esposito is credited as the man to combine the dough, tomatoes and cheese into what we now know as classic Neapolitan pizza. In 1889, it’s reported that Esposito first baked this prototype pie to impress King Umberto I and Queen Margherita of Savoy, Italy. As a clever homage to the colours of the Italian flag, Esposito made the pizza red with tomatoes, white with mozzarella, and green with basil leaves. From there, the Margherita pizza was born.
To this day, the Neapolitans continue to take their pizza making heritage seriously. In 1984, the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (VPN) was founded with the main goal of certifying pizzerias that produce true Neapolitan pizza. Here are the requirements a pizzeria must adhere to in order to claim their pizza as the real deal:
- The dough must be made with highly refined Italian type 0 or 00 wheat flour, Neapolitan or fresh brewer’s yeast, water, and salt.
- The dough must be kneaded by hand, or with a slow-mixer and formed by hand. No rolling pins are allowed.
- The dough must be topped with pureed San Marazano Italian tomatoes, fior de latte and mozzarella di Bufala mozzarella cheese, fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil.
- The pizza must be placed into a wood fired stone oven at a minimum of 800 degrees Fahrenheit and the bake time must not exceed 90 seconds.