Friday, June 6, 2008

Protecting Pizza's Pristine Preparation

In a city that has gained international notoriety for breaking the rules, or bending and stretching these to a point where the original purpose has been blurred beyond recognition; the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana has drawn up a set of rules for the making of pizza - a dish that's as varied in style and substance as the region, culture, or personal preference of the one preparing it. To impose a set of rules on an item of such diversity is an exercise in futility; and to implement it in a locale where rules are restructured to suit individual purposes and benefits is genuinely quixotic. But the Naples based association is determined to protect one of its most ancient and most important gastronomic traditions - pizza.

The rules, which gained the backing of the European Union are published in the EU's Official Journal based on the Associazione's (translation: True Neapolitan Pizza Association) defined standards. Henceforth, Pizza Napolitana will be recognized as a Regional Specialty granted the same rank as French Champagne or German beer, and anyone selling it is subject to strict inspections. The new law details the diameter size of the pizza, the thickness of the center and the crust, measured in exact centimeters. Specifications on the type of oven and cooking period have also been laid out. The tomatoes must be from San Marzano from the volcanic plains south of Mount Vesuvius, and the mozzarella made with milk of the water buffalo raised on the marshlands of Campania and Lazio in a semi-wild state.The oil must be extra virgin olive oil. The rules also document the step-by-step procedures and details of dough preparation to the point that each individual chef will produce a standard Neapolitan Pizza as if it was made in a mechanized factory.

The law applies specifically to the Pizza Margherita, which together with the Marinara, are considered the only two true pizzas. Neapolitans take their pizza very seriously and it is part of their history, culture and daily living; and they will not give it up to be diluted like the societal rules they so blatantly disobey. The Margherita is attributed to baker Raffaele Esposito who worked in a shop established in 1780 that maintains the same name to this day, Pizzeria Brandi. In 1889, he baked 3 different pizzas for the visit of King Umberto l and Queen Margherita of Savoy. The Queen's favorite was the pizza that evoked the colors of the Italian flag, green (basil leaves) white (mozzarella), and red (tomatoes). This combination was named Pizza Margherita in her honor. Currently, the Margherita is sold throughout the world but the imitations taste like corrugated rubber. It is the intent of the association to establish the quality and the brand of the Margherita, and issue a Pizza Napolitana Certificate to those selling the product under this name.

The rigidity of the rules however may provide problems of compliance with the association. Da Michele for instance, one of the pioneers in pizza baking since 1870 and considered one of the best if not the best in Naples, is not applying for the certificate. The sizes of their pizzas, ingredients, and method of baking differ in many aspects to the rules established by the association, yet their sizeable customer base has never diminished. But the Real Pizza Association Director Antonio Pace, has threatened to hail to court all those who claim the brand Pizza Napolitana but are not following the agreed rules. It has never been this intense and the likelihood of bitter rivalries and court litigations looms because of these developments.

Italians have not been known to go to war yet over pizza, nor have they taken to the streets or resorted to anarchy (as in the garbage burning incidents) because of it. This will be the test of how Neapolitans will adhere to rules after centuries of breaking them nonchalantly. The only way these rules will find uniform compliance would perhaps be the employment of a specialist organization that will give each and every restaurant or pizzeria its standard operating philosophy... "An offer they can't refuse".



The Success said...

Thanks to drop Ecard to my blog
You have nice blog, simple and cool

The Success

SheR. said...

Wah!! Pizza. Over in Croatia, we get pizzas like the Italians do. Nice thin crust and yummy ingredients. I love it more than those Pizza Hut pizzas.. that's why they called it a Hut .. to hide under it to make pizzas in shame.

I'll link your article on my blog if you don't mind. Love pizza!! :)

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Sher,

American pizza is made for Americans, and as usual, they have it in big sizes to stuff themselves with it.LOL!

Sure Sher, you can link the post and I don't mind at all.:-) --Durano, done!

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Success,

Thanks for the compliment. Thanks for dropping on my entrecard too and also for your comment. :-) --Durano, done!

Pinay Jade said...

Hmmmm this post just made me hungry ...and smarter too. Two birds at one stone;)

I love true Italian pizzas, that's one of the things I miss after moving back to Asia. We ate pizzas everyday on our 10 days holiday to Italy and never got tired of it.

Have a great weekend Durano!

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Jade,

The authentic pizzas are really in Italy, where it all started. I had a chance to try it when I was there in 1998. A very long time ago.

Singapore pizza is something like the American style, at least the ones we tried. Hotel kasi eh.

Thanks for dropping by. Have a nice weekend too. Enjoy the time with your brother. :-) --Durano, done!

Debbie said...

Yum, those pictures look de-lish! Hand made, homemade, true Italian pizza is marvelous, Sher is right... Pizza Hut et al is nothing like the original.

Debbie Hamilton
Right Truth

Kim said...

well Durano!
I'm afraid I would be breaking all the rules with my home made pizzas...
mine are very simple and light...:0
I have to say your post made me very hungry..and just one slice of that delicious ..authentic pizza would go down very well here...
no olives though !!!

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Debbie,

The Italian original is definitely the best, but with the rules, I doubt if everyone will follow. Also, the fact that all pizzeria will have a "standard" tasting pizza will remove all advantages in terms of marketing for the individual stores. There will be no difference.

The only thing they could do perhaps is to spice it up with side orders and/or toppings, but definitely no pineapple bits. :-) --Durano, done!

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hello Kim,

No Olives? I like olives very much. I would at times eat them straight from the bottle when working at night rather than all those junk food.

I'm not much of a pizza eater but when I do, I prefer anchovies and olives.

I had tried the Margherita in Da Michele I think when I was there. It was good but not as good as the one from the pizzeria in Greece which had anchovies. I guess it's really personal preference, and those rule breaking Neapolitans would surely have side orders or toppings for their own identity and customer preference. :-) --Durano, done!

The Fitness Diva said...

Whaaaaa??? The European Union got involved? Mama Mia, that's pretty serious stuff! Oh, my!

By the way, I must have had the wrong pizza when I was in Italy, because what I ate there impressed me not.
The pizza in Rome was thick crusted and tasteless, the pizza I tried in Florence not much better, and I gave it one more shot in Milan...and then I ate no more pizza for the rest of the trip!
I was so disappointed! (and I am not a Pizza Hut/Dominoes fan).

Nice, thin crust with a tasty (not bland like I had in Italia) sauce and cheese rolling down as the oil drips off the I get in good old NYC, was NOT to be found.

I guess I need to find the original recipe pizza that they are now regulating in Italy. According to my experiences, perhaps there is a reason they have now passed such a law! Some Italians do seem to need that guideline, according to my tastebuds.

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Fitness Diva,

That's right, it's practically a license requirement to sell Pizza Margherita and the Pizza Marinara in the EU.

The pizza referred to here are those that will be given a certificate to use Pizza Napoletana, basically baked in Naples.

Like I said, pizza is made according to region, culture or personal preference, and if you've been used to a particular type, you would find other varieties bland, or the crust to soft, or too damp and soupy.

The two mentioned here are supposed to be the original ones baked since 1889, with specifications on tomatoes , mozzarella, and all other procedures in its preparation. It's a branding thing, and the Europeans just want to protect their brands and traditions to make their items more high brow i guess.

Since going to Italy, or Naples specifically just to eat these pizzas is quite ridiculous, settling for the neighborhood variety would do when one has the salivation for it. :-) --Durano, done!