There are few things that identify Italy more than pizza. If you think this is just a stereotype, think again. Most people dream about visiting Italy just for the food and if you ask them what would be the first thing they would eat, they tell you, without a hint of hesitation, that they would eat a pizza. Maybe it’s just the colors of the dish that mimic this of the Italian flag. Maybe it’s a byproduct of major Italian quirks. Italians travel and often even relocate the whole family to another country, but when we do so we also bring our food traditions with us. Wherever we go we bring food and conviviality. There is NO meeting, deposition, closing, that I leave without getting at least one question about Italian food. We are the authority on food, whether we want it or not. We bring the traditions and we pursue them to feel at home even on the other side of the world. You can take Italians out of Italy, and God knows many are leaving to find a better future, but you can’t take Italy out of the Italians. Where we go, the food does too, and so we invite friends over and work towards incorporating local culture into our food traditions. And that is the reason why you have so many interpretations of our dishes. I dare you to leave an Italian’s house without a generous serving of whatever they are eating. It’s the way we show love!
Let me get one thing straight right off the bat, I am NOT a pizza snob. I’ve had my fair share of New York pizza as a student and even today I have the occasional slice. I find that there are several places serving a great product that is not what I grew up with but tasty and delicious in a different way. I’ve had great American pizza but the satisfaction I derive from sharing a Neapolitan pizza with my table mates is more than a full belly and happy tastebuds. I am sure this is every little bit as psychological as it is a physical reaction to something I embrace but I learned to appreciate. Still my heart is filled with (and by) Neapolitan pizza…
Mastering the art of making Neapolitan pizza takes time and a lot of work. When people inquire about its secret, the answer cannot and should not be this or that ingredient. No, it’s not just the water, just the flour or just the yeast. It’s the sum of the parts that makes Neapolitan pizza: the ingredients, the know-how, the oven, the experience and apprenticeship of the pizzaiolo. These elements are all essential and all should be taken into account as elements of the equation. The formula, unlike that of Coca Cola, is not a secret, but the process to make Neapolitan pizza is interspersed of tradition, knowledge of the ingredients and the alchemy that allows the pizzaiolo to produce consistent pies and a perfect crust. If you preserve the Tiffany Blue, Valentino Red, Red soles for Louboutins and double Cs for Chanel, if you protect Ferrari’s horse, Hermes’ H and Audi’s 4 circles as symbols of certain brands, shouldn’t you also value the intangible assets that allow you to make a Neapolitan pizza? For this reason, the Neapolitan Pizza Association started a petition to ask Unesco for a way to preserve the art of Neapolitan pizza. The petition was presented this week in New York during the Global Pizza Summit and Caputo Cup.
Why should you sign the petition? Whether you have been to Italy or in one of the many Neapolitan Pizzerie in the US (Don Antonio, Keste’, Ribalta, Prova, Rossopomodoro, A Mano, Pizza Porta, Forcella, San Matteo, just to name a few of my favorite), you’ll have to admit that the first bite of Neapolitan pizza is a memory in itself. Whether you grew up eating pizza or you are a late bloomer, you know that there is a value attached to that combination of flavor and process that turns the ingredients into a pie. Neapolitan pizza is also a business for many who learn how to make Neapolitan Pizza in Italy and then leave to bring their product to other Countries. Pizzaioli are not just from Italy, though. It must be noted that the profession does not discriminate on the grounds of national origin, religion or other preferences. The recipient of the Caputo Cup this year is in fact from Albania.
So here I am, asking you to help out because we need to preserve this heritage for the sentimental as much as for the business side, because there are people that make an investment in learning the art and that investment needs to be protected. Please go to this link and sign the petition. As usual I’ll pay you all back with large servings of my world famous eggplant parmigiana!
Thank you for your help,