The Spiritual Homeland Of Pizza

Situated in southern Italy, Naples is a place where pizza is God. There are more than fifteen thousand pizza makers in the city, each one a rock star, cooking up hot and delicious pies with expertise, love and passion.

The famous Naples pizza, called Neapolitan pizza, is soft and chewy, with a moist, almost soupy top. The crust is light, thin and steamy, blast-cooked at extreme temperatures.

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Inside Naples' World-Famous Pizza Culture

smithsonianmag.com

Cooked in extreme heat, the Neapolitan dough is the main ingredient of the special taste the pies have. It consists of water, refined flour, salt and yeast, is fermented for 12 or more hours, and then topped with mozzarella cheese and tomatoes. The taste is defined as umami, a savoury flavour that is loved all over the world.

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Many Americans buy frozen pizza from the Supermarket, or order from those pizza chains claiming “30-minute or free” deliveries. The pizzas are full of uncooked and overcooked dough which is mostly sugar. The quality of cheese, tomato sauce or the ingredients are not taken into consideration, due to the self-imposed deadlines and marketing gimmicks.

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The city which takes pizza as its very identity is vibrant, sprawling and joyously confusing. Along with pizza and coffee that is to die for, Naples is also a mafia town, where crime-syndicates zoom around in the garbage filled roads.

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  • Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba, established in 1738, is the world’s oldest pizza place.
  • Initially being an open-air stand for free-hand pizza making, the place turned into a restaurant in 1830 and was even visited by King Nasone.
  • The famous pizza with tomato sauce, oil, oregano and garlic is known as the marinara, a name coined from the fisherman’s wife who prepared the dish for the husband returning from the bay.

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The Story Of Pizza
  • Everyone's favourite pie was first eaten by the tribes in neolithic times, who put crude batter over the campfire stones.
  • The Greeks were known to feast on cheese pies, with a crust that worked as a handle. They called their ‘fermented pastry’ as pikte, which later evolved into pizza.
  • The Etruscans also created a grain mush, a kind of dough that was baked on stones, topped with oils and herbs.

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Found by Spanish conquerors in the 16th century, the tomato was initially a dreaded fruit by which people could die, and was named ‘wolf peach’ by the Italians.

The real reason tomatoes were killing some people was that the wealthy ate it from an alloy called ‘pewter’ which caused a reaction. Soon the humble red fruit, which was not even classified as a fruit at that time, gained acceptance and landed on pizza.

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In 1889, Queen Margherita of Savoy called upon the best pizza maker of Naples at that time, Raffaele Esposito, and asked for three pizza pies to be made for her. She liked a simple one, which only had tomato sauce, cheese and basil. The pizza was later named after her.

  • It is said that any Neapolitan pizza maker is only as good as how he makes the margherita pizza.
  • The colors of the Margherita pizza, red, white and green are also the colors of the Italian flag.

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A terrible pizza maker who uses the best raw materials will still produce bad pizzas, and an excellent pizza maker having terrible ingredients will also end up with substandard pizzas.

The quality of the ingredients is critical to the art of pizza making.

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The radiant, natural heat waves that come from multiple angles of the oven cook the pizza, and it isn’t uniform, as every oven has hot and cold spots. A skilled pizza maker knows when to move the pies so that he does not end up cremating his creation instead of cooking it.

The heat is also the reason pizza making in Naples is restricted to men, as women cannot stand in front of the oven.

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