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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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