Neapolitan Pizza: History, Types and Best Places to Taste
It’s hard to imagine Naples without pizza. This is their real pride and their main sight. This is the very city where pizza was born and gained the world popularity.
Neapolitan pizza is cooked by a traditional receipt. Being a unique product of its kind it got the sign of STG (specialita tradizionale garantita). Italians feel such a deep love to pizza, so in 1984 they created a special association (AVPN), to control the quality and receipt of this dish.
Seems like this simple flapjack gets too much attention of its fans worldwide. But do we really know everything about it? Why can’t we help admiring it? How could Italians turn such a simple dish into a culinary work of art? How did our beloved pizza appear?
Photo by: lasfiestasdelmundo.nl.
The History of Creation
It’s interesting to know that some of dishes have been existing since the beginning of time. Historians and ethnographers think that lots of settlements of Mediterranean coast line always used to bake flapjacks on hot stones.
In Roman times meat, cheese, vegetables, olives, spices, and olive oil on flat round bread buns were the main menu for Roman legionnaires. It was a dish for rich and poor people at the same time. The receipt of it was described in the 1st century A.D. in the works of Marcus Apicius who was a real foodie of those times in Ancient Rome.
From Geeks we got the name «plakuntos» which meant thin baked flat buns with different fillings. Something similar to cheese flat cake is mentioned in Plato’s writes when he described different fests and celebrations.
No matter what the truth is these are Italians who are considered to be the inventors of pizza in the way we know it now. In past times pizza baked in Italian village was called «focaccia». They considered it to be a food for poor.
But everything changed in 1522 when conquistadors brought tomatoes to Europe from New World. “Devil berry” that was the name for it given by peasants first, but as time went by they found them quite tasty. From time to time peasants of Naples started to use them while making flat buns.
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In 17th century pizza becomes very popular among countrymen and sailors. Only special masters cooked it. They were called «pizzaioli», the name remained till present days. Later first pizzerias started to appear. Among them was the one called «Antica Pizzeria Port'Alba», it was built in 1738 and has remained till present days.
Italian nobles had been refusing from eating pizza, considering it a food for commoners. There also was another reason for that. It’s hard to imagine but the pizza dough was kneaded with feet. Of course it was ridiculous for aristocrats. But they found a solution. By the order of king, the dough could be kneaded only with bronze beater made in a shape of a human body. Special tools for eating pizza were also worked out, such as a fork with four tines.
Interesting Facts About Pizza
- There is an interesting story about pizza. In 1889 Umberto I the king of Italy with his wife Margherita of Savoy visited their residence in Naples. They wished to taste Neapolitan pizza. For this occasion the most famous pizzaioli in Naples was invited – Raffaele Esposito. He cooked three types of pizza: “Marinara”, “Four seasons” and one more without any special name. The last one included tomatoes in its receipt along with mozzarella and basil. These products reflected the colors of national flag of Italy. This fact pleased Margherita of Savoy very much. Happy Esposito wasn’t thinking for long and gave pizza the name of the queen: Margherita.
- Starting from 1995 a huge pizza festival is held in Naples annually, called PIZZAFEST. And the most famous pizzaioli from all around the world come here to perform their skills. Admission to the festival is not free, but it’s a good value of money, as you can enjoy a great variety of pizza without any limits all day long. The festival lasts for eleven days.
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- Not far from Naples in Gaeta first written mentions about pizza in Latin spoken language dated by 997 B.C. were found.
- Every country has its unique receipts. In Japan the filling for pizza is made of squid and eel, in India pizza has a taste and smell of pickled ginger, in Brazil be ready to find green peas in your pizza.
Features of Neapolitan Pizza
- Most of citizens of Naples eat pizza every day – it’s often served for lunch and dinner.
- There are more than 2000 names of pizza which vary by taste. But the classical ones are the following two types: Margherita and Marinara.
- Classic Neapolitan pizza is cooked exceptionally with hands and is baked only in wood-burning stove. You can learn about the presence of such a stove by a sign «forno а legna» on pizzerias.
- Finely ground flour and natural yeast are used for pizza dough. True pizzaioli roll the flapjack with hands. Most of you have probably seen their masterly moves “flying” hands and dought.
- Only San Marzano tomatoes and Mozzarella di Buffalo cheese made of she-Buffalo milk are used for pizza here. Extra-class olive oil is good to spray pizza before eating. You can also sprinkle it with sea salt and basil leaves.
- The true pizza never cracks when is bent, it should be some kind of elastic. To get the “right” elastic pizza it should be baked in special wooden stoves with the temperature of 485 degrees. In such a stove pizza is ready in a couple of minutes only.
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- Dough for a Flapjack (Focaccia). Focaccia consists of four main components: water, flour, yeast and salt – important to avoid any fat! True Neapolitan pizza is always rosy, round, thin in the middle with high cheese bumpers or a "frame" called "cornicioni".
Photo by: milanotoday.it.
Types of Pizza
There are many varieties of pizza, but the most popular among Italians are: “Margherita” (which contains tomatoes, mozzarella, and, of course, basil with olive oil). If in the menu the word “bianka” is added to “Margherita”, it means it’s cooked without tomatoes.
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Pizza “Marinara” is also of high demand. It got its name due to the sailors who used to enjoy it for breakfast. The receipt includes oregano, garlic, tomatoes, olive oil, black olives, as well as anchovies and capers. Classical pizza served as a base for creation of the new types with different additives.
Here are only some of them: Pizza Napolitana/Napoli with spices, basil and oregano, olive oil, and necessarily tomatoes with mozzarella, anchovies and parmesan.
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Pizza Capricciosa. This delicacy is often cooked with the adding of black and green olives, artichokes, tomatoes, mozzarella and mushrooms.
Pizza ai Quattro Stagioni (Four Seasons). This is one of the most unique pizzas. It’s divided into four parts, each contains different ingredients, symbolizing seasons of the year: winter – with boiled eggs and mushrooms, spring – with artichokes and olives, summer – with pepper and salami and autumn – with classic tomatoes and mozzarella.
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Pizza ai Quattro Formaggi (Four Cheese) – only tomatoes and four types of cheese.
Sicilian Pizza – anchovies, pecorino cheese; made in a square shape.
Besides traditional pizzas, there are also lots of dessert ones. Jam, fruit, cottage cheese, yoghurt and others are used as fillings. Besides, the dough is a little sweet. Dessert pizza can be both: round and in the shape of ring.
Another sort of pizza is called calzone. It’s some kind of Italian pie. It’s often called a “closed pizza”. For fillings they use oregano, parmesan, mozzarella, mushrooms, ham, and ricotta. This is a typical dish of central and southern regions of Italy.
Neapolitan Pizzerias, which are a part of AVPN association have a firm logo with a hero of Italian comedy film. Pulcinella with a pizza in hands and Vesuvius on a background. If pizzeria doesn’t have any logo, it doesn’t mean they serve bad pizza. Each of pizzaioli takes a personal responsibility for the quality of pizza he cooks.
The most popular pizzerias in Naples are:
- Pizzeria Brandi – the most visited by tourists, as this was the very place where Margherita was invented.
Photo by: travel.rambler.ru.
- Da Michele – in this pizzeria the shooting of a world famous movie by the book of Elizabeth Gilbert “Eat, Pray, Love” took place where Julia Roberts played the main role. According to the plot, the main heroine went to Naples to try the true pizza. Since 1870 here they cook only Margherita and Marinara.
Photo by: specialtiesofitaliankitchen.blogspot.com.
- Pizzeria Gino Sorbillo – is a quite famous place located in the historical centre of Naples. They serve pizza since 1935 года.
Photo by: Gino Sorbillo в facebook.
All these pizzerias are crowded with people, as lots of tourists tend to visit them. Thus, you can often see queues here. And you cannot book or reserve a table in advance. But an alternative way is just to pass by them and go away from popular touristic routes and be sure, any pizzeria you meet on your way will be not much worse than those popular ones. As a rule, locals have lunch here, so the places are nice, cozy with home atmosphere. There are no long queues and the prices are quite reasonable starting from 2,5 to 4 EUR.
Pizza is a sacred dish for the citizens of Naples. This is their true Food God imagined in a rosy round form with soft dough, aromatic cheese and juice tomatoes.