What it Means to Serve Authentic Neapolitan Pizza
Neapolitan pizza, or pizza Napolatena as it is sometimes referred, is a variety of pizza that originates from the home of pizza – Naples, Italy. They key to an authentic Neapolitan pizza is that they are made from a select number of the freshest ingredients: a thin crust topped with raw tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, and olive oil.
And unlike many conventional pizzas you buy from a pizza joint, one of the defining characteristics of a Neapolitan pizza is that there is often more sauce than cheese, leaving the middle of your pizza wet, making it difficult to be served by the slice. This means that Neapolitan pizzas are generally prepared in a size of about 10-12 inches.
Another characteristic of the Neapolitan pizza is that they are cooked using a blast-cook method in a wood fired pizza oven. The extremely high temperatures (800°F-900°F) and a bake time of no more than 90 seconds, make the Neapolitan pizza characteristically flavorsome, and deliciously crunchy with every bite.
Neapolitan Pizza is in a Class of its Own
To be considered an authentic Neapolitan pizza, there are a number of criteria that have been defined by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (VPN) – the official governing body for Neapolitan pizza (yes, it’s that serious!) founded in 1984 in Naples, Italy. The VPN exists to certify pizzerias that use the traditional artisan methods of authentic Neapolitan pizza preparation.
According to the standard set by the VPN, the requirements for an authentic Neapolitan pizza are:
- Crust: Must have a crust made from a dough that is made with a maximum of four basic ingredients. These ingredients are: highly-refined Italian type 0 or 00 wheat flour, Neapolitan or fresh brewer’s yeast as a rising agent (not dry yeast), water, and salt. In addition, the dough is to be hand-kneaded and formed without the use of a rolling pin.
- Sauce: The dough is topped with raw, pureed San Marzano tomatoes from Italy.
- Cheese: The base is topped with two main cheese types. Fior di latte, which is mozzarella cheese made from cow’s milk, ormozzarella di Bufala, which is mozzarella cheese made from the milk of water buffalos, usually raised in the Campania and Lazio marshlands in Italy.
- Toppings: Fresh basil and extra-virgin olive oil are mandatory requirements for Neapolitan style pizza, and all ingredients must be natural and fresh.
- Baking: The pizza must be baked for a period not exceeding 90 seconds in a minimum 800°F wood-fired pizza oven made of stone.
Neapolitan Pizza Variations
Now you know what it takes to be an “official” Neapolitan pizza, you will be glad to know that there are three official variants to add some spice to your pizza-loving life:
- Pizza Marinara – topped with tomato, garlic, oregano, and extra- virgin olive oil.
- Pizza Margherita – the traditional Neapolitan pizza variety – topped with tomato, sliced fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, and extra-virgin olive oil.
- Pizza Margherita Extra – topped with tomato, sliced mozzarella di Bufala, fresh basil, and extra-virgin olive oil.
These three variations of the official Neapolitan pizza are the only ones officially recognized as being “authentic Neapolitan” by the VPN, so beware of imitators!
A Short History of Neapolitan Pizza
Pizza as you know it today was invented in the late 18th century in Naples, Italy, by baker Raffaele Esposito who worked at the Naples pizzeria “Pietro… e basta così. Although flatbreads had existed well before then, they were never topped with tomatoes – a defining characteristic of pizza.
The Margherita pizza, which is now known as the classic Neapolitan-style pizza, was first prepared in 1889 for the royal visit of King Umberto I and Queen Margherita of Savoy to the city of Naples. To welcome them, Esposito baked them a pizza named in honor of queen Margherita, whose colors mirrored those of the Italian flag: red (tomatoes), white (mozzarella), and green (basil leaves).