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Naples from a foodie perspective: the secrets of the perfect pizza

Traditional Neapolitan pizza
Traditional Neapolitan pizza

Happy International Pizza Month! It’s inevitable to think of pizza as a universal food: one that belongs to no country in particular and has been reinterpreted according to local tastes all around the world. But pizza history is in fact very much tied to one specific part of Italy, the Naples area in the South of the country, something which makes the city a haven for all foodies and lovers of the world-famous dish.

With cheap holidays to the city becoming increasingly easier to find during winter, and thanks to weather conditions that stay on the mild side for the most part of it, getting to know more about this timeless local tradition is perhaps the best way for a pizza lover to prepare an off-season trip to Naples.

Neapolitan pizza’s tasty history

Pizza in Naples is something that goes all the way back through the centuries, so far back that it’s hard to point out the specific date of its beginnings. It has been reported that the term ‘pizza’ was used for the first time between the 10th and 12th century, and it was since assigned to a very specific kind of bread base that would be cooked in extremely hot ovens and then topped up with different condiments such as seafood or local cheese.

But the real revolution came only at the beginning of the 19th century, when the typical tomato and mozzarella combination became a popular way to complete a Napoli pizza.

The secret to what makes a perfect pizza was all of a sudden very clear to the Neapolitan pizzaioli: a super-hot oven, a strong and elastic dough for the base, and a combination of tomato and mozzarella on the top (pizza Margherita), with just a little oil drizzled on top.

Following these simple but essential tricks is still the only way to become a respected pizza-maker in Naples: according to the timeless local saying, “Only 2 kinds of pizza exist in this world: Margherita and Marinara (tomato sauce, oil and garlic)”.

Pizza cooking in the hot stone oven
Pizza cooking in the hot stone oven

On the quest for the perfect authentic Italian pizza

Both because of the uniqueness of the ingredients (the tomato and mozzarella you can find in Naples are so flavoursome you’d hardly find them anywhere else in Italy) and the procedure (the stone ovens used in local pizzerias burn at 485 °C), it’s not very easy to replicate something quite like a Neapolitan pizza on your own, or even find anything that resembles one in the UK.

That alone should be a good enough reason to start thinking of setting out on a treasure hunt to find the best pizza in Naples – Pizzeria da Michele would be a pretty good hint – but if no trip to the South of Italy is on the cards, our suggestion is to follow Pizza Pilgrims’ guide to the frying pan pizza, something that will help you cook a quite faithful and tasty reproduction of a real Neapolitan pizza.

Have you tried a genuine Neapolitan pizza? How does it compare? Weigh in on the comments below!

Image by KankoMark Wilkie and jefferyw under a creative commons license. 

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