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Seabourn Club Herald Vol. 21.3 November 2011 : Page 42

Cuisines of the World C ub oI ma ges sr l /A lam y

Cuisines Of The World

Germaine Stafford

Perfect Pizza

It was in Naples that Italians turned flat bread into the pie we praise today.

Who doesn’t love pizza? But what is this treat-topped pie and where did it come from? The only thing we know for sure is that we can thank the fine folks of Naples for turning an ancient good eat into our favorite takeout treat. We’ve been baking flat breads since Neolithic times. The Greeks did it. So did the Goths and Lombards, Germanic tribes that invaded the Roman Empire centuries ago. In the 1st century AD, Roman culinary writer Marcus Gavius Apicius mentioned a dish in which various ingredients were placed on a round flat piece of bread. And brick ovens, flour mills and marble working surfaces uncovered in the volcanic ruins of Pompeii suggest that doomed denizens were wellacquainted with baked goodies that may have resembled something like a pizza.

But for the real deal, we turn to Naples, the home to many marvels. Its historic center is the largest in Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage Site; its archeological museum houses one of the most extensive collections of Roman artifacts in the world; and one of the city’s favorite attractions is something much humbler: la pizza napoletana.

Pizza as we know it today — a round, flat piece of risen dough prepared with a simple topping and cooked in a wood oven — first appeared in Naples in the 16th century and fast became a staple with the city’s poor. In those days, toppings were more likely to be lard, garlic, herbs or cheese, and people often bought them oggi a otto, that is, agreeing to pay for them “within eight days from today.” By the late 17th century, tomatoes were added (it took a while, but remember that tomatoes were long considered poisonous), and the world’s most popular street food was born.

It may have been poor man’s food, but it proved too delicious for aristocrats and royals to resist. In fact, Ferdinando I (1751–1825), King of Naples and the Two Sicilies, was apt to ignore court protocol and disguise himself as a commoner in order to pass unnoticed among the crowds in the Salita Santa Teresa where he’d go to enjoy pizza at the open-air ovens and street stalls set up to feed locals and itinerant peddlers.

Then, in November 1898, Neapolitan pizza maker Raffaele Esposito, or probably his wife, Maria, prepared a pizza for Queen Margherita of Savoy on her visit to Naples. It was created to feature the colors of the Italian flag, (red, white and green), thus, for the first time, used mozzarella. And so, the pizza Margherita was born.

Today, the term “pizza” has come to cover a multitude of sins, but authentic pizza napoletana is protected both by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, which specifies ingredients, preparation process, cooking method and cooking times,And by the European Union, which in December 2009 granted the pizza napoletana Traditional Speciality Guaranteed status.

Italian law specifies that authentic pizza napoletana must be made from risen dough and cooked in a wood oven and comprises just three types of pizza: the marinara, the Margherita and the Margherita extra. Ingredients for the basic pizza dough include wheat flours (type 0 or 00 or a mixture of both), natural Neapolitan yeast or brewer’s yeast, natural water and marine salt.The dough must be kneaded by hand or in a low-speed mixer and then left to rise for a total of at least 6 to 8 hours. Next, it must be formed by hand, without the use of a rolling pin or any other equipment, into a large flat disk not thicker than 30 mm (0. 11 inch) at the center and with a crust not thicker than 1 to 2 cm(0. 4 to 0.8 inches). No other type of preparation is acceptable.

Toppings for the three variants are as follows: Pizza marinara has tomatoes (San Marzano tomatoes from the slopes of Vesuvius or cherry tomatoes), garlic, oregano and extra-virgin olive oil; Pizza Margherita features tomatoes, mozzarella or fior di latte (cow’s milk mozzarella), basil and extra-virgin olive oil; Pizza Margherita extra includes tomatoes, buffalo milk mozzarella cut in slices, basil and extra-virgin olive oil.

Once the toppings have been placed on the pizza, the pizzaiolo uses a wooden or metal paddle to transfer it with a few skilled jerks of the wrist to a wood oven that has reached a cooking temperature of 485°C (905°F), where it will cook for 60 to 90 seconds, taking care to rotate the edge that is facing the fire.Once cooked, the pizza will display a raised crust; be golden in color and soft to the touch; the tomato will be dense and consistent; the mozzarella melted and the basil, garlic and oregano intensely aromatic and browned but not burned.

Interestingly, Article 6 of the Italian law states that a pizza napoletana should be consumed immediately at the pizzeria, straight out of the oven. If it is removed from the pizzeria for consumption elsewhere, it no longer bears the mark of a true pizza napoletana. So on your next visit to Naples, look for a certified pizzeria displaying the logo with the Gulf of Naples and Vesuvius, and enjoy your pizza right where you are.

Try This Pie

From north to south, you can find great Neapolitan-style pizzas in cities throughout Italy. So if your cruise pulls into port at these classic locales, make your way to these dining venues for a bite you won’t soon forget.


Pizzeria Trattoria all’Anfora

Lista dei Bari 1223, Santa Croce

Many folks think this simple eatery serves the best pizza in Venice, so grab a seat in the garden and tackle one of the enormous pizzas on offer.


Al Forno della Soffitta

Via Piave, 62/64

Part of the fun here is sampling the great fried Roman-style starters and then watching the pizzaioli toss the dough high into the air as they do their stuff.


L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele

Via Cesare Sersale, 1/3

Five generations after opening, this historic, no-frills pizzeria still serves only Margherita and marinara pizzas, but they may be the best you’ll ever eat.



Via Dante, 212

This popular place is almost always busy as the pizzas are a great value and quite delicious. For a change, try the house specialty: pizza with stuffed crusts.

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