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UN 'should honour US as home of pizza'

The Local · 1 Apr 2015, 12:00

Published: 01 Apr 2015 00:01 GMT+02:00
Updated: 01 Apr 2015 12:00 GMT+02:00

It's midday in Italy and custom dictates that we now reveal our chicanery, skulduggery and general tomfoolery.

As many readers no doubt have guessed, the below article has very little basis in fact.

Naples has long fought to protect its signature pizza, even managing to clamp down on the thousands of pizzerias across Italy that once dared to tamper with the traditional recipe, said to date back to the 1700s, by adding spurious cheese and flour ingredients from distant lands.

But the city is now up against a far bigger battle after passions were stoked in the US last week when Italy announced that it has chosen the Neapolitan pizza as its candidate for protection under Unesco’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

Pizza makers in the US, where three billion pizzas are sold each year, say the true home of the Neapolitan is their homeland, and are demanding a slice of the action.

Some even claim to have made the Neapolitan better.

“I know the Italians won’t like hearing this, but when the Neapolitan first arrived here, it didn’t really tickle our taste buds,” said Joe Sfincione, a pizzeria owner from Naples, Florida, whose great-great grandfather hailed from Sicily.

“The crust was way too thin and the pizza itself way too small. There was also hardly any cheese, and as for the oregano and basil…we really had to work hard to make it more appealing to Americans. And like most American versions of anything European, we've made it ten times better.”

Italy, also the land of the capricciosa, wants to pay tribute to “the art of the Neapolitan pizza makers”.

According to the traditional recipe, the base should be no more than about an eighth of an inch, while the maximum diameter is 11 inches. In comparison, a pizza made in the US often measures 18 inches.

The dough must also be rolled out manually, a process Sfincione finds “way too time consuming in the era of fast-food”, and baked in a stone oven with an oak-wood fire for between 60 and 90 seconds, so as to raise the crust and give it its golden and crispy texture.

The rules, laid down to protect one of Italy’s most important gastronomic traditions, also stipulate what type of flour, tomatoes and olive oil must be used.

“I tried using fresh tomatoes at the beginning, but they really didn’t go down well, people wanted pineapple instead," added Sfincione.

Sfincione, along with hundreds of other pizza makers, are now calling on food authorities to set up a special commission to help protect their version of the Neapolitan.

He says the fact that Americans now eat double the amount of pizza per person per year than Italians, according to the latest statistics, will add weight to their battle. 

"Italy needs to accept that its time as the king of pizza is over," he adds.

Story continues below…

Needless to say, the culinary claims from the US have made Italians fume.

The most famous of the three real Neapolitan pizza variants is the Margherita, said to be named after Queen Margherita of Savoy after she asked a Naples pizza maker to come up with a dish for the people.

The result, which included green basil, white mozzarella and red tomatoes, is said to have represented the colours of a unified Italy.

“Queen Margherita would be turning in her grave if she heard this,” said a source from a Naples-based pizza school.

"The Neapolitan is from Naples, and that is that. The Americans can keep their pizza with pineapple."

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The Local (news@thelocal.it)

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