You know what a pizza is. You could call it a delicious disc of dough covered in cheese and sauce and whatever toppings you wish (yes, even pineapple, we won’t judge). Or you could just call it the pinnacle of Western civilization. In our opinion, you’d be right. But don’t be surprised if somebody comes along to tell you that your Hawaiian pie doesn’t count as the real deal.
This article was originally posted at curiosity.com
Doughin’ It Right
ccording to certain people, the only real pizza is Neapolitan pizza. And the only real Neapolitan pizza is one approved by the Associazone Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN). In order to qualify in the eyes of this esteemed organization, a pizza must abide by some pretty strict requirements.
Take the dough. It needs to be made with 00-grade wheat flour (that’s the most-refined flour you can buy, but between five and 20 percent 0-grade flour is allowable depending on climate), mixed with water with a pH balance of 6 to 7, approximately 60-80 milligrams of calcium per liter, then raised to a temperature of 20-22 degrees Celsius (68–72 degrees Fahrenheit). The yeast must be beige in color with a low degree of acidity, and it must be purchased in a package no smaller than 25 grams (0.88 ounces) and no larger than 500 grams (17.6 ounces). When you’re finished, the dough needs to have a fermentation temperature of 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit), a pH of 5.87, and a density of 0.77 grams per cubic centimeter.
Now let’s talk toppings (in broad terms, because trust us when we say we’re leaving a lot of the regulations out). Your tomatoes can only come from one of three places: Sarnese-Nocerino, Vesuvio, or Corbara. Your mozzarella must be sourced exclusively from a few select Italian cities as well. And when it comes to pizza varieties, well, you don’t have a lot of choices. You can either make your pizza marinara, which means it’s got tomatoes, garlic, oregano, olive oil, and salt (that’s right, no cheese at all); or margherita, with mozzarella, tomatoes, fresh basil, and grated hard cheese. Yeah, your extra-large barbecue chicken pizza just isn’t going to make the cut.
The Secret Piz-Story
With so many regulations, you could be forgiven for thinking that they’d been gradually honed and perfected over several centuries. But actually, the AVPN was only founded in 1984. The association’s president, Antonio Pace, and his father, vice-president Vincenzo Pace, saw the need to affirm their old traditions in an era when any disc of frozen dough could be labeled “Neapolitan” at the grocery store.
But despite all the rules, they recognize that the perfect pie is more of an art than a science. Says Vincenzo of the dough, “Its recipe? It doesn’t exist.” The way the dough behaves in the woodfired oven is so dependent on the weather that it’s simply impossible to come up with a single ratio of ingredients. That’s why, instead of delivering an exact set of instructions for making pizza dough, the association simply starts with some guidelines but emphasizes the final product: “The crust should deliver the flavour of well-prepared, baked bread.”
Chances are good that you aren’t currently in Naples right now, but thanks to the AVPN, you can still seek out the perfect Neapolitan pie almost anywhere in the world. Check out their database of approved pizzerias. If you want, you can look up a pizza you’ve already tried to see if it’s authentic. If it’s not, we recommend plugging in your city, state, or country and discovering where the real pizzas are in your hometown.