A chat with Antonio Pace, president and founder of the True Neapolitan Pizza Association, and owner
The AVPN strength lies in its four hundred members, that, since 1984, protect and promote the true Neapolitan pizza all over the world. From this newsletter we would like to know you better, devoting more and more space to your activities and your stories. We start from the Number One associated, and could not be otherwise.
Who does not know Antonio Pace, founder and president of AVPN. To the Associative activity, he always combines his work in the historical family restaurant. Ciro a Santa Brigida, for over a century, one of the cornerstones of Neapolitan cuisine, preferred and loved, over the years, by guests such as Guglielmo Marconi, Arturo Toscanini Gabriele D'Annunzio, Luigi Pirandello, Renata Tebaldi, Eduardo De Filippo, Vittorio Gassman, Toto, Sophia Loren and Ingrid Bergman.
Mr. President, the AVPN is almost at the finish line of 30 years of activity. it worked on the promotion and protection of the true Neapolitan pizza in Italy and throughout world. Do you feel to take stock of these years?
"I can say that we definitely went over the most benevolent forecast. When we started, the objective was preventing the snatching of pizza from Naples, defending the original product and the paternity of it, and spreading the correct way to prepare and its tradition. And we had great satisfaction all over the world: after all we brought pizza only in five continents. Perhaps, however, our work was more appreciated abroad than here. "
"For the Neapolitan pizza always existed. He has not been able to give the right value to its defense and promotion. Meanwhile, itís one of the dishes that can best represent the typical Italian products abroad. Therefore is important to remember that pizza is the disc of dough, which must be prepared in accordance with particular quality requirements and on this topic we focused a lot. The rest are seasonings. In fact I do not like when they talk about Gourmet pizza Is a lexical heresy. The gourmet is nothing but a gourmand. And the pizza, in its original recipe can be made for Gourmets. With the right products and the proper method, you can easily do something pleasant to the senses,that can also be something very simple. "
The AVPN takes part this year at the Salone del Gusto in Turin and travels around the world to participate in gastronomic festivals and other events. What do you think of such events?
"The first time I participated at the Salone was twenty years ago. It was an incredible success. I had to write on some signs that pizza makers werw used up because of the unstoppable requires. And I canít forget thousands of people lined up waiting for pizza in a similar event in Mexico City. During these occasions, the peopleís response has always been positive and, for us, this is the most important thing. In a sense, pizza can be considered as the first fast-food, but it's always been associated with a more informed consumption. Today, this dish has reached such a quality in its production to deserve undoubtedly a less unfocused and fast approach.
Ciro a Santa Brigida is a prestigious and important observatory on the city of Naples. What changes could you record over the years?
"Things changed a lot. This restaurant can tell the history of twentieth-century in Italy. We had illustrious guests: five Presidents of the Italian Republic have been, over the years, our loyal customers, even before they were elected, the greatest artists have passed through these rooms: from Tebaldi, to Gassman, from Toto, Ingrid Bergman and Greta Garbo. Luigi Pirandellowas one of our regular costumer in the 30ís. Things were different. Naples was a real cultural capital of the country: a lot of films were produced here and all the theatrical tour started from here. The touring companies wanted the our opinion . And after the shows they all used to come here: while the rest of the city and Italy slept by, at Ciro there were discussions and feasts until 4 in the morning. I believe that many have envied this city over the years and this feeling, coupled with a careless State, left Naples abandoned to itself. For better or for worse this City keeps hitting the headlines, because is very well known abroad.
How has the restaurant business changed? What are the new needs of customers?
"The restaurant business has totally changed. In the 60s people ordered complete lunches and dinners, drank mineral water and wine, perhaps the quality wasnít so high compared to current standards. Those were the decades following the war and people felt this need of food. Now they eat less, drink less, but they choose a higher quality and tastes have become more refined. However, even in the past, customers had their needs. The restaurants were frequented mostly by the wealthy social classes, who often had they own cooks at home. So they had a great food culture. Now the approach is different, but the traditional cooking still holds the stage."
What are the main items of Ciro a Santa Brigida?
"Since 1850 we make pizza, itís part of our tradition, but most of our business is dedicated to food. We are fond of the classic dishes of Neapolitan cuisine: from the gastronomic triumph that is the sartý of rice, the wedding soup, the Genoese sauce. We also propose fish, but it does not belong entirely to the Neapolitan tradition. We are also very careful to offer a cuisine that is seasonal and thatís particularly appreciated by the Neapolitans and tourists. Foreigners are especially intrigued by the traditional dishes, they look for them, because they express a peopleís culture. "
And what does expresses for you the Neapolitan cuisine?
"It is certainly the expression of a multifaceted people. It ranges from very poor dishes to the most sumptuous: there is a 360 degrees vision of gastronomy. And it is interesting to note that the cooking of the rich has imitated the one of the poor and vice versa. In this constant exchange, thereís the richness of the Neapolitan tradition. "