Italians take their pizza very seriously. Especially Italians from Naples, the official birthplace of pizza. Pizza fanatics in Naples say a pie must be prepared with the absolute freshest ingredients and cooked in the most traditional method. There is no cheese stuffed crust and no pizza topped with pineapple. Pizza isn't made in a hut or on a round table or by a man named Mike who lives on a mountain.
Neapolitan style pizzerias have quickly multiplied in Seattle over the past few years, and many pizza loving locals are now officially addicted to the bright San Marzano tomato sauce, fresh blobs of buffalo mozzarella and the thin, bubbly crust they've savored at popular spots like Via Tribunali and Tutta Bella.
The thing is, in order to be a real Neapolitan pizzeria, you must be certified by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana. This is serious business. So serious, in fact, that several top association members have traveled to Seattle this week to inspect, and ideally certify, Pizzeria Pulcinella, Ristorante Picolinos, and a handful of the still-not-certified Tutta Bella and Via Tribunali locations.
Seattle boasts more Napoli-style pizzerias than any other city in the country, so it only makes sense for the VPN to host its first annual Neapolitan Pizza Forum in the Emerald City. "There are only 30 certified restaurants in the country, and ten of them are right here in Seattle," says Joe Fugere, owner of the local Tutta Bella chain, the first in Seattle to be certified.
The festivities kicked off Wednesday morning on the tippy top of the Space Needle, as the the Italians were welcomed to Seattle by a jovial gang of local pizza restaurant owners. They will spend the rest of the week inspecting the restaurants and most likely eating their weight in pizza.
So what does it take to be certified by the VPN? A lot - and it all starts with ingredients. The dough must be made from "00 flour," fresh, natural yeast and chemical free water. The dough must be worked by hand, or in a VPN approved mixer, and then shaped by hand. The pizza must be cooked in a wood fired oven with a stone floor, and the pizzas must be cooked on that floor, not on a pan of any kind. According to the regulation booklet, "Verace Pizza Napoletana" should be "soft, elastic, easy to manipulate and fold." These are just some of the rules.
Rules may seem silly for something like pizza, a comforting go-to staple beloved by nearly the entire planet. But if you've ever had a slice of authentic Napoli style pizza, fresh from the igloo shaped oven: the chewy, fire licked crust, the zing of best quality San Marzano tomatoes, the freshest basil and splotches of creamy mozzarella...Sometimes it's good to follow the rules.
Tuesday 07 July 2009