A chat with Akio Nishikawa, delegate of AVPN in Japan
If the pizza in Japan continues to be loved and appreciated, is also thanks to Akio Nishikawa, member of AVPN since 1997. From Ako, his city, and from his pizzeria Sakurakumi, he watches to Naples and its culinary traditions, promoting the True Neapolitan Pizza in the East. One of the protagonists of the Salone del Gusto in Turin, with his very popular laboratory, Akio answered our questions.

1 Your workshop at the Salone del Gusto has been highly successful. Many visitors wanted to meet you and follow your lesson "back to front", "how to not make a true Neapolitan pizza." Would you tell us your experience at the Salone del Gusto and also explain to the readers of our newsletter and on our website how you decided to plan this workshop? What kind of pizzas you prepared and what Slow Food presidia did you choose for your workshop in Turin?
As for the ingredients, I decided to use the products of presidia but not only and I directed my choice to Campania and Puglia. I choose that way in order to not depart from the flavors that are more familiar to me, the ones that I already use. In addition, the choice of ingredients have been affected by the oven used during the seminar, an oven I had never used before. Getting used to an oven is very important to cook the true Neapolitan pizza! Therefore, considering this range of things, I've made:
PIZZA PAPACELLIAMO: Neapolitan papaccelle (Naples); Cipolla Ramata (montoro); robiola (Langhe); caciocavallo podolico Gargano (Puglia); menaica anchovies (Cilento).
PIZZA LONZARDIAMO: goat ricotta (capaccio); caciocavallo podolico (Apulia); lonzardo (Benevento).
PIZZA DOCCHIAMO: Pomodoro regina from torre canne (Puglia) buffalo mozzarella (Campania); caciocavallo podolico (Puglia).
2How did your passion for the Neapolitan pizza start? And why do the Japanese admire so much this dish of Italian cuisine?
I will never forget the taste of the first pizza I ate in Naples, when 22 years ago I arrived in this city, and every day I give my all to get closer and closer to that flavor, so that loads of Japanese may feel, tasting my pizza, what I experienced. At that time in Japan we knew only the pizzas that came from America, there were not even the required ingredients to make a Neapolitan pizza so it was impossible to prepare this kind of pizza. After several years, eager to make the Neapolitan pizza, I decided to start to import personally from Naples the suitable oven and the ingredients needed such as mozzarella, tomato, flour and lots more and at that point I was able to make a product similar to the pizza I had eaten in Naples. Currently many pizzerias, following the path opened by Sakuragumi, have begun to make the same kind of pizza. The Japanese love good and simple food as olive oil, garlic and chili pepper and I think the pizza margherita represents for them a single course that they will never get tired of eating.
3 In Italy we are always surprised when we hear that in pizza makers competitions , often are the pizzas made by Japanese to win. Can you Reveal to us what’s the secret of your success?
In Naples, the good pizza makers have to do a lot of pizzas so they need assistants who prepare the dough and someone who bakes pizzas. In Japan, the pizza makers don’t have so much work, instead (up to 100 pizzas per day) so, they have the time to follow all the steps: preparing the dough, seasonings, and then bake the pizza and follow the cooking. So the Japanese pizza makers are more accustomed to manage all the steps, from the dough to baking and this helps them during the competitions, where the pizza maker must do it all alone.
4 How has grown the True Neapolitan Pizza Association in Japan over the last two years? Are there any projects going on?
To promote and publicize the true Neapolitan pizza, since last year we organize the Pizza Fest during which we host the "Pizza Contest," a competition dedicated to the young Japanese pizza makers who cook the Neapolitan pizza. Whoever wins the 'Pizza Contest' automatically attends the Olympics of Naples. We are also organizing a network of managers and trustees of the Association in different parts of Japan and the Club of the pizza friends.

5 What are your favorite pizzas? And which one do you prefer to make?
My favorite is the pizza Margherita, it’s the first pizza I ate. However, I like all the pizzas, which are cooked well, so then I feel lighter.
Tuesday 13 November 2012

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