Many of you know that I spent three months in Italy this past fall doing research for the travel and wine portion of my business. While I was there I had many culinary adventures that I cannot wait to share with everyone. But this week I read somewhere that it is pizza week. I haven’t confirmed this, but it nonetheless inspired me to write this Friday’s food post about the famed pizza from Napoli, Italy.
I’ll start by saying I really, REALLY like pizza.
I grew up in an area heavily populated with Italian Americans—lots of Sicilians, actually. So I’m accustomed to the thick, rectangular pizza reminiscent of Sicily’s pizzas. (Gloriously done by my favorite hometown pizzeria Giannamore’s)
I had the great fortune to spend several days in Napoli when I first arrived in Italy in October 2011. One of the first things I wanted to do was try some pizza. Much to my delight I visited Pizzeria La Notizia (link in Italian). And in my continuing good fortune, I was able to taste 3 different pizzas. The classic tomato, basil, mozzarella di bufala (Margherita), also one with gorgeous olives, and finally one with cicoli (very pancetta-like) and ricotta di bufala <<—HEAVEN!
The pizza in Napoli is traditionally small, hand-tossed and wood-fired with a beautiful char on the bottom of the crust. To some Americans they might think it is burnt. But oh, no NO. This is just not the case. If it doesn’t have this glorious char, it just isn’t right.
Ok. Well, maybe it isn’t ALL about the crust. But that’s where it all starts. Mess that up and you’re done for. Get that right and we start with the toppings.
It is impossible to visit Napoli without eating the famed Margherita pizza in all its wonderful simplicity. MAKE NO MISTAKE, this pizza is simple, but… BUT it is all too easy to mess this up on every level. Trust me. I’ve eaten some fairly foul representations. La Notizia nails it. Perfect crust with a slight crunch on the outside, pure fluff in the middle and great flavor. Simple marinara from fresh ingredients, extra virgin olive oil, local mozzarella di bufala (another Napoli icon) and fresh basil. If this isn’t done perfectly, you can end up with soup on a sloppy mess of dough. As you can clearly see, this one exemplifies the perfect Margherita pizza.
The next one they brought out was just beautiful in every possible way. Perfect crust, simple but aromatic olive oil, pungent local olives, fresh tomatoes and basil.
But then came THIS:
It was all over for me. Cicoli and ricotta di buffa with a little cracked pepper. Who knew such utter simplicity could be so sublime? Leave it to the Italians. Suffice it to say that I cannot look a pizza in the eye now without a huge sigh and visions of the new standard that has been set for my appreciation of pizza.
It isn’t impossible to find good wood-fired pizza in the USA, THANK GOODNESS!! Most metropolitan areas have their fair share of truly decent wood-fired pizza joints. I will leave it to you to find your favorite local spot. But what I AM going to do is enable you to make your OWN! (Ok, well maybe you don’t have a wood-burning pizza oven, but that’s okay.)
My friends from NYC John and Elana Iaciofano spent a crazy amount of time researching and eating and cooking Pizza. They recently released their power-packed pizza cookbook:
I hope you might go and check out their very entertaining and informative food blog and consider purchasing their cookbook. A part of the proceeds from the cookbook go to Just Food a NYC non-profit “that connects communities and local farms with the resources and support they need to make fresh, locally grown food accessible to all New Yorkers.”
Not content with your local pizzeria? Making your own at home just not enough for you? Well, I have the perfect solution… grab some friends and I’ll take you to Napoli and we will go eat our pizza there! Really. I’m not kidding. Just contact me and we will create a pizza adventure in Italy!
Now…I want to hear from you…What is your favorite pizza style? Toppings? Recipe? Local pizza joint? Favorite in Europe? In Napoli?
I want to hear about it! Share with me in the replies below!
And have a great weekend!