Today a customer asked...
"What makes a pizza 'Neapolitan'?" I asked, "would you like the short or long explanation?" They insightfully said, "we want your answer." This is what I told them …Pizza Napolitana is a protected food product. Like Champagne or Parmigianino Reggiano, there are specific criteria that must be upheld to rightfully call a pizza a Neapolitan Pizza.
First, the Pizzaiolo (pizza-maker) must be trained and certified. It was my privilege to apprentice under Enzo Coccia in Naples, Italy. One of the greatest living Pizzaiolo, he is also one of the world's most renowned historians of the 250 years of pizza making. In addition to these lofty credentials, he was also one of the visionaries who began the SLO Food (Sustainable/Local/Organic) movement which now has chapters in nearly every municipality in the world. There are many levels of certification which finally culminate with being certified by the Italian Ministry of Agriculture, as ingredients are of the utmost importance. My mentor and honored friend Enzo was instrumental in introducing me to the most celebrated artisan food makers and food producers in Campania (the region which surrounds Naples) to see, smell, touch, and learn the processes that comprise the other elements of a Neapolitan Pizza.
The flour used in Pizza Napolitana is quite specific. The use of Italian "00" flour (the finest possible milling specifications) is required, and of all the "00" flours produced, we have chosen the Antimo Caputo brand, as I had the great honor of spending many hours in this mill, and in their lab, and was impressed by the hourly testing of their mixture and the exacting standards by which they measure. This is the finest flour in the world, and we are proud to serve it.
The use of tomatoes grown in the San Marzano boundaries is also required. As of this writing, we are still using San Marzano tomatoes, and although scandal and genetic modification have all but driven this magnificent crop to the brink of extinction, we still have some rare few cases left to savor.
Neapolitan Pizza must also be made with fresh Mozzarella cheese, and we make ours fresh, every day.
The Neapolitan Pizza must be cooked in a wood-fired oven. Our oven (named Saint Peter) was manufactured with volcanic soil and silica from Mount Vesuvius by an Italian oven maker called Pavesi. It was broken down into pieces, crated and shipped to Coupeville, and then reassembled by Peter DeJong and his company, Fired Up Kitchens. Peter, a world-renowned chef and James Beard Institute Fellow, also came back after construction to train our core kitchen staff in the art of pizza making.
Made by Hand
Lastly, the Neapolitan Pizza must be made by hand. From the dough ball to the opening of the dough and the crafting of the pizza – everything at Ciao is made by hand with skill and love.