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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Naples---the Birthplace of Pizza

Say Naples and lovers of Italy often develop contorted faces or horror.  I hear things like “It’s the arm pit of Italy,” “I have a friend who was robbed in Naples,” or “Isn’t it mostly Mafia?”   Yes, Napoli (as it’s called in Italy) like any major port city can be dicey.  But, there are many charms the city has to offer.  For example, all of the magnificent riches from Pompeii are now in the city’s Archaeological Museum---a must see for any traveler to the area.  Naples is also the birthplace of pizza and that’s why I have returned this visit.  I arrived today from Capri on a mission to find the perfect slice over the next two days.  That may be very difficult for there is >1,000 pizza makers in Naples.

Pizza was originally the street food of the poor, however, when Queen Margherita visited the area a clever pizza maker decided to make a new pizza in her honor.  Margherita pizza is now a standard on just about every pizza menu on the globe.  Bill Clinton, another foodie, came to Naples when he was President.  One of the pizza shops that he frequented has now changed its name to “Presidente” and proudly displays a photo of the Clintons.

I am told by professionals that one of the secrets of a perfect pizza is the oven.  Not only must it be wood-fired (which adds complex flavors), but a faultless pizza must also be cooked at temperatures as high as 700-800 degrees.  At this heat pizzas only need to bake one minute.  In Napoli, less is more with toppings.  You’ll never see a combo.  Simplicity reigns supreme and most shops feature only one or two toppings…usually as separate pizzas and not together.  San Marzano tomatoes, discussed a few days ago, are the basis for the sauce, however, many pizzas do not have a sauce.

A jug of wine and thou…and a slice of pizza from Napoli.

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