Neapolitan-style pizza is a unique dish because it is a Traditional Specialty Guaranteed product in Europe. This designation allows the pie to receive inclusion as an item of intangible cultural heritage from UNESCO. There are numerous variations of the traditional recipe made in pizzerias around the world today. You will find none of them can replicate the exact flavors produced in Italy unless the time and expense are taken to import the needed ingredients.
What Is Neapolitan-Style Pizza?
The Neapolitan-style pizza features a specific set of ingredients if it is an authentic recipe. It must use either Roma or San Marzano tomatoes from Italy, which typically grow in the plains surrounding Mount Vesuvius. The mozzarella for the dish comes from the milk of water buffalo that are semi-feral in Lazio and Campania. Then the dough is made from type 0 or 00 wheat flour, yeast from the region, salt, and water.
There are specific instructions for the thickness of the dough as well. It must be hand-formed, although a low-speed mixer is allowable when kneading it during the preparation phase. It must be no more than 3mm in thickness. After adding the ingredients, the pizza must bake for 90 seconds or less at a temperature of at least 900°F (485°C).
Fresh herbs get added as a last-second ingredient to avoid tarnishing the flavors of the sauce. No chemicals should be in the water used to make the dough.
This combination of ingredients, delicious toppings and baking techniques results in a pizza that is fragrant, elastic, and soft.
The History of Neapolitan-Style Pizza
Neapolitan-style pizza comes from the Naples region of Italy. This location is also where the modern take on the pie, which is dough topped with cheese and tomatoes, originated over 300 years ago.
Before the 18th century, flatbreads were part of the diet of Europeans, but it was never topped with tomatoes or a tomato-based sauce, which is the defining characteristic of most pizza recipes today.
Tomatoes didn’t make their way to Europe until the 16th century because they were initially grown in Peru. Explorers in South America brought back the ingredient more as a curiosity because many believed that they were poisonous. When peasants from Naples began to spread them on their flatbreads in the 1700s, the dish became immediately desired.
There are now several variations of the Neapolitan-style pizza that have various levels of acceptance in the culinary world. The Margherita recipe is the most popular alternative since it follows all of the essential ingredient rules. A marinara pizza and regional variations that include slices of fresh tomato are sometimes included as well.
You could also try Rpieno, which is a calzone made in the traditional Neapolitan techniques with salami, olive oil, and mozzarella.
What Makes Neapolitan-style Different to Other Pizza Types?
Although Neapolitan-style pizza is the inspiration for many of today’s most popular recipes, including New York-style pies, there are still some crucial differences that exist with this historic take on a slice.
It begins with the crust of the pizza. Neapolitan-style offers one that is exceptionally thin at the base. The hot temperatures of the oven then cause the dough to puff along the sides so that you receive a light, airy texture which receives fast charring.
When made correctly, it is almost impossible to eat this pizza with your hands. A fork and knife will help to navigate the crispy textures.
The simplicity of the Neapolitan-style pizza is also a critical difference to consider when comparing it to other recipes. Only fresh, regionally-specific ingredients are used to create an authentic slice. Pizzerias can use standardized Roma tomatoes and mozzarella cheese to make something that is a fair representation of this Naples invention, but it doesn’t quite provide the same flavor profile.
Neapolitan Pizza Certifications – Yep They Exist
Neapolitan-style pizza is one of the few dishes or recipes in the world where an official certification is available to recognize one’s efforts at creating this culinary masterpiece. It comes from the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, or the AVPN, which was founded in Naples in 1984. There is an American branch of this association now as well.
The AVPN was founded by the oldest families of the original pizza makers from Naples who crafted this flavorful recipe. Its goal is to certify the pizzerias who want to make Neapolitan-style pizza using the correct artisan traditions from the past.
Several requirements must be met before individuals or pizzerias can gain this coveted certification. An official application to the AVPN is necessary before the process can officially start. It is such a stringent review of practices and techniques that only a few hundred restaurants around the world have ever received recognition.
Although looking for the Pizza Vera signs issued by the AVPN is a great way to spot an excellent pizzeria, the real indication that you’ve found a good spot is that there is a long line of people waiting on the street outside.
Examples of Well-Known Restaurants Serving Neapolitan Pizza
If you have never had a Neapolitan-style pizza, then you could settle for something that your local pizzeria makes. There are thousands of locations that can produce a copycat recipe that provides a satisfying meal. When your preference is to enjoy something authentic, then these are the restaurants that will give you a flavor of Naples every time.
1. Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, AZ.
This pizzeria had a humble beginning in the back of a grocery store in the late 1980s. There are three locations now, and it has won a James Beard Award, but the quality of the pizza is always excellent. They use farm-fresh ingredients to give you a Naples-like experience in the American southwest. If you’re not in Phoenix, you might try their location in Tucson.
2. Terun in Palo Alto, CA.
If you want authentic ingredients for your Neapolitan-style pizza, then this restaurant in the city’s downtown are is one of the best places to go in North America. You’ll find imported San Marzano tomatoes on the ingredients list, along with oregano, anchovies, and truffle oil, to give you a lovely taste of Italy without the cost of a plane ticket.
3. Ribalta in New York City.
This restaurant was founded by Rosario Procino, who is native to Naples. Their location near Union Station is often referred to as being the embassy for Neapolitan-style pizza in the United States. Even the Prime Minister of Italy ordered takeout from here during a state visit. It’s also one of the few AVPN-certified locations in the United States for you to enjoy. Try the “Americana,” which is a Margherita pizza topped with hot dogs and French fries – a pizza that you can even find in Naples.
4. Una Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco.
This restaurant moved from New York City to California in 2010, but the change of scenery didn’t alter their approach to Neapolitan-style pizza. There are few traditionalists like Anthony Mangieri in the United States, so you’ll only see 5-6 pizzas on the menu at any given time. You need to arrive early to enjoy the flavors of Naples too because they usually sell out of the naturally fermented dough before 5 pm.
5. Antico Pizza Napoletana in Atlanta.
This small pizzeria was initially going to be a takeout location, but its popularity grew so fast that they transformed into a casual eat-in restaurant. They serve hundreds of pizzas each night in the traditional Neapolitan style, along with a classic Naples-based sfogliatelle. Try the San Gennaro for a local twist with its sweet peppers, sausage, and buffalo mozzarella.
6. Sorbillo in Naples, Italy.
There are more than 800 pizzerias serving Neapolitan-style pizza in Naples, but only 100 of them have the AVPN certification. Sorbillo is the best of them all, where you can find yourself waiting 90 minutes or more to grab some food. There’s an Aquafrescaio kiosk next door that will sell you some Taralli crackers and a cold beer to ease the time you’ll spend waiting, and then linger over the flavors of your pizza when you do get a seat.
7. Gorizia 1916 in Naples, Italy.
The traditional Neapolitan-style pizza came out of the poor neighborhoods of Naples in the 18th century, but this pizzeria has been family-run for over a century in the affluent Vomero area with great success. It features more of a fine-dining experience, with career waiters in formal wear providing you with the preferred pie. This restaurant was one of the few that remained open during both world wars, and it is one of the pillars of the community.
8. Spacca Napoli in Chicago, IL.
This city might be known for its deep-dish pizzas, but owner Jonathan Goldsmith brought his AVPN certification to the Windy City in 2006 with great success. You’ll find imported Piennolo tomatoes in the ingredient list here, along with San Marzanos, and even the mozzarella comes from overseas. Goldsmith also had Italian artisans build his wood oven to ensure that you’ll receive an authentic bite every time. Chicago-style pizza is delicious, but you should also try Spacca Napoli if you are in the area!
9. L’antica Pizzeria da Michele Forcella in Naples, Italy.
Since a marinara or Margherita pizza is what almost all of the locals prefer if given a choice, you will love the experience of ordering once at this wonderful restaurant on the Via Cesare Sersale. The wood oven occupies the center of the pizzeria, giving you a pizza that you want at a pace that you won’t believe. From ordering to eating, it might take three minutes to start enjoying the authentic flavors of Naples.
10. Da Graziella in Paris, France.
Some people have doubts about finding an authentic Neapolitan-style pizza in Paris, but one bite of the signature pizza fritta at this restaurant will change your mind. The owners are passionate about bringing the flavors of Naples to their customers, even if you choose something on their menu that doesn’t involve the traditional recipe. Their fried Amatrice pizza with basil, olive oil, bufala ricotta, and pork cheeks is an incredible original.
Why People Love Neapolitan-Style Pizza
Since the turn of the 21st century, Americans have been exploring numerous types of pizza as a way to enjoy this favorite pie. Because there are so few who make an authentic Neapolitan-style recipe, it is a slice for which many are still unfamiliar. The mystery of its flavors, along with a general love for pizza, make it an intriguing culinary experience.
Then there is the size of the Neapolitan-style pizza to consider. The traditional recipe produces a dish that is approximately 12 inches in diameter, which means you are ordering one item per person. If you try to split it as you would with an American-style pizza, then you may not leave the restaurant feeling satisfied.
It is an option that you must eat right away as well. The thin crust of the Neapolitan-style does not hold up well to boxing. This issue means you can take a couple of friends down to the local pizzeria to enjoy a quick dinner while eating in that night.
The charring that happens on the pizza adds to the flavor profile as well. Pizzerias use exceptionally hot ovens for the baking process, so it is unavoidable. It shouldn’t be bitter because that indicates the dough burned. Then the minimal toppings make it easier to enjoy the flavors of all of the components.
If you enjoy pizza with authentic ingredients and a simplistic approach, then you are going to appreciate the concepts offered by the Neapolitan-style. Although you won’t usually be eating this dish by the slice, the thin crust and smaller size make it a versatile recipe that offers satisfaction with every bite.
Although you don’t need to travel to Naples to experience an AVPN-certified pizza, you may find it a challenge to locate an authentic recipe near your home. There are excellent restaurants that offer a duplicate with locally-sourced ingredients that will give you a taste of how wonderful the Neapolitan-style can be.
You can also visit one of the most well-known certified restaurants in the world to experience this fantastic pizza. It only takes one taste to fall in love with it forever.