What Makes Neapolitan Pizza Unique?

There are a few things that are synonymous with Italian food culture including espresso, pasta, and of course, pizza. A dish that's become recognized and beloved internationally, the humble pizza pie can be traced back to the southern Italian region of Naples. However, there are a few things that make a Neapolitan pizza unique, both abroad and even compared to other versions in the Mediterranean. 

A word that can be traced back to the first century, pizza as we know it today, didn't start to make an appearance until the 18th century following the introduction of tomatoes from South America, reports The Local. With an ultra thin crust that's ever so delicately charred on the crusts, but still moist in the center, local lore explains that pizza napoletana shot to fame following a visit from Queen Margherita of Savoy, after she was served a pizza with all the colors of the Italian flag.

That said, minimalism is everything when it comes to toppings, which is why only three versions exist. According to MasterClass, they include pizza marinara (tomato sauce, fresh garlic, oregano), pizza Margherita (tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil), and lastly, pizza Margherita DOC (Margherita made with ingredients produced in the region).

A focus on local ingredients and the art of the pizzaiolo

The main thing that makes Neapolitan-style pizza unique is that it's made with local, high quality ingredients. According to the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, the dough should be made from flour, fresh yeast, water, and sea salt, whereas toppings like San Marzano tomatoes, extra-virgin olive oil, and mozzarella di bufala, should be sourced from the Campania region. 

As for the process, the art of Neapolitan pizza-making is actually recognized by UNESCO. Only a select number of trained pizza makers, known as pizzaioli, follow traditional methods of kneading the dough outwards and hand-tossing for a diameter of 35 mm. However, the one thing that really sets Neapolitan pizza apart from the rest is based on how the doughy disks are cooked.

Given the regulations described by the European Union, pizza napoletana must be baked in a wood burning oven at 485 C for 60 to 90 seconds, being rotated around the fire and allowing the crust to puff up and keep the pie from burning. The result is a soft, silky pizza where the sauce has lost some moisture, the cheese has become melty, and the ingredients are powerfully fragrant — are you craving a slice, too?