In 1984, Antonio Pace (of the restaurant Ciro a Santa Brigida in Naples) was concerned about the state of the pizza. He saw what was happening to pizza in America, around the world, even in his beloved Napoli, and it did not make him happy. As a restaurateur providing traditional Italian food, particularly pizza, he wanted to make sure that the original Neapolitan pizza (vera pizza napoletana) did not disappear.
So, along with Professor Carlo Mangoni di Santo Stefano, a nutritionist at the University of Naples, Pace came up with a Pizza Discipline which defines the true, original Neapolitan pizza. Pace also created the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, dedicated to the preservation of ‘real Neapolitan pizza’ (Vera Pizza Napoletana). The VPN certifies restaurants in Italy and approves them to carry the VPN logo (seen below).
Pace and his association are very, very serious about what they consider pizza and what they do not.
“We are against the cultural and commercial deformation of our pizza and against its industrialization; in fact, the ready-to-eat and frozen pizzas sold in supermarkets have nothing to do with the original ones,” says Pace. “Neapolitan pizza has neither inventors, fathers nor masters, but is the fruit of the ingenuity of the Neapolitan people.” He’s certainly got a point, and he’s apparently passionate about pizza (which wins points with us, of course!)
The VPN Association Statute states: “The Association aims to protect and promote the “VERACE PIZZA NAPOLETANA” (ORIGINAL NEAPOLITAN PIZZA) as well as its restaurant-members that commit themselves to supply a service complying with manufacturing features established in the protocol and regulating the pizza production.”
The Vera Pizza Napoletana Discipline
The ‘protocol’ is Pace’s ‘Il Disciplinare’ (the Discipline), and it is some serious stuff! “…Primary materials, preparation, and the resulting characteristics must be strictly adhered to in order to achieve the required end product…”
Parts of the Discipline are almost poetry: “The consistency of the “Verace Pizza Napoletana” – (Vera Pizza Napoletana) should be soft, elastic, easy to manipulate and fold. The centre should be particularly soft to the touch and taste, where the red of the tomato is evident, and to which the oil for the Pizza Marinara, the green of the oregano and the white of the garlic has perfectly amalgamated; In the case of the Pizza Margherita, the white of the mozzarella should appear in evenly spread patches, with the green of the basil leaves, slightly darkened by the cooking process.”
Ohhh yeah. That’s a vera pizza napoletana.
But like any true band of zealots, the VPN takes it all the way to the edge. Just to give you an idea of how specific the VPN is, here are some of the specifics for a genuine Neapolitan Pizza Margherita:
Canned peeled tomatoes – 60 – 80 g
Olive oil (Virgin or Extra Virgin) – 4 – 5 (variance of +20% tolerated)
Mozzarella/Fior di latte – 80 – 100 g
Fresh Basil – A few leaves
Hard cheese (grated) – 10 – 15 g
Salt – As needed
Fresh tomatoes may be substituted for or in addition to peeled tomatoes above as long as they are fresh and are of the authentic products mentioned previously: “S.Marzano dell’Agro Sarnese-nocerino D.O.P”., “Pomodorini di Corbara (Corbarino)”, “Pomodorino del piennolo del Vesuvio” D.O.P.”
“Verace Pizza Napoletana” – (Vera Pizza Napoletana) must be cooked on the stone surface of the pizza oven and not in dishes/pizza pans.
Using a wood (or aluminium) pizza peel, and a little flour, the ‘pizzaiolo’ (pizza maker) transfers the garnished pizza using a rotary movement. The pizza slides rapidly with a quick wrist movement performed by the ‘pizzaiolo’ (pizza maker) on to the cooking surface of the oven without allowing the condiment to move. The cooking of the “Verace Pizza Napoletana” – (Vera Pizza Napoletana) must be done exclusively in a wood fire oven which has reached the cooking temperature of 485° C, (905F). This is essential to cook the pizza.
They’re equally strict about the dough, the cheese used, the type of container holding the olive oil (traditional copper), and that the pizza must be consumed at the pizzeria… We’re tempted to just publish the whole eleven-page thing here, but you can have your own copy by clicking here and downloading the Pizza Discipline!
The VPN also has a delegation in the United States, founded by Los Angeles restaurateur Peppe Miele. Out of over 61,000 pizzerias in the United States, 27 are certified by VPN America. This probably speaks of Americans’ great love of being told what to do.
The Japanese delegation also has 27 pizzerias. If we ever go to Japan, you’ll find us in one of them. And if you’ve been to a pizzeria in Japan, please let us know about it!