When is a pizza not just a pizza? When you're dining on a piece of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Possibly the world's most beloved comfort food, game-day dinner, kids' birthday party treat and party go-to take-out, the humble yet versatile pizza has been given UNESCO Cultural Heritage status.
But not just any pizza. 'Pizzaiuolo' is the art of traditional, Neopolitan pizza-making. Think of it as the 'way of the pizza'. The original, home-grown-in-Naples technique was given the designation in November 2017. It is meant to safeguard and raise awareness about different forms of cultural heritage and ensure the methods and origins are preserved and passed to future generations.
Naples in Southern Italy's Campania region is the historic and spiritual home of the original pizza, where the word 'pizza' has been traced back to the 10th century. 'Modern' pizza arrived on Naples' local culinary scene about 250 years ago. If you've been to Naples (which is itself a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the largest and most historic cities on the Mediterranean) you've certainly dined upon and heard about the importance of pizza here. (If you haven't been to Naples and eaten the pizza there, well, add both to your travel list right now.)
Neapolitan pizza already has 'Traditional Specialty Guaranteed' status in Europe, with its own local Association (The Genuine Neapolitan Pizza Association) issuing and enforcing rules for its creation and labeling.
Mount Vesuvius, Naples and the Mediterranean Sea. (Photo Credit)
A true Neapolitan pizza must be made with San Marzano tomatoes (that only grow on the volcanic plains of nearby Mount Vesuvius) and Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, itself a protected designation of origin cheese from semi-wild water buffalo in the region. There are additional rules about how the dough must be made, from what flour, and include requirements that the dough be formed by hand to a thickness of no more than 3 mm (.12 inches). After toppings are added, the pizza must be baked for less than 2 minutes in a stone oven heated by an oak-wood fire.
Pizzeria in Naples, Italy. (Photo Credit)
The result? A Neapolitan pizza is soft, elastic, tender and fragrant. The Association recognizes only two authentic pies: the simple Pizza Margherita (top photo credit) that follows the traditional rules for ingredients with the addition of basil and extra virgin olive oil, and Marinara Pizza with tomato, extra virgin olive oil, garlic and oregano. Don't even think the words 'Hawaiian' or 'Meat Lovers'.
Pizza Neapolitan joins traditional horse games of Kyrgyzstan, wind mill operations in the Netherlands, women divers of Korea and dozens of other unique expressions of local culture registered and safeguarded by UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity program. In other words, another reason #WhyWeTravel.
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