Some time ago I wrote about the proposed certification of Real Pizza Napoletana. Marco who had at the time replied to me in the comments, he's a serious expert on the matter and is writing a book on the theme, was kind enough to send me a few pics to explain his arguments on the matter, which I happily publish below. Note: I added a few corrections after talking to Marco again.
Pizza as we know it today has its roots in the Neapolitan tradition: pizza is not an uncommon name for baked goods in central and southern Italy, but it's definition as a flat disc of dough topped with sauce and, today, almost anything coming to your mind, came straight from Napoli. Whether you believe the story about Pizza Margherita being invented by Raffaele Esposito, the pizzaiolo of Pizzeria Brandi, or if the whole thing was just a smart renaming of an existing pizza, the Neapolitan style was always a rather simple one far from today's excessive toppings. Neapolitan pizza is mainly a simple item: common toppings are the aforementioned Margherita, tomato, fiordilatte (cow milk mozzarella), and basil: marinara (a delicious one depicted above), with tomato, oregano and garlic; or simple modifications of these two.
This simple view of pizza has been progressively disappearing or is sometimes unknown, especially abroad, and often, even today, unrecognizable thick dough pies topped with a nightmare of ingredients, end up being sold as the "real Italian thing". It is therefore understandable that the Neapolitans Pizzaioli tried to protect their tradition with the creation of the Verace Pizza Napoletana association. This association pushed to have a law approved defining what the standards to call a pizza a real Pizza Napoletana DOC are.
This has lead to quite a lot of criticism both in Italy and abroad. This has ranged to a general opposition to the idea that a recipe can be forced through law to attacks on the technical details. Marco was kind enough to discuss his critiques to the law proposal back at the time of my first post. Talking to him I understood that his informed criticism is not against the regulation itself, rather against seeing this as a set of rules set in stone. The published regulation should rather serve as a guide line. To make his point Marco showed me a simple particular of a pizza made not following the regulation. In the pictures below you can see a pizza made with crescito, i.e. sourdough, which should be used in a proportion of 1 to 5% of the total water, and using a higher water to flour ratio. Now, I love sourdough pizza. I made sourdough pizza myself once, and even in my puny home oven the 48 hours old dough gave results I never achieved with yeast, both in taste and, especially, texture.
What is important to notice is the puffed and airy look of the crust in what we Neapolitans call cornicione or the pizza rind. I can't believe how many people throw this part away. I always thought it was the part where you can taste the real flavor of the dough, unadulterated by the topping, an important parameter to judge quality to my eyes. Marco, on the other hand showed me another reason to look at the cornicione closely: a pizza made with a very soft dough, properly ripened and baked using a wood burning oven at the right temperature will give a delicious bubbly cornicione. A pizza made with the official recipe instead will give you a cornicione full of crumb. Which is bad, at least in my book. Many pizzaioli today prefer working with a dough that is not as soft as the one traditionally used, either because it makes their work easier or because they never learned to handle such a dough. The regulation reflects this calling for less water than what Marco used here.
Thanks to Marco for this interesting pizza quality lesson.
P.S. After the proposed regulation was published Marco wrote to the responsible Ministry to complain about some aspects that to him were not exact. In response to this the regulation now includes sourdough as a possible rising agent. Good Work!