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« Trinacria amore mio | Main | Word of the year »

November 30, 2004



che bonta'!


I'm wondering why there isn't any seafood mentioned in the marinara pizza? As far as I'm aware (my family are Italian/Australian) marinara pizzas and pastas include seafood - hence the name (coming from the Italian word for ocean: mare).
Many Australian have been confused about this when we hear on American TV shows and movies about marinara sauce - which is nothing but a simple tomato sauce (what Australians and Italians know as napolitana sauce).
What happened to the name that in one country it changed its meaning? I'm quite curious. Does anyone have any ideas?


Niki, marinara in Naples and most of Italy has no seafood. Pizza was, and still is, a poor dish in Naples and fancy expensive ingredients, like seafood, are mostly a recent addition. The name comes from marinaio, mariner, so it's pizza mariner style. Pizza with seafood is usually called pizza ai frutti di mare (simply a translation).

The topic of Italian recipe names is quite complex. Italy doesn't have a codified cuisine like France, for historical reasons, since it became a united country only in the second half of the XIX century. So you can find a recipe with a name having many different meanings. For example: names like bolognese or neapolitana are not used in Italy, except maybe for tourists. Bolognese's proper name is ragu' Bolognese, to distinguish it from other ragu' throughout Italy. In Bologna you'd just find it as ragu' in menus. Neapolitana is something I've only seen used for pizza in Italy (marinara, the one in the picture, plus anchovies). Ironicaly the dish is often called pizza Romana in Naples.

What happened to the names once they left Italy is even more hard to say. One possibility is the following. Sometimes a certain name established itseld because most immigrants came from a particular region in Italy and they brought their local names with them. These names established themselves abroad while they slowly disapeared and changed in Italy.

Confused? Me too :-).


Yes, it certainly makes for a fascinating linguistic study!
My Nonna (from Veneto) has always referred to her bolognese sauce as ragu, which confused my school friends no end when I'd say "no...it's not bolognese...it's ragu...and it's fantastic, so there!".
Both her and my godfather from Rome have always referred to a pizza with tomato sauce, anchovies and black olives as a pizza napoli, but also give the same name to a pasta with just a plain tomato sauce!
Actually, after writing my last comment I remembered that in Australia occasionally pizza or pasta with seafood is also known as pescatore, as well as marinara. Not entirely accurate as it contains other seafood than fish....but there you go.
Certainly true about a non-codified language. Even today strong regional cuisine is maintained through Italy, as an indication of the separate countries/states they all were. In fact, my nonni had never even tasted pizza until they migrated to Australia in the 1950s!!


Is it true that Pizza from Naples is so good because of the special Naples water?


I am a big fan of the sourdough pizza myself but to tell the truth I disagree on your water to flour ratio. I keep it slightly lower than you do. I may lose something in softness but I gain in "aroma" and chewiness. And I still get better results with yeasts than "crescito" even though I am about to close the gap. The problem is that in the Bronx I hardly find the right ingredients. My sister (she wrote just before me) believes that the water here sucks as well. But even with San Pellegrino in the dough the results were not as good as in Genoa or Naples.


Cari gigiuli: credete che non vi abbia riconosciuto marrani ;-)? Come state Genovesi d'America?

Sorry, let me go back to the point for the other readers too.

water: Napoli used to have a very soft water (i.e. low on salts) which some argue is very good for pizza. Today the water supply is not exactly as good (so to say ;-))so I would argue that, as almost always the case, what counts is the experience of the pizzaioli.

Some interesting info on water's effect on baking can be found here:

Corrado, are you really making pizza yourself? I'm shocked! Since when did you start baking?... or are you just trying to impress the ladies :-D?

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