Naples throws pizza party over UNESCO recog­ni­tion

The Jakarta Post - - WORLD - Ella Ide

Proud pizza-mak­ers and eaters in the Ital­ian city of Naples were so sure their his­tor­i­cal spe­cialty would win UNESCO her­itage sta­tus that they were pound­ing the dough and chew­ing it up in cel­e­bra­tion even be­fore the dis­tinc­tion was an­nounced on Thurs­day.

“Af­ter 250 years wait­ing, the pizza is UNESCO her­itage! Con­grat­u­la­tions Naples!” cried piz­za­iuolo (pizza maker) Enzo Coc­cia as crowds in the street out­side the Sor­billo pizze­ria erupted into cheers. It did not mat­ter that the cul­tural body’s World Her­itage Com­mit­tee was still hours away from declar­ing it “in­tan­gi­ble her­itage”: For these spe­cial­ists, there was no chance the world-fa­mous dish could lose.

Ahead of Thurs­day’s an­nounce­ment, discs of floury dough flew through the air as ju­bi­lant piz­za­iuoli feted their art of pizza mak­ing — from the wooden ovens used, to the spec­tac­u­lar han­dling of the mix to “oxy­genate” it. Pass­ing fam­i­lies and youth whizzing by on scoot­ers stopped to grab fresh slices drip­ping melted moz­zarella as a man with a gui­tar burst into a song ded­i­cated to the Ital­ian del­i­cacy.

With the news of the vic­tory early Thurs­day morn­ing, other chefs be­gan hand­ing out free pizza to lo­cals and tourists in the south­ern city who paid ho­mage to pizza’s so­cial and cul­tural role.

“How perfect to cel­e­brate with pizza for break­fast. The word pizza must be the most fa­mous in the world in ev­ery lan­guage and now ev­ery­one knows we in­vented it!” said Marco Toeldo, 47, who was on his third slice.

Rita Rollen, a pen­sioner who stopped for a bite, said she was “re­ally happy. In­stead of the Camorra [the city’s pow­er­ful mafia], we are be­ing rec­og­nized for some­thing pos­i­tive for once! Some­thing de­li­cious.”

Sal­va­tore Stile said he hoped for­eign­ers would now re­al­ize “a pizza some­where like Lon­don is not the same be­cause the in­gre­di­ents are not as good qual­ity. Pizza mak­ing is a se­ri­ous thing.”

Down the cen­turies, the Neapoli­tan art of pizza mak­ing has been based “on a few key el­e­ments: water, flour, salt and yeast — and the ex­cel­lent pro­duce from the Cam­pa­nia coun­try­side,” Coc­cia said as he pounded the dough. “But it is also the hands, heart and soul of the piz­za­iuolo that al­low us to make magic,” he added, de­scrib­ing stretch­ing and turn­ing the dough as “a love and pas­sion that we trans­mit to oth­ers.”

The pizza’s hum­ble an­ces­tor, a plain af­fair topped with lard, was born less as an act of love than as a cheap, easy and fast way to feed the city’s poor in the 18th cen­tury.

“In around 1750 the first pizza ap­peared in the tav­erns, af­ter which peo­ple be­gan to spe­cial­ize as pizza chefs,” said historian An­to­nio Mat­tozzi. “By the end of the 18th cen­tury, the first pizze­rias were born.”

How­ever, de­spite be­ing an im­me­di­ate hit with the lo­cals, pizza failed to take off out­side the city at first, he told AFP.

The story goes that it was 19th cen­tury Queen Margherita’s love of the clas­sic tomato, moz­zarella and basil ver­sion that fired up the imag­i­na­tion and taste buds of din­ers far and wide.

AFP/Tiziana Fabi

Tasty legacy: Neapoli­tan pizza mak­ers pose with a pizza to cel­e­brate the UNESCO de­ci­sion to make the art of the Neapoli­tan piz­za­iuolo an “in­tan­gi­ble her­itage” on Thurs­day in Naples.

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