Pizza Olympics in Naples attracts masters from world over

By Ayesha Bhatti
Correspondent, SAM Daily Times

"He almost had my name," adds Masa with a grin. "I had to choose that name for my restaurant." Masa is one of 15 Japanese chefs in Naples to meet his Italian and international counterparts at the Pizza Olympics, which has organised workshops, seminars and events for those who love to eat and make pizza. "We've launched a very specific gathering, focusing on products, preparation and the make-up of pizza," says Massimo Di Porzio, vice president of the Association of Real Neapolitan Pizza (AVPN). Events range from a seminar on working dough by hand, to another entitled Lactic Bacteria and Yiest as Instruments to Improved Leavened Dough.

"Our chemical analysis focuses on flour, tomato, mozzarella and olive oil, the best products for making a true Naples pizza," says Professor Vincenzo Sogliano from the department of food science at the University Federico II in Naples. That simple recipe is spreading across the world, says Los

The Olympics of the True Pizza is under way in Naples, famous the world over for its hallmark thick-crusted dough and some of the best pizza makers in the country. For the past three days, it has also played host to pizza makers from less predictable locations. "The biggest satisfaction is having Neapolitans at the end of the meal compliment you for the pizza," says Masa, a Japanese pizza chef from Osaka, where he runs a restaurant with an Italian-sounding name, Masaniello. The name also happens to be that of a Neapolitan fisherman who became the leader of the revolt against Habsburg rule in Naples in 1647.

Angeles pizza maker Anthony Carron. "In my restaurant 800 Degrees, we make the real Neapolitan pizza that I learned how to make from Peppe Miele, a Neapolitan who has brought true pizza to the US for years. I got my love of pizza as a college student in Minneapolis. There was a great Italian pizzeria nearby and I loved it. I even tried to get them to hire me but they wouldn't. But pizza was still in my destiny."

Carron says he gets his ingredients from an Italian farmer in Los Angeles named Mimmo Bruno, who makes his own mozzarella and burrata cheeses. "I'm teaching Americans how to love real pizza. They're used to crispy pizza. Eating my pizza for the first time always provokes interesting reactions. But they always love it and come back for more," he says. The battle against crispy pizza apparently stretches all the way to Russia, where Alex Sanduliak manages the Lucky Luciano pizzeria. "It's not for gangsters," he jokes. "It's for families who love simple Neapolitan pizza, as opposed to, let's say, American pizza.

"I import all of my ingredients from Italy, and the taste makes customers immediately forget their habit for crunchy pizza."

Visitors at the Pizza Olympics say that Eastern Europe is hungry for genuine pizza, however the challenges are many, according to Dragan Petkovic of Belgrade. "I learned how to make pizza in Naples a year ago from Gianni Improta in his pizzeria Al 22, but at the moment in my pizzeria Big Pizza I only make focaccia.

"A wood-burning oven costs roughly 8,500 euros and I can't afford that." Nevertheless, genuine Neapolitan pizza is making its way across the world, says association president Antonio Pace. "Next year,' he says, "we'll bring this event all over Europe, from Paris to London and Madrid to Berlin, to broaden our horizons even more."


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