Author Topic: An observation: Neo-politan vs Neapolitan  (Read 6102 times)

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Offline hotsawce

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An observation: Neo-politan vs Neapolitan
« on: January 21, 2013, 02:30:27 PM »
Curious to know if anyone has made the observation I've made recently.

To me, it seems neapolitan style pizza has branched off a bit here in the states. There are a number of places claiming to be "Neapolitan style," but I'm noticing the doughs are entirely different.

The new American style neapolitan, in my opinion, seems to be much more firm...foldable...less wet. You can cut it easily with a pizza cutter.
The true Neapolitan style is much more wet....with, in my opinion, more supple and tender dough. I'd use Una Pizza as an example of the closest thing here in the states (I know, I know....why continue to bring him up.) Each awesome in their own right, but things I consider totally different.

But truthfully, I think it's something worth looking at, and I think the split is due to the focus on appearance, aka the "leopard spotting." Are we seeing changes in the characteristics of the dough simply to achieve black spotting on the crust?

What do you all think?


Offline TXCraig1

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Re: An observation: Neo-politan vs Neapolitan
« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2013, 02:55:46 PM »
I think we’ve had this discussion here a dozen times already. I don’t think anyone will argue that there are all sorts of pizza claiming to be Neapolitan. This is not only true here, but also in Naples. And, the changes aren’t limited to the dough - there are people claiming to make Neapolitan and using a deck oven – nor are the changes only about appearance.  This is why the discussion will never go anywhere. On one hand the answer is obvious, but on the other hand, the answer is so broad it avoids being pinned down.  Your view is a perfect example – you cite UPN as the closest thing in the US. I suspect some folks would strongly disagree with you; his dough workflow more closely resembles bread making than pizza making. 
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Offline andreguidon

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Re: An observation: Neo-politan vs Neapolitan
« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2013, 03:03:24 PM »
I live in Brazil so its hard to compare to Neapolitan in the US, but i was in Naples in May/June 2012 for 7 days, i had pizza in 5 or 6 places and they all where different, but basically i noticed the difference in dough hydration and sauce quantity, these 2 differences made "all the difference" because it made the dough wetter or dryer and crispier, but they all used flour+water+salt+yeast dough and canned tomatoes.
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Offline hotsawce

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Re: An observation: Neo-politan vs Neapolitan
« Reply #3 on: January 21, 2013, 03:41:08 PM »
No, the UPN reference is my lone personal opinion, not a broad painting of an opinion. But in any event, why would the work-flow matter? If this finished product is excellent, why be concerned with workflow. There could be more than one way to reach the same result.

I think we’ve had this discussion here a dozen times already. I don’t think anyone will argue that there are all sorts of pizza claiming to be Neapolitan. This is not only true here, but also in Naples. And, the changes aren’t limited to the dough - there are people claiming to make Neapolitan and using a deck oven – nor are the changes only about appearance.  This is why the discussion will never go anywhere. On one hand the answer is obvious, but on the other hand, the answer is so broad it avoids being pinned down.  Your view is a perfect example – you cite UPN as the closest thing in the US. I suspect some folks would strongly disagree with you; his dough workflow more closely resembles bread making than pizza making. 

Offline dellavecchia

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Re: An observation: Neo-politan vs Neapolitan
« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2013, 04:00:06 PM »
You bring up some excellent points. There are places in the US that serve pies just like you get in Naples. UPN is technically Neapolitan, but he uses a large percentage of starter as a levain instead of small amounts of yeast - a huge variance from the pizza making tradition in Naples. It is, as Craig pointed out, bread making and there are those who do not consider that acceptable as Neapolitan dough. There is a textural difference in the end product. But I actually agree with you in that the tried and true Naples traditions are being tested here in the US as the pizza grows out of it's infancy and the mystique around it subsides.

John

Offline RobynB

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Re: An observation: Neo-politan vs Neapolitan
« Reply #5 on: January 21, 2013, 05:01:44 PM »
UPN was the breadiest, chewiest, hardest-to-eat wood-fired pizza I've ever had, dry on the outside and certainly not wet in the middle.  It was the polar opposite of the soft, tender ideal that is neapolitan pizza. 

Sorry, just HAD to say that.  There is a huge range of pizza called "neapolitan" in the US and elsewhere, as others have said, but UPN is certainly not the best example of authentic neapolitan. 

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Re: An observation: Neo-politan vs Neapolitan
« Reply #6 on: January 21, 2013, 05:23:10 PM »
I agree there is a philosophical divide between those who strive for "authenticity" and those who are "inspired" by Naples pizza. Whether that translates to a clear differential in product, I'm not so sure. There is certainly room for both to thrive in the US. Where I am currently, in the UK, there is less fervour around "authentic" Neapolitan pizza although it is amply represented in London. I think brits just aren't as impressed by facsimile pizza from the "motherland". Especially when Naples is geographically closer. For what it's worth, I tend to fall into the "Naples inspired" camp especially where sourcing of ingredients is concerned.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2013, 05:27:17 PM by enter8 »

Offline TXCraig1

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Re: An observation: Neo-politan vs Neapolitan
« Reply #7 on: January 21, 2013, 05:39:11 PM »
But in any event, why would the work-flow matter? If this finished product is excellent, why be concerned with workflow. There could be more than one way to reach the same result.

OK, true enough, but why then why do the ingredients matter? Why does the oven matter? The bottom line is there is true Neapolitan, and there is everything else. And everything else is really really big. And as you observed, it’s getting bigger every day.

My comment about UPN’s workflow was just to make a point – that, as John D. noted, it does matter to some people who care deeply about Neapolitan pizza. Some people think UPN has “branched off” as you put it. My point is that what defines “branched off” varies galactically from one person to another.

There are 10’s of millions of people in this country who believe the diced tomato, dry part-skim mozz, and shredded basil on a par-baked crust they get from their local pizzeria is a Neapolitan Margherita pizza (and probably a great one for that matter). That’s how big this discussion is. On one hand you have this group of people, and on the other you have the people who don’t think UPN is Neapolitan because of the way they make their dough. It makes the concept of “branched off” meaningless outside of the context of true Neapolitan vs. everything else. That or somebody has to make the arbitrary decision of just how far you can branch off true Neapolitan before you have really branched off.

I don’t disagree with your overall observation about differences. Even limiting the discussion to only those restaurants that you and I might consider Neapolitan, I think we’re seeing places trying to differentiate by making more visually stunning pies via exaggerated leoparding (in some cases to the detriment of the pizza). I think we’re seeing thicker crusts and drier centers at least partially because the operators don’t have the skills to execute 60-90 second pies. I think we see all sorts of new toppings because this is America, and we like lots of stuff on our pizza. I think there is no shortage of operators who simply don’t know and are serving their best guess.  I think some operators do things differently because they believe it will be better received by their customers that way (if you grew up with Domino’s, NP is probably “burnt” to you). I think there are as many reasons why we we’re seeing branching off as there are pizzerias making “Neapolitan” pizza.

This isn’t new, and it’s not going to change. The number of people in the US who know true Neapolitan pizza is infinitesimal. The number who care is even smaller. In this country, taste, appearance, hype, value, etc. are going to continue to drive success – not strict adherence to tradition.
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Offline Chicago Bob

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Re: An observation: Neo-politan vs Neapolitan
« Reply #8 on: January 21, 2013, 09:03:33 PM »


This isn’t new, and it’s not going to change. The number of people in the US who know true Neapolitan pizza is infinitesimal. The number who care is even smaller. In this country, taste, appearance, hype, value, etc. are going to continue to drive success – not strict adherence to tradition.

This is so sad and oh so true. The crafting of NP pizza has gone the way of P.T. Barnum business model before it ever even had a fair chance..... ::)
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Offline shuboyje

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Re: An observation: Neo-politan vs Neapolitan
« Reply #9 on: January 21, 2013, 09:13:36 PM »
There are 10’s of millions of people in this country who believe the diced tomato, dry part-skim mozz, and shredded basil on a par-baked crust they get from their local pizzeria is a Neapolitan Margherita pizza (and probably a great one for that matter). That’s how big this discussion is. On one hand you have this group of people, and on the other you have the people who don’t think UPN is Neapolitan because of the way they make their dough. It makes the concept of “branched off” meaningless outside of the context of true Neapolitan vs. everything else. That or somebody has to make the arbitrary decision of just how far you can branch off true Neapolitan before you have really branched off.

Your so right Craig, and the sad thing is these people aren't even the ones that bother me most.  The ones that kill me are in the next group.  They eat 2-3 minute americanized Neapolitan that is made in a wood fired oven and think they are eating the real thing.  When the first VPN pizzeria in Michigan opened a few years ago this group FLOCKED to Yelp and nearly drove them out of business with their horrible reviews of this "wet, soggy, soupy" pizza that was obviously made by people who had no clue.  I got a personal thank you from the owner after I set them straight even when my own review was less then stellar(for other reasons, the pizza WAS Neapolitan but wasn't particularly good Neapolitan).
-Jeff


Offline Chicago Bob

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Re: An observation: Neo-politan vs Neapolitan
« Reply #10 on: January 21, 2013, 09:40:14 PM »
In Durham,NC. people go ga-ga over "NP" pizza cooked in a 600 degree WFO oven. Makes me  ::)....used to make me wanna smack somebody but I am recently the kinder more....Bob.  :o
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Offline David Deas

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Re: An observation: Neo-politan vs Neapolitan
« Reply #11 on: January 21, 2013, 10:45:02 PM »
UPN was the breadiest, chewiest, hardest-to-eat wood-fired pizza I've ever had, dry on the outside and certainly not wet in the middle.  It was the polar opposite of the soft, tender ideal that is neapolitan pizza.  

Sorry, just HAD to say that.  There is a huge range of pizza called "neapolitan" in the US and elsewhere, as others have said, but UPN is certainly not the best example of authentic neapolitan.  

I would just be mindful that authentic does not necessarily mean good.  Most of the authentic VPN certified places I've ever been to suck.

I really don't know if you can place ideals like 'soft, wet, crispy and tender' as requirements for Neapolitan pizza.  I think, like most dishes, it is the preparation that is important in defining the dish.  I think of BBQ, for example, and there is no requirement that your meat be tender, smokey, moist and flavorful.  It can be tough, dry, smokeless and bland and still qualify as authentic BBQ.  Even if the meat tastes much better, if it was prepared in an oven then it is not BBQ.

UPN may not be authentic Neapolitan pizza, but I don't think it's good to say its not authentic because it was crap.  All we would have there is 100% authentic crap.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2013, 10:59:39 PM by David Deas »

Offline Chicago Bob

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Re: An observation: Neo-politan vs Neapolitan
« Reply #12 on: January 21, 2013, 11:00:17 PM »


UPN may not be authentic Neapolitan pizza, but I don't think it's good to say its not authentic simply because it was crap.  
Robyn said....."It was the polar opposite of the soft, tender ideal that is neapolitan pizza."  
Crap or not, David, your response is an oxymoron. Think about it...

"may not be"  ;)
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Offline scott123

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Re: An observation: Neo-politan vs Neapolitan
« Reply #13 on: January 21, 2013, 11:01:25 PM »
I think that the idea that Americanized adulterated 'Neapolitan' pizza is overshadowing the real deal and that it will continue to overshadow it isn't correct. Historically, yes, places would, much like the term 'margherita,' throw around 'Neapolitan' without any clue as to what it meant.  But, now, the number of authentic Neapolitan restaurants is growing.  I gave Cane Rosso a little flack over what I felt could have been underfermented dough (which didn't even turn out to be case), but this doesn't change the fact that they're educating tens of thousands of people to what Neapolitan style pizza really is in an area, where, ten years ago, there most likely wasn't a lot of knowledge on this subject. This isn't just happening in Texas.  This is happening all over the place.  With every hugely successful Neapolitan pizzeria, ignorance fades.

That's on the eating front.  That's experiencing the truth directly.  But you also have the written word.  I'd like to think that this forum has directly impacted the national conversation and that this impact is in some way trickling down.  Yes, we are hobbyists at heart, but this is as close as you can get to a brain trust for pizza.  Kenji will be coming out with his book this year, and it will most likely include a recipe for 4 minute Neapolitan (and it will crush my soul), but Slice has done great work in this area as well.

In other words, we care.  And we have influence. And that influence is slowly spreading.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2013, 11:03:01 PM by scott123 »

Offline Chicago Bob

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Re: An observation: Neo-politan vs Neapolitan
« Reply #14 on: January 21, 2013, 11:11:45 PM »
I hope you are right....but....there are hundreds of thousands more people patronizing the unreal joints to overshadow your hopefuls. And Kenji(Alt) whomever sure as hell ain't help'in...period.
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Offline David Deas

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Re: An observation: Neo-politan vs Neapolitan
« Reply #15 on: January 21, 2013, 11:14:20 PM »
Robyn said....."It was the polar opposite of the soft, tender ideal that is neapolitan pizza."  
Crap or not, David, your response is an oxymoron. Think about it...

"may not be"  ;)

I read Robyn's statement "ideal that *is* Neapolitan pizza" to mean that Neapolitan pizza *is* soft and tender; pizza that is not soft and tender cannot be Neapolitan.  

While I understand Robyn's sentiments, I do think UPN makes Neapolitan pizza because 95% of what he does is taken from Naples.  And the culture of pizza making isn't monolithic even in Naples.  Whether its good or not, or Anthony was having an off night when Robyn visited, I don't know.

The "may not be" comes in because I fully recognize that Tony's breadmaking procedures are often a point of ridicule whenever it comes to evaluating the authenticity of his work.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2013, 11:24:45 PM by David Deas »

Offline Chicago Bob

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Re: An observation: Neo-politan vs Neapolitan
« Reply #16 on: January 21, 2013, 11:19:34 PM »
Well, I guess there are some "crisp" parts on it too.... ;D
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Offline scott123

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Re: An observation: Neo-politan vs Neapolitan
« Reply #17 on: January 21, 2013, 11:34:46 PM »
And Kenji(Alt) whomever sure as hell ain't help'in...period.


No, he's not, but there's always opportunities for correction.  I got in Nathan Myhrvold's face about his bake time claims in Modernist Cuisine, and he eventually corrected them:

http://modernistcuisine.com/corrections-and-clarifications/

Quote
On page 2·27, in step 6, “1˝–2 min” should read “2–7 min” and the step should further note that “the exact timing varies from one oven to another.” In step 7, “By the two-minute mark, the pizza should be done. Remove it from the oven” should read “Once the top of the pizza crust turns brown, remove the pizza from the oven.”


He still has a few more corrections to make :) but it doesn't change the fact that authors can be led to see the errors of their ways. Reinhart doesn't seem to be writing any more books on pizza, but, if he did, it wouldn't have nearly as much misinformation as American Pie.

Maybe I'm being overly optimistic, but I see Neapolitan 'truth' spreading/taking over.  I would KILL to see this same move towards enlightenment on the NY side. If you want to talk about hopeless...
« Last Edit: January 22, 2013, 07:20:32 AM by scott123 »

Offline shuboyje

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Re: An observation: Neo-politan vs Neapolitan
« Reply #18 on: January 21, 2013, 11:42:59 PM »
I too hope you are correct Scott, but I don't see even an iota of it here.  Although Detroit proper is shrinking in population by the minute Metropolitan Detroit is still one of the nations largest population centers.  In all of Metropolitan Detroit serving over 4 million people there are:
0 Real Neapolitan Ovens
1 VPN Pizzeria
~25 Americanized Neapolitan Pizzerias and growing by the day

Guess who get's all the press?  Guess who wins the awards?  Guess the bake time of places that win awards such as "Best Neapolitan Pizza"?  Guess which one recently made a top 10 list in national press?

I think that the idea that Americanized adulterated 'Neapolitan' pizza is overshadowing the real deal and that it will continue to overshadow it isn't correct. Historically, yes, places would, much like the term 'margherita,' throw around 'Neapolitan' without any clue as to what it meant.  But, now, the number of authentic Neapolitan restaurants is growing.  I gave Cane Rosso a little flack over what I felt could have been underfermented dough (which didn't even turn out to be case), but this doesn't change the fact that they're educating tens of thousands of people to what Neapolitan style pizza really is in an area, where, ten years ago, there most likely wasn't a lot of knowledge on this subject. This isn't just happening in Texas.  This is happening all over the place.  With every hugely successful Neapolitan pizzeria, ignorance fades.

That's on the eating front.  That's experiencing the truth directly.  But you also have the written word.  I'd like to think that this forum has directly impacted the national conversation and that this impact is in some way trickling down.  Yes, we are hobbyists at heart, but this is as close as you can get to a brain trust for pizza.  Kenji will be coming out with his book this year, and it will most likely include a recipe for 4 minute Neapolitan (and it will crush my soul), but Slice has done great work in this area as well.

In other words, we care.  And we have influence. And that influence is slowly spreading.
-Jeff

Offline TXCraig1

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Re: An observation: Neo-politan vs Neapolitan
« Reply #19 on: January 21, 2013, 11:47:44 PM »
I gave Cane Rosso a little flack over what I felt could have been underfermented dough (which didn't even turn out to be case), but this doesn't change the fact that they're educating tens of thousands of people to what Neapolitan style pizza really is in an area, where, ten years ago, there most likely wasn't a lot of knowledge on this subject. This isn't just happening in Texas.  This is happening all over the place.  With every hugely successful Neapolitan pizzeria, ignorance fades.

That's on the eating front.  That's experiencing the truth directly.  But you also have the written word.  I'd like to think that this forum has directly impacted the national conversation and that this impact is in some way trickling down.  Yes, we are hobbyists at heart, but this is as close as you can get to a brain trust for pizza.  Kenji will be coming out with his book this year, and it will most likely include a recipe for 4 minute Neapolitan (and it will crush my soul), but Slice has done great work in this area as well.

In other words, we care.  And we have influence. And that influence is slowly spreading.

I agree with you to a very limited extent on the Cane Rossos out there, however, I think you are overly optimistic on the influence of this forum. Of the 20,000 or so members, only about 10% have more than 5 posts - let's say those are the folks with meaningful interest. I think that's generous. For each interested member, perhaps there are 4 serious human guests. About 10% of the posts here are in the NP forum. Let's use that as a proxy for interest in NP. If each member and guest interested in NP then told 10 people meaningful information about NP, and they each told 10 more people with zero overlap at any level along the way, then 0.03% of the country might have been influenced by this forum with respect to NP. That's 3 people out of every 10,000, and my guess is that's a big overestimate. I bet it's less than 1/10 of that. I'm not trying to diminish this forum. It has an important purpose, but it is not and never will be to educate the masses on NP.
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