I am not afraid. The way the Italians build their ovens is antiquarian, wasteful, and inefficient. They make a lovely pizza, but it is in spite of the oven, not because of it.
Not sure whether I agree with the statement "In spite of the oven". I do admit that they are not thermally efficient by a long shot, but the Italians seems to focus on:
1. Getting the balance between top and bottom cooking right. With their mix of different materials (santa maria bricks for the dome, biscotto di sorrento for the hearth, neapolitan vents, whatever secret mixture of stuff goes underneath the hearth etc. etc.) This is an area we (on pizzamaking.com) are only just recently starting to get to grips with. The thread about about Reverse Engineering Biscotto di Sorrento was hugely illuminating in this regard. From what I can gather Shuboyje (Jeff) got it right with his choice of the Whitacre Greer bricks, but for other people (like me in NZ where it practically impossible to get these), it is much more difficult to achieve the same balance with the materials (and experience) that is available to us. Obviously the Italians have been refining their process through about three centuries now, so it not surprising that we are playing catch-up in this regard.
2. The ability to cook huge amounts of pizze hour after hour, without losing that balance as per item 1. Obviously this is a function of thermal mass AND maintaining balance.
The thermal efficiency is obviously a distant third for them and I can fully understand that. I think TXCraig can too: I think it is unlikely he his going to swap his Acunto for anything more thermally efficient soon :-)
Re-reading Marco Parente's posts from way back when seem more illuminating now than when I first read them. I recall a post where he said that he could pretty much cook a perfect single pizza in any WFO, but to do this hour after hour in a commercial setting was a completely different proposition. Also said something along the lines of (paraphrased): if you have a good neapolitan pizza oven it works with
you rather than against
you (which is what you end up doing with a less well designed version).
Edit: all this relates to NP pizze only with their extremely short cooking times which is where all these factors become so much more important