Pizza, I enjoy very much reading your posts... They show passion, deep knowledge and respect for the tradition.
This is matter for a different thread, but I am curious to learn your take about certain things surrounding the tradition of Neapolitan pizza.
I am talking about certain philosophical, environmental and cultural aspects that have not much to do with the pizza itself but with the experience surrounding the same.
Napoli is for the most part of a poor city with a rich past. The masses eat pizza and pizza is a poor's lunch, yet enjoyed by people of different socio-economic background. When I was a college student, I would take a lunch break, go to Mezzocannone or Forcella with a few friends and a few thousand liras in my pocket (less than $5) and get an incredibly satisfying pizza experience, loud, old place, little service, a coke or a beer to go with it. The pizza was big, never precut, the place loud, the ambience colorful, and the lunch CHEAP. These surrounding factors were, IMHO, as much part of the experience as the pizza itself.
You know that the place was in business to make money, but never felt that it was about money. It was about feeding people with something simple, enjoyable and enormously creative at the same time, catering to the students, as well as to the professors, to the blue collar as well as to the local bank employee. And doing it the same way, it had been done for generations…
I struggle constantly to get full enjoyment of Neapolitan pizza in New York (or anywhere else in the United States), no matter how much the pizzerias try to make me like it. There is something missing, almost philosophical in nature. Perhaps it is a form of commercialization that I find almost vulgar.
Any time I step into (almost) any Neapolitan pizzerias in New York, there is something that screams at me about money and business first. The precut slices and the overprices pies (of course I understand that rent and everything is very expensive in New York); perhaps, the "franchisization" of the experience. Michele, Di Matteo, Trianon, did not open a franchise for years.
There is something about some places that feels plasticky, almost artificial, in a way that you do not find in other successful establishments. And I understand that for the most part, these pizzeria are owned by Neapolitans.
You can Frenchify many Italian restaurants, make them nice and sparkly, and still get a great food experience. But can you do the same with Neapolitan pizza, without losing the essence of its experience, the philosophy behind it?