Author Topic: Pizza Napoletana in NYC  (Read 8842 times)

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Offline pftaylor

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Pizza Napoletana in NYC
« on: December 03, 2006, 08:59:19 AM »
After spending the recent holiday in NYC I have had a few days to contemplate the state of Neapolitan pizza in the big apple. One question I simply have a hard time answering is why is there such a lack of true Neapolitan pizzerias? And I don't mean the countless establishments that advertise themselves as authentic to charge higher prices but really aren't. I mean an honest-to-goodness Neapolitan pizzeria which could go toe-to-toe with the real ones in Napoli.

I'm beginning to believe pizzanapoletana when he states that there really isn't one. Not a single one. Not one? Hard to believe but I think he may be right. According to the mainstream media and several members here (whose opinion I respect immensely) UPN is as good as it gets. Unfortunately, UPN does not qualify in my mind. I would be willing to agree that UPN makes a "Neapolitan Style" but not the real McCoy. Since I've never had the real thing, I can't be 100% sure about my position but if I'm wrong on that point then I will end my pizza journey right now and proclaim NY style pies the best available.

I'm struggling on another point as well. When the Italians began immigrating En masse to NYC around the early parts of the last century surely a few of them were pizza makers. Where did they go? Further, NYC is the home to authentic restaurants of nearly every culture and country. Some say the ethnic restaurants in NYC are better than what's available in the mother country. So what has happened to authentic Neapolitan pizzerias?
« Last Edit: December 03, 2006, 09:03:08 AM by pftaylor »
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Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: Pizza Napoletana in NYC
« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2006, 09:31:52 AM »
pftaylor:

Just part of the answer: Compared to standard NYC pizza fare (of all varieties), really good, authentic Neapolitan pizza requires a great deal more skill and effort to produce. The $35 billion pizza industry has succeeded in the proliferation of dumbed-down pizza that can be made by low-paid, high-turnover staff who lack the passion needed for great pies, even in ethnic-food centers like NYC.

Perhaps?

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Offline Arthur

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Re: Pizza Napoletana in NYC
« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2006, 12:18:04 PM »
Many years ago I asked an uncle (Italian American) who left NY for Florida after years of living near me in New York, how the pizza was in Florida.  I had heard about some "good" pizza place near where he was living in Florida.   His response (which I'll never forget) was "if they were really that good they would be in New York".   I think the same holds true for Neapolitan pizza - if they were really that good they would be in Naples.

My other response (being a New Yorker myself) is the undeniable chutzpah of New Yorkers believing that they can do things better than anyone else - of course I believe that too  ;)
« Last Edit: December 03, 2006, 05:47:37 PM by Arthur »

Offline pizzanapoletana

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Re: Pizza Napoletana in NYC
« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2006, 04:30:15 PM »
When the Italians began immigrating En masse to NYC around the early parts of the last century surely a few of them were pizza makers. Where did they go?

Peter,

Surely THERE WERE NOT!!! That is my point! No single true pizzamaker left Naples at the beginning of the century (1900s) to set up pizzeria in USA. Many Campanian and Neapolitan did indeed emigrate, but these were farmers (and many of them  were surely great homebakers as they still are) and jobless people.

I even had a discussion in Naples with an Historian and supporting member of "associazione pizzaiuoli napoletani"(association of Neapolitan pizzamaker) and he told me the same thing. These people knew pizza as consumer not as producer. That is the point... Luzzo is the last example of this: Michele comes from the farmland near Caserta were almost everyone has a bread oven in the house (NB Bread, not pizza oven) and would bake their own bread weekly. He then worked in restaurants and had recently the opportunity to take over a pizzeria. He came out with a good product, surely a good pizza with authentic toppings and probably very close to Pizza Napoletana, and considering that he really DOESN'T know how to make the authentic thing, he is doing a good job.

there are surely a couple of place in US but I cannot see anyone in NYC making an authentic product.

Ciao

Offline gschwim

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Re: Pizza Napoletana in NYC
« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2006, 04:54:44 PM »
Interesting comments above and yet, the question remains:  In all the 100+ years since the founding of the first pizzeria in the U.S. and with all the millions of Italians who have emigrated to the U.S., it's interesting that, apparently, not one true Italian pizzaiolo has wanted to emigrate to the U.S. to introduce true Italian pizza here, especially since, at least in NYC and L.A., it would seem to have such an obvious commercial potential.  (I mean, how many Japanese chefs have come here to introduce us to authentic Sushi?)  Alternatively, why has no American chosen to go to Italy to train and then set up an authentic restaurant here -- or if someone has, why, if, as I assume, someone has imported a genuine Italian wood-buring oven, had it installed by a master Italian oven-maker and imported authentic Italian ingredients, does the pizza not come out authentic?

Offline scott r

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Re: Pizza Napoletana in NYC
« Reply #5 on: December 04, 2006, 01:55:53 AM »

I'm beginning to believe pizzanapoletana when he states that there really isn't one. Not a single one. Not one? Hard to believe but I think he may be right. According to the mainstream media and several members here (whose opinion I respect immensely) UPN is as good as it gets. Unfortunately, UPN does not qualify in my mind. I would be willing to agree that UPN makes a "Neapolitan Style" but not the real McCoy. Since I've never had the real thing, I can't be 100% sure about my position but if I'm wrong on that point then I will end my pizza journey right now and proclaim NY style pies the best available.


Pete, I can definitely say that UPN is not authentic pizza napoletana.  It took me some time and a trip to naples to understand why this is the case.  On top of that the UPN pizza has dropped in quality lately.  He has always cooked his pizza a little too long, but at one time it still had decent texture and excellent flavor.  His pies were all about flavor, with his extremely sour dough, extra basil, and very heavy handed use of olive oil.  Now his crust flavor is gone, his texture has hardened up, and all we are left with is a dry flavorless dough.  Very sad.  I wish you could have had it when it was good.  Authentic Neapolitan-not, but good pizza for the US yes! 

The way I see it is that the lack of real Neapolitan ovens in this country is holding everyone back.  Let's face it, how many of the ovens over here can do large runs of pizzas in 1.5 minutes or less.  So far there are none that I know if in NYC, and only a few in the country.  Just recently we have had a few places bring in the proper oven, and I think this is going to change things for the better.   I have not tried these places, but I would imagine Spacca Napoli in Chicago, and Bettola in Alabama probably have an authentic product.  Via Tribunale in Seattle is supposedly about to trade up to a real Neapolitan built oven.  Il Pizzaiolo in Pitsburgh is about to have one installed in February as well, although I love their pizza as is.

Something I often wonder about is if New Yorkers are even going to prefer "authentic" Neapolitan pizza in the style of the really famous places in Naples.  Pete, I hear you comment on how you are looking for a crispy outer layer with a soft interior.  I have spent time on the phone talking to three people that have visited Da Michele in Naples and from what I can tell (also having visited Trianon myself) they do not have a crispy outer layer.  The crust is really really soft, but not crispy.  Is this something we as Americans are going to prefer?  I am not convinced that it is. With these quickly baked high hydration doughs you do get an absolutely mind blowing internal texture, but I am not sure that is enough to win over the masses.  Because of our preference for a slightly crispy pizza I think a 1-1.5 minute Caputo based pie is probably going to be most Americans ultimate version of a Neapolitan pizza.  The problem is that all the ovens I have seen in NY can't even bake a pie properly at these speeds. On top of that many of these places are using Caputo flour, which in my opinion has poor texture with bakes over 2 minutes.  Most of the NY "Neapolitan" pizzerias are doing 3 minute pies. Patsy's is probably the fastest and could do a great pie with their oven, but they are using the cheapest ingredients they can and lack consistency.   Luckily we now have companies like Forno Napoletano selling ovens over here at reasonable prices.  I think that very soon we are going to see a big increase in the quality of Neapolitan pizza in NYC when some new places open up, or some of the established pizzerias demolish the old ovens and install real Neapolitan ovens.

To sum up, I still don't think that anybody in NYC is even doing the slower, crisper version of a Neapolitan pie any justice.  UPN is out of the race.  Luzzo's has a great texture, but the crust and cheese flavors are just not there at all.   So far only one place here in the states that I have tried has been able to do a great "crispy Neapolitan" and it is Il Pizzaiolo in Pittsburgh. 

Offline pizzanapoletana

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Re: Pizza Napoletana in NYC
« Reply #6 on: December 04, 2006, 04:42:31 AM »
Nice post Scott.

gschwim,

When it comes to pizza, neapolitan is one thing and Italian is another (argubly for many other things, but this is another subject). Neapolitan pizza is called like that, and  throughout italy you may get authentic Neapolitan pizza and/or local variations. One thing to note is that the round pizza cooked in wood ovens was exported from Naples throughout Italy jusr after the Second world war much like it had happened in the states, by Campanian farmers with very few exeption being set up by Neapolitan Pizzaioli families (an handfull- e.g Florence, Rome).

Thus an Italian pizzaiolo may make pizza, but most probably it is Not Neapolitan Pizza. A Neapolitan Pizzaiolo, most probably will make only Pizza Napoletana.

Finally, A neapolitan pizza must be soft indeed, like Scott has pointed out, but even in Naples you may get "out of hours" slightly crispier pizza (very, very slightly). When I say out of hour, I mean out of the 13.30-15.00 lunch and 20.00-21.30 dinner services. This is due to the oven decreasing slightly of temperature and baking more closely to 90 seconds. In my book, if everything else is correct and the 90 seconds aren't really surpassed, the pizza still qualify as authentic. It is not what I prefer or I consider best (from an organolectic point of view as well) but it still good and really the outer layer is almost impercetible that you really need to be picky to complaint.

Ciao

Offline Arthur

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Re: Pizza Napoletana in NYC
« Reply #7 on: December 04, 2006, 09:45:49 AM »
Maybe a lesson from Milton Friedman would explain the reason.   The quest for more money takes over the quest for culinary greatness in the US.  Although the culinary greatness is highly acclaimed in Europe, the capitalistic enthusiasm typically take over for pizziolos here in the US.  You will have the occasional "I want to be traditional pizza maker" here in the US but overall the fundamentals of capitalism are too strong in the US.  That's why we have 90% of the population enjoying pizza like PizzaHut, Domino's, and so on.

I do still believe the immigrants always combine tradition with a "new world" experience to make a new recipe.

Offline David

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Re: Pizza Napoletana in NYC
« Reply #8 on: December 04, 2006, 10:14:57 AM »
With regard to Neapolitan style Pizza in NY/US I firmly believe that too many reviews have been written by people who have not tasted the real thing,are caught up in the PR machine,and think they know what they are writing about.Superlatives are thrown around like confetti.Totally unworthy products are hailed as the finest, authentic, etc.etc. just for the fact that they are different from the accepted norm (here).IMO I think some of the criticism now appearing seems harsh,due to the fact that the products were not that great in the first place.
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Offline pftaylor

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Re: Pizza Napoletana in NYC
« Reply #9 on: December 04, 2006, 10:47:39 AM »
scott r,
Interesting points. I want to expand a bit about my personal crust preferences. As you know, I feel pizza is crust.
I really couldn't tell you if I would prefer a true Neapolitan soft crust or not. Since I've never had the pleasure to eat at a true Neapolitan pizzeria I really don't know what I don't know. I can tell you that an ultra-thin crispy veneer surrounding a silly-soft middle is my ideal today. If Luzzo's crust had flavor and more salt that would just about define my ideal. Bianco's makes the best overall crust I have eaten but they do not make a Neapolitan pizza. More on that in a bit.

Also, I want to eat pizza with my hands. Not with a knife and a fork. I'm not saying that the Neapolitans have it wrong on this point but I want to be able to pick up the slice in one piece, hold it up for scrutiny and bite where I want to. Big bites, small bites, nibble here, nibble there, bursting a bubble with my teeth every once in a while (which is my personal favorite). I happen to think that picking up a slice is half the fun. No it is the fun. I enjoy the added dimension my finger tips feed back to my brain about what I'm about to enjoy. I want to be connected to the pizza. Seems to me that eating pizza with a knife and fork is a step removed from that notion. So if true Neapolitan crust doesn't lend itself to my ideal then you might be right. The other thing which bothers me about a Neapolitan Margherita is the tendency for pooling of the cheese and oil in the middle. I can't stand that. Wait a minute, the Margherita at Bianco's didn't pool so I know it can be done right. Right for me that is.

Spacca Napoli is an interesting case in point. They do have a proper Neapolitan oven which bakes a pie in 40 or so seconds. But things rapidly deviate from what I have come to understand as authentic from there. They have a diving arm mixer which is second best apparently. They have imported an Italian pizzaiola vs a Neapolitan one. Consequently they are not using some of the authentic ancient dough methods I have read about here from pizzanapoletana (which have subsequently been largely deleted for some reason). They do not use wild yeast consequently their crust is devoid of any substantial flavor. Their bufala soaks the middle of their unsliced Margherita. Adding all that up, they still produce a pie which kills UPN but not one which I would say is truly authentic. But since I have never eaten an authentic pie, all my points are opinions at best.

What I do know however is that I have eaten at Bianco's which makes a hybrid pie. The best definition I can offer for a hybrid pie is to take the best of NYC, California, Naples, and blend it all together with ultimate attention to quality and detail. Somehow it meets my expectations for a pizza exactly. Well almost exactly for I don't care for the 12" diameter. But they are sliced so at least Chris understands his market.
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Offline Arthur

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Re: Pizza Napoletana in NYC
« Reply #10 on: December 04, 2006, 11:05:54 AM »
I would like to point out something that I have unfortunately been seeing on these boards recently.  I certainly understand the reason to point out the incorrect usage of "Neapolitan Pizza" or real "NY Pizza" for the sake of confusion to the reader, but the real goal of many in this forum - myself included - is to build the best pie we can.   It may take until next week or (more likely) it may take a lifetime.   Yes it's true many would like to know how to build the "official" pie from these locales, but it's just to get a baseline.    I go on the premise that there exists a pizza that I personally (or someone in this forum) can create that is better than the pizza in NY and the pizza in Naples.  The more likely scenario (which I have begun) is creating a better pizza based on some combination of the two.   I don't think you should get hung up on "official".  If you like the pizza, then that's all that matters.  I have eaten in Naples and in NY and I may be crazy and hated on this forum for saying this, but I don't believe I have eaten the best pizza that can be made.

Offline scott r

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Re: Pizza Napoletana in NYC
« Reply #11 on: December 04, 2006, 11:52:28 AM »
Pete,  A few thoughts on your comments.

I could be wrong, but I think the diving arms mixer at spacca napoli is actually the best of the best.  Even preferrable to a fork mixer.

I did not notice any "pooling in the center" when I was in naples.  I think that happens when American style dough forming methods are used, such as the typical NY over the knuckles approach.  With the American style forming methods it is easier to get a tapered crust that is thicker at the edge, and ends up slightly thinner in the middle.  That is not good with the thinner sauces and wetter cheese typically associated with Neapolitan pizza.  This is why the actual Neapolitan forming technique of the slap produces a crust that is of uniform thickness except for the cornicione.  I know it is possible to form with knuckles and get a uniform thickness (because this is what I have had to learn do since I can not yet do the proper Neapolitan technique), but I don't think many of the pizzerias making "Neapolitan" style pizzeria here in the states have realized that this is something that needs to be done.

I think the 12 inch pizza is necessary because of the softness of dough that is produced at high temps  (even with longer than authentic 2 minute bakes), especially when a decent amount of toppings are involved.  I almost feel like if you want a 14-16 inch pizza with much on it you are going to have to do elite NY style pizzas with cooler 3 minute bakes and high gluten flour, or you are going to have to overcook the pizza which will remove any chance of a soft interior.

When I had a chance to sample a pizza made in naples with a 45 second bake I found it necessary to use a fork and knife, and impossible to pick up anything resembling a slice.  This was at Trianon.  I have heard that at Da Michele it is possible to just barely pick up a slice if it is folded, but this is not necessarily easy to accomplish.  Again, going back to my belief that many people might be surprised that real authentic Neapolitan pizza in the style of the most highly regarded places in Naples might just be too soft for most American's tastes.  I think this is the reason most of the Americans that I have talked to that had a chance to sample a bunch of Neapolitan pizzerias ended up preferring some of the less famous places that use longer bake times.

Offline pftaylor

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Re: Pizza Napoletana in NYC
« Reply #12 on: December 04, 2006, 11:56:41 AM »
I guess I have been fanning the flames of discontent a little with my recent posts about the state of Neapolitan and NYC pizza lately (and UPN in particular) but I have always tried to state it in the overall context of my opinion and where I am going as a home pizzamaker. That is my intent and my only purpose is trying to understand what is possible in the world of pizza so that I may improve on my home pizza making. Sometimes knowing what one doesn't like defines what one does. I will say however, that my recent experience in NYC was benchmarked for the first time against the desert oasis which was eye-opening on many levels and I have attempted to inform the forum membership of my comparative views. It was also my first time at UPN.

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Offline pizzanapoletana

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Re: Pizza Napoletana in NYC
« Reply #13 on: December 04, 2006, 12:16:20 PM »
Quite an interesting post.

About the mixers: The diving arms mixer is technologically the best choice in breadmaking, however, for an authentic pizza napoletana production and the need of particular reaction that only happen under certain circumstances, MAKE NO MISTAKE that an Italian (no French- it is different mechanically) FORK mixer is the number one choice.

However, Both the Diving arms and fork leave all the other mixers miles behind.

One other thing: Pizza Napoletana was traditionally eaten by hands. When I was really young, I would fold a 12" pizza, twice and eat it whole (first in half to form an half moon and again to form a wedge). Nowadays, I cut a pizza in four wedges, and still lift each wedge by hand and eat it. I am not telling anyone how to enjoy their pizza, but a really soft one, that barely stays straight when lift it, could give you the best melt in the mouth feel and satisfaction.
« Last Edit: December 04, 2006, 12:20:26 PM by pizzanapoletana »

Offline scott r

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Re: Pizza Napoletana in NYC
« Reply #14 on: December 04, 2006, 12:38:37 PM »


I know it would not be appropriate for a commercial pizzeria, but is the smallest santos mixer an Italian or a French style?

I definitely long for the mouthfeel that I have only ever had once in my life, at Trianon.  It was definitely unlike anything else I have ever experienced and it was certainly melt in your mouth!  I know it is probably impossible, but to combine that with a crispier outer shell would be pizza perfection in my book.  In essence I think I want an "off hour" true Neapolitan pizza, and I think that is close to what I was served at Costa.
« Last Edit: December 04, 2006, 04:08:44 PM by scott r »

Offline Arthur

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Re: Pizza Napoletana in NYC
« Reply #15 on: December 04, 2006, 12:57:32 PM »
I vote for a 2007 Home Pizza Making Pizzaiolo Conference in New York - (Don't worry Marco, 2008 will be in Italy).  Pick a weekend and we can all meet at Luzzo's/UPN/etc. and discuss.  Maybe even rent out a kitchen for a day. 

Offline PizzaBrewer

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Re: Pizza Napoletana in NYC
« Reply #16 on: December 04, 2006, 03:03:51 PM »
I vote for a 2007 Home Pizza Making Pizzaiolo Conference in New York - (Don't worry Marco, 2008 will be in Italy).  Pick a weekend and we can all meet at Luzzo's/UPN/etc. and discuss.  Maybe even rent out a kitchen for a day. 

YES!!  I agree.  I am within striking distance of NYC, yet I only ever read about these big pizza meet-ups after the fact.  I'd love to meet any other forum members for a visit to the legendary NY pizza joints.

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Offline pizzanapoletana

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Re: Pizza Napoletana in NYC
« Reply #17 on: December 04, 2006, 05:39:03 PM »

I know it would not be appropriate for a commercial pizzeria, but is the smallest santos mixer an Italian or a French style?


It is the French type. The bowl isn't mechanized and it is too fast.... Still much, much better then any hobart...


Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: Pizza Napoletana in NYC
« Reply #18 on: December 04, 2006, 05:47:54 PM »
It is the French type. The bowl isn't mechanized and it is too fast.... Still much, much better then any hobart...

marco,

Although the bowl isn't motorized (it operates off the friction of the dough), the speed of the bowl is completely adjustable with a tension control from very fast to as slow as you want. Sometimes I just use my hand to control the speed of the bowl. This level of control is fun because you can easily see the change in the appearance, structure, and action of the dough as the water is absorbed and the gluten forms. Maybe I am easily entertained.  ;D

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Offline pizzanapoletana

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Re: Pizza Napoletana in NYC
« Reply #19 on: December 04, 2006, 05:53:53 PM »
Bill,

I was referring to the speed of the fork. I know how the santos works, I was the first to mentioned it on this site...

Trust me you see how an old gloria or one of the newer model and you will be shocked.

Ciao