Author Topic: Observations on Neopolitan Pizza May '07  (Read 5987 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline pizza concerto

  • Lifetime Member
  • *
  • Posts: 99
  • ...so much pizza, so little stomach...
Observations on Neopolitan Pizza May '07
« on: June 22, 2007, 03:07:50 PM »
Hi Everyone,

Just returned from a comprehensive "pizza tour" of Italy (it was a commercial tour geared for pizzaholics like myself, all foodies, some well known cookbook authors etc.)...specifically Naples, Rome, and a few places on the Almalfi Coast...and thought I'd share my findings.  I'm originally from Chicago, so my pizzasense is a little different than most! (Although Geno's East is pizza, it really crosses into something else entirely in my opinion. Fantastic in its own right.) I bake in a wood fired oven, (see pic of my blue Earthstone oven) and try to adhere to the traditional DOC standards when I make a Pizza Margherita.

After trying pizzas (15 pies in 15 days, all different places) I found the following to be true...

Pizza in Naples is very different from the U.S...their ingredients are super fresh., sometimes to the detriment of the pie as a whole...i.e. most of the pies I tried were rather soupy, due to the high moisture content of the super fresh bufula di mozzarella...(or it could have been simply ovens that are not quite hot enough due to my mid morning visits to avoid crowds)...or it could have been a lack of milling the San Marzanos properly to get as much extra moisture out as possible.
The crust is slightly chewy, with a pleasant burnt edge flavor, but never dry or brittle.

The use of oil on the pie before insertion into the oven, sometimes olive oil, or sometimes even lard (da Ciro), gave some pies an incredible flavor.  I had trouble finding a "pepperoni" pizza in Naples, as "pepperoni" in italian is a green pepper.  However, a Diavola pizza, contains a spicy salami very similar to our peperroni...

Most pies, adhering to the DOC standard were quite tasty, with most places offering a small selection of toppings.  All made a "Margherita" and a Marinara. They used very little basil on top, with some, only a couple of leaves.  The leaves were cooked on the pizza, not placed on afterwards.

The best pie I could find, was also the least expensive: Da Michele.  A Margherita was 3.50 Euros, and was the best balance of texture and flavor.

I'm attaching a pic of Da Michele's pie, as well as one of mine attepted after my return...I still don't have it down, but will keep at it til I can replicate that pie!!

As far as Rome was concerned, different pie entirely.  Crust was more brittle and dry, but pies were ever so thin and baked up crisp.  Not bad, but nothing quite like the Naples pies. Also, they used mozzarella cheese from cow instead of water buffalo, so it wasn't as creamy (and slightly tart) like the Neopolitan pizzas.

I encourage anyone into pizza to make the trek out to the Naples, and see what this is all about.  I've heard many stories, read many books, seen many pictures, but with food, you've gotta try it!!!

Ciao for now,

Dan from L.A. (by way of Chicago)

"Only Irish Coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, fat." -- Alex Levine


Offline DWChun

  • Registered User
  • Posts: 99
Re: Observations on Neopolitan Pizza May '07
« Reply #1 on: June 22, 2007, 03:43:35 PM »
Thanks for sharing your recent experience in Italy, Dan!

I'd love to go to Italy some day to experience the different regional "pizzas" firsthand.


DW

Offline David

  • Registered User
  • Posts: 966
  • What’s So Funny ‘Bout Pizza Love and Understanding
Re: Observations on Neopolitan Pizza May '07
« Reply #2 on: June 22, 2007, 05:05:14 PM »
Can you give us a list of the other 14 places and your opinions? Did you choose them or a guide?Thanks,
David

BTW Dan, DaMichele doesn't use bufala either on thier pizzas.I think that the 'soupiness' you experienced is just  typical of this style and not generally found elsewhere.I would hazard a guess that even a cool Neapolitan oven is pobably running hotter than 99% of the Forno Legna anywhere else in the world.
« Last Edit: June 22, 2007, 05:16:20 PM by David »
If you're looking for a date... go to the Supermarket.If you're looking for a wife....go to the Farmers market

Offline scott r

  • Supporting Member
  • *
  • Posts: 3061
  • Age: 43
  • Location: boston
  • I Love Pizzafreaks!
Re: Observations on Neopolitan Pizza May '07
« Reply #3 on: June 23, 2007, 03:39:39 AM »
David is right, those ovens were CRANKING, look at the leoparding on the Da Michele pizza.  Soupiness is partly because of a lack of draining/straining which seems popular in naples, but it is also very much because of the amazingly high temperatures at which these pies bake.  I really think the american palate is set up for a slightly slower bake, and a few pizzerias in the US have used this to their advantage with their pizza.   Mainly I am thinking about Il Pizzaiolo in Pittsburgh.  Ron could bake a 45 second pie in that oven, but he doesn't.  He takes all of the good things about neapolitan pizza and exploits them to their fullest while drying things up a bit to suit our tastes.  I wish you lived closer to pittsburgh so that you could hit his pizzeria right after this visit to Naples.

By the way Daniel that was really an amazing post, you perfectly summed up exactly what I have taken away from my trip to Naples.
I am SO jealous that you just spent this time along the shore south of Naples.  There is no place I would rather be!  What was your favorite town outside of naples?

Offline pizza concerto

  • Lifetime Member
  • *
  • Posts: 99
  • ...so much pizza, so little stomach...
Re: Observations on Neopolitan Pizza May '07
« Reply #4 on: June 23, 2007, 10:31:32 AM »
Hi David and Scott,

I'll put together a comprehensive list of places and photos, and my humble opinions of each...perhaps the Da Michele was my favorite because the cow's milk cheese is more of what I grew up with, and wasn't so creamy, loose(?) on the pies.

BTW, I did visit a Mozzarella di Bufala farm near Paestum, and sampled it right after it was pulled from the water (also had some Gelato made from the Bufala milk....

Favorite town other than Naples,... Ravello.  Beautiful small village high in the hills on the Amalfi coast.  (Also, a nearly Vespa free zone for those who needed a respite....!) Home of a fantastic hotel, Villa Cimbrone.
www.villacimbrone.com

Scott, I'll try and get out to Pittsburgh...always looking for an excuse to sample a great pie.  (Thank God I also have an understanding wife who also likes pizza, but works out fiendishly so I'd never know it!!)

I'll post those pics and notes in a couple of days...

Dan
"Only Irish Coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, fat." -- Alex Levine

Offline sumeri

  • Registered User
  • Posts: 74
  • I Love Pizza!
Re: Observations on Neopolitan Pizza May '07
« Reply #5 on: June 24, 2007, 03:12:23 PM »

 most of the pies I tried were rather soupy, due to the high moisture content of the super fresh bufula di mozzarella...(or it could have been simply ovens that are not quite hot enough due to my mid morning visits to avoid crowds)...or it could have been a lack of milling the San Marzanos properly to get as much extra moisture out as possible.



This is definitely how the people of Napoli like their pizza.  A slower or low temp oven would have dried out the tomato more.  Here in the States we have kept the same cooking time (45-60sec) but have put less tomato on the pie.  To many complaints of people thinking it was soggy.  I recently saw a menu for Punch Pizzeria in St. Paul, they offer on their menu to make any pizza with extra tomato. 
Can't wait to see the rest of your report.  I am going over in Sept and doing the same thing.
I would be interested to find out the history of pepperoni here in the States.  The closest thing I have seen to it in Italy is a salsiccia calabrese, although this is worlds better than our pepperoni here. 

Offline pizza concerto

  • Lifetime Member
  • *
  • Posts: 99
  • ...so much pizza, so little stomach...
Re: Observations on Neopolitan Pizza May '07
« Reply #6 on: June 27, 2007, 06:24:52 PM »
Hi again,


Well, here goes to the best of my recollection, in order of preference....(disclaimer:  I'm no food critic, nor food professional, no food editor.  I don't work for any foodie publications, hence my "street" vernacular, sorry!)

1)  Da Michele - Great pie.  All around best consistency.  Crust slightly chewy, but very flavorful, with great leoparding.  Cheese, tasty and not gooey.  Tomatoes spot on. Best balanced pie I had in Naples. Also the least expensive.  (Note: see pic of the "serious" pizzaiolo at Da Michele...all business.)

2)  Pulcinella a Santa Brigada - Nicely balanced.  Not too soupy, not too dry.  I had a great Diavola Pizza here, with very tasty spicy salami (pepperoni)...see pic of this one.  Sauce was rich and full bodied, note the bright red, fresh color.  I'd venture back here in a flash.

3)  Da Ciro a Santa Brigada - Great flavor, though extremely soupy quality.  No New Yorker would ever be able to fold this baby.  Gooey and loose, though the flavor was quite good.  Extra creamy.  Sauce added  a nice contrast to the cheese.  This is owned by the head of the Neopolitan Pizza maker's association.  A good place to find your comparison of a traditional well made Neopolitan pie; they wrote the book on it, literally. 

4)  Brandi -  A bit of a tourist trap, this is the proclaimed birthplace of the Margherita pie.  It wasn't quite as flavorful as those above, but it was still better than most I tried.  Service was a bit rushed (they get quite busy as the evening progresses...most Neopolitans don't seem get out to dinner til at least 9:00 p.m....).  I did envy their dual oven setup, to get out those pies post haste, but it still took a looooong time to get our order out.


Part 2 to follow...

Dan
"Only Irish Coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, fat." -- Alex Levine

Offline pizza concerto

  • Lifetime Member
  • *
  • Posts: 99
  • ...so much pizza, so little stomach...
Re: Observations on Neopolitan Pizza May '07
« Reply #7 on: June 27, 2007, 06:51:58 PM »
Part 2 Continued....

5)  Trianon da Ciro - I had mixed feelings here, and also, have to admit, I was damn full by the time we arrived (just had a pie across the street at Da Michele)...but, this was a huge pizza! About twice the size of Da Michele's (btw, also had a price in proportion to its size)..more bready than most, I tried the Margherita DOC.  It had small San Marzanos sliced on it, so it was tough to compare this to  my other places.  It seemed drier than others as well.  Ingredients were quite good, and of all the pies I tried, this was the most unique.  Larger, breadier, cheesier...recommended for a change of pace from the usual Neopolitan pizza.  Also, their menu featured a slew of different toppings/varieties.

6)  Vicola della Neve - Though this is in Salerno, I thought it deserved a mention.  The pizza was OK, I really don't remember much of  that, but they have a dish (see pic), I've never had before.  Usually, Pasta e fagioli is served as a soup, but they serve a dish of the same name which is a casserole.  Absolutely, one of the best pasta dishes I had in Italy, bar none.  It consisted of some beans that had been reduced down in a metal skillet,, and then tossed with pasta and baked in the pizza oven.  The usual Fagioli flavours were there, but with the consistency of a baked ziti pasta dish!!!  Recommended for that alone.  (sorry I strayed from the pizza thoughts, think of it as a commercial of sorts)

more to follow.....


Dan
"Only Irish Coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, fat." -- Alex Levine

Offline pizza concerto

  • Lifetime Member
  • *
  • Posts: 99
  • ...so much pizza, so little stomach...
Re: Observations on Neopolitan Pizza May '07
« Reply #8 on: June 27, 2007, 07:30:36 PM »
Prt 3 continued...

7)  Villa Verda - Not in Naples as well, on the Isle of Capri.  This was a nice pie!  (To be totally honest, there were no bad pies to be found in Campania.)  The menu here was complete, and I also tried pastas and salads.  All very good.  The place has a huge celeb following as witnessed by the various photos lining the walls, but hey, its capri!  The pizzaiolo worked fast, and their oven was super hot.  I saw him get a pie out in less than :45.  Sauce was ample, but not too soupy for my American pallette.  Bufula was fresh and tart, and gave the pie a nice bite.  I would recommend this place for a great meal if you happen to get over to the isle, and want more than the touristy shacks at the boat docks.

8)  Private farm - We made a stop at a private farm just outside Sorrento.  We made our own pies (if you can really call it that, since the dough was already proofed, sauce prepared for us, etc.) I guess you could say we assembled the pies.  The ingredients all were grown on the farm, even the cheese is made fresh on the premises, and we were treated to a cheese making demonstration.  I wish I could remember the farm name, perhaps it'll come to me. If I do say so myself, these were very good DOC Neopoltan pizzas, mainly because our ingredients were absolutely great.  You can't miss. (plus the wood fired oven was good and hot...)

9)  Da Gagino Universita della Pizza - located in Vico Equense, this is the place which claims to be the first to offer pizza by the meter.  The ovens were huge, deep, and hot.  The pizza peels were huge, taking two pizzaioli to hoist the pies in the ovens.  I thought these pies were only so so.  If fact, they tasted similar to many pizzas found here in the states. They offered a number of toppings, and while this is quantity, not the kind of quality we found in Naples.  The restaurant was huge. You could serve a battalion here. 

10 on...)  I visited many other, smaller pizzerias in Naples, 2 over by the Castle of The Egg (Port Santa Lucia) and found them to be overpriced, touristy, and average.  For Naples, average is still really good. However, I would only recommend them for the view of that magnificent castle, or the fresh seafood that they offer as well.  The others I visited were good, but did not leave an impression on me, as by that time, I had already had a "da Michele", and found other pies pale in comparison to that benchmark.

I'll post some other random pics that sort of apply to pizza in a roundabout way, next.

Dan


"Only Irish Coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, fat." -- Alex Levine

Offline pizza concerto

  • Lifetime Member
  • *
  • Posts: 99
  • ...so much pizza, so little stomach...
Re: Observations on Neopolitan Pizza May '07
« Reply #9 on: June 27, 2007, 07:39:25 PM »
pt 4 continued...

Here's some various pics...one is a bread oven in the Pompeii ruins...I like to think of it as a really old pizza oven circa 79 AD.


Hope you all can visit Naples in the near future!

Dan
"Only Irish Coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, fat." -- Alex Levine


Offline MWTC

  • Registered User
  • Posts: 516
Re: Observations on Neopolitan Pizza May '07
« Reply #10 on: June 28, 2007, 12:23:24 PM »
Awesome.  ;D

MWTC  :chef:

Offline pizza concerto

  • Lifetime Member
  • *
  • Posts: 99
  • ...so much pizza, so little stomach...
Re: Observations on Neopolitan Pizza May '07
« Reply #11 on: July 07, 2007, 10:43:29 PM »
Hi all,

Thought I'd bring up a couple more points regarding Naples...the olive oil is verrrryy different in taste and color than what we get here in the states.  It is clear, and almost tasteless (to my palette).  It must be that its pressed so young and fresh. I've bought super fresh oil before in Napa, but it still has that "taste" we associate with extra virgin olive oil. The color is golden or slightly green.  Not nearly clear. They also will serve a bowl of fresh olives at most bars (even Harry's Bar on Via Vaneto), that have such a fresh flavor, they are close to the creaminess of avacado. Nothing salty/briney about them.  Has anyone else found this, and do you have any possible reason we don't have these here?

Also, bread in Naples.  Most of the places I tried rarely served any bread at all, but if they did, it was very dense white bread, not at all artisan, probably made with baker's yeast.  And then we had a guide of ours order some, and they brought out the 'country" bread.  A beautiful rustic loaf that we all would imagine as a great Italian bread.  Turns out the waiter informed us that they thought Americans wanted that dense "white" bread! (I wonder if Italians visiting the US are disappointed when they hear Dean Martin singing Italian love songs...)

Sorry to be so off topic, but it does tie into observations on Naples...

Dan

"Only Irish Coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, fat." -- Alex Levine

Offline scott r

  • Supporting Member
  • *
  • Posts: 3061
  • Age: 43
  • Location: boston
  • I Love Pizzafreaks!
Re: Observations on Neopolitan Pizza May '07
« Reply #12 on: July 08, 2007, 01:03:47 AM »
Those olives were amazing.  I was lucky enough to bring some back with me to the US.  Could it be that they don't keep well without brining?  Mine didn't last long enough for me to find out.



Offline Villa Roma

  • Registered User
  • Posts: 498
  • Location: Edmond, Ok
  • In search of the ever elusive leopard spots!
Re: Observations on Neopolitan Pizza May '07
« Reply #13 on: July 08, 2007, 11:06:20 AM »
pizza concerto....I've never been to Naples but I lived in Italy for 5 years (Aviano) and also noticed that the oil they drizzled on pizza was clear and somewhat tasteless. I thought they were just using cheap vegetable oil to save cost. Not sure what the reason is behind it.

    Villa Roma

Offline scott r

  • Supporting Member
  • *
  • Posts: 3061
  • Age: 43
  • Location: boston
  • I Love Pizzafreaks!
Re: Observations on Neopolitan Pizza May '07
« Reply #14 on: July 08, 2007, 11:31:49 AM »
villa roma, you are right about the oil on pizza.  It is mostly seed oils that are used now.

Online Pete-zza

  • Lifetime Member
  • Global Moderator
  • *
  • Posts: 21902
  • Location: Texas
  • Always learning
Re: Observations on Neopolitan Pizza May '07
« Reply #15 on: July 08, 2007, 11:36:51 AM »
What scott r says seems to be the case, as will be noted from the series of posts starting at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,656.msg11514.html#msg11514 (Reply 22).

Peter

Offline pizza concerto

  • Lifetime Member
  • *
  • Posts: 99
  • ...so much pizza, so little stomach...
Re: Observations on Neopolitan Pizza May '07
« Reply #16 on: July 14, 2007, 10:10:18 PM »
Hi all,

Well, here's another attempt at Neapolitan style...oven cranked at 900 on the floor, you can barely get your hand near it!  Took 3 hours to get to temp with Olive wood.  (It was 100 degrees outside today, so kudos to the wife and kids for hanging around the furnace)

16 hour rise, punch down, form balls, another 8 hour rise...IDY just 2 pinches, hydration at 64%...very little salt (perhaps too little?), I used about 1/4 teaspoon.  Dough was starting to get a skin on it at 24 hours, even with a damp cloth covering it. Perhaps thats because of a salt shortage.

Flavor was real close to what I remember from Naples, though I did use fresh cow Mozzarella, not buffalo this time.  Also, had to go with 6 in 1 tomatoes (a touch of oregano, olive oil, and salt added), as their flavor is really in the can.  I tried San Marzanos, but even the color paled.  Perhaps the wrong brand.  If anyone has a great San Marzano, please let me know!

Any comments to improve this will be well taken...I'll try a sourdough starter (Ischia) next week...

Dan
"Only Irish Coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, fat." -- Alex Levine

Offline Barry

  • Registered User
  • Posts: 191
  • Age: 59
  • Location: Cape Town, South Africa
  • Pizza Passion Perserverance
Re: Observations on Neopolitan Pizza May '07
« Reply #17 on: July 15, 2007, 03:31:39 AM »
Hi Dan,

Your pies look great !  I have really enjoyed your posts on the trip that you took to Naples and surrounding areas. The pictures have been fantastic. I plan to do a similar trip in June/July next year.

I noticed in the pic above, of your pie in the oven, that there was no visible flame. I ensure that I have flames of at least 8 - 12 inches when I cook, even if the oven is at the correct temperature. On my recent visit to many of the top pizzarias in the USA, I noted that "visible flames" were always present during baking.

Kind regards,

Barry in Johannesburg, South Africa

Offline mikeintj

  • Registered User
  • Posts: 20
Re: Observations on Neopolitan Pizza May '07
« Reply #18 on: July 15, 2007, 04:16:26 AM »

I noticed in the pic above, of your pie in the oven, that there was no visible flame. I ensure that I have flames of at least 8 - 12 inches when I cook, even if the oven is at the correct temperature. On my recent visit to many of the top pizzarias in the USA, I noted that "visible flames" were always present during baking.


Yes, I've wondered this before. But what exactly is the role of the flame? What does it add to a pizza that is already being cooked in a 900 degree oven?

Offline Bill/SFNM

  • Lifetime Member
  • *
  • Posts: 4040
  • Location: Santa Fe, NM
Re: Observations on Neopolitan Pizza May '07
« Reply #19 on: July 15, 2007, 10:17:22 AM »

Yes, I've wondered this before. But what exactly is the role of the flame? What does it add to a pizza that is already being cooked in a 900 degree oven?

Radiant heat from the flames help cook the top so that it is done at the same time as the crust. Depending on the size of the fire, I sometimes toss a scoop of small chips or sawdust on the coals so that flames shoot up the dome and down onto the top of the pie. Much fun and very dramatic if anyone is watching, but hitting the small window in which all parts of the pie are done to perfection is serious business. Certainly easier in a proper Neapolitan oven.

Bill/SFNM


 

pizzapan