While one can meander through the streets of Naples and enjoy many pizzerias, some even world famous, it may lead a bit off the beaten path to get to the real secret behind Neapolitan pizza. Today pizza is loved around the world, but where did it come from and how has it evolved? We have some answers.
This long, eye-opening walk through the heart of the ancient center of Naples, is led by mastermind geologist Vincenzo Albertini, president of Naples Underground (Napoli Sotterranea). The association has facilitated mind-blowing and awe-inspiring excursions for the past 30 years through the bowels of a unique city, characterized by incredible feats of engineering, in the making over the past 2400 years or so.
Many would have thought that by now, Neapolitan Pizza makers would be honored with life-long service and offered life-preservation, as theirs is a skill that is an artefact in itself, coming from centuries-old tradition. However, the surprising present-day reality reveals that this tradition hasn’t remained in the centuries of old, it’s actually been constantly evolving and is now in a new incarnation.
This new incarnation, though not so new indeed, involves the return to the ancient practices of leavening and cooking pizza in both preparation environments and ovens built with the integral, unique material – Neapolitan yellow tuff.
Pizza was invented in Naples so they know a thing or two about pizza making.
THE YELLOW SECRET
This “geothermal” pizza is created specifically inside of tuffaceous leavening rooms. These rooms are located in the convent of the Theatines, behind the church of S. Paolo Maggiore. It is here, deep beneath the city, that exists quarries of a yellowish stone, which makes for excellent thermal insulation and humidity control. This is what allows the dough to achieve complete maturation which gives the pizza higher organoleptic and digestibility properties. Going further into the scientific characteristics of the yellow tuff, Enzo Albertini explains that there are specific minerals in the tuffs which are able to absorb and release water molecules making the tuff cold during hot periods and hot during cold periods. It is this property specifically, that allows them to maintain average constant values of temperature and humidity which favor the leavening process of the pizza dough as the dough rises between the walls of tuff from 24 to 48 hours and then the pizza is cooked in ovens made with the same stone. In short, this ancient yellow stone favors the ideal chemical-physical balances useful for yeasts, so that the final product remains extraordinarily light.
THE UNDERGROUND COMES TO THE SURFACE
Thanks to Enzo Albertini’s initiative, today, these novelty pizzas while prepared in optimal geothermal conditions underground, are served on the streets of Naples, among the tables of the Sorelle Bandiera pizzeria, which is located inside the ancient Roman theater, not far from Piazza San Gaetano which forms the entrance to Naples Underground (Napoli Sotterranea). All that remains is a hearty appetite and sense of awe and wonder, as this Neapolitan pizza delight offers a new interpretation to the concept of time travel.