Thursday, May 27, 2004

Italy Confronts Pizza Emergency

The Italian Agriculture Ministry recently published strict new pizza guidelines in an effort to protect the good name and quality of true Neapolitan pizza from cheap, and not so cheap, imitations offered throughout Italy, Europe and the US.

Italy now recognizes only 3 types of authentic Neapolitan pizza:
- Marinara, with garlic and oregano
- Margherita, with fresh basil and mozzarella cheese from the southern Apennines region of Italy
- Extra-Margherita, with fresh tomatoes and basil, and buffalo mozzarella cheese from Italy's Campania region

The dough must be rolled out manually and baked in a wood-burning oven that can reach the requisite temperature of 485 degrees celsius. The pizza must be round, with a diameter of no more than 14 inches. It may be no more than 1 inch thick at its center with the crust comprising no more than 80% of that height.

Italian pizza restaurants wishing to claim that they serve authentic Italian pizzas will need to seek certification from the Agricultural Ministry before making that claim. It's estimated that Italy has 23,000 pizza restaurants, so this isn't a frivolous undertaking by the government.

Said one restauranteur, "These norms protect one of the most ancient and most important gastronomic traditions. We don't want the others not to make pizza...We went them to make it as we make it---as it should be done."

My semi-devoted blog-readers now probably expect me to make some bithe comment about the Italians not having their priorities in order. You know....should be worrying about Iraq and the Bush brigade of super-hawks, sanctity of life, stopping the death penalty and war forever, yada yada yada. Me stepping on my electronic soapbox for the thousandth time.

Nope........ I say hats off to the Italians. Sensational pizza is one of the universal culinary pleasures in life. Show me someone who doesn't adore a juicy bite of fresh pizza, and I'll show you someone who's just no fun. Is it even possible to have a bad time with others when you're sharing a pizza?

Three cheers for the Italians protecting the reputation of one of their most popular exports and beloved home-grown favorites. It's about time a government took care of stuff that people really care about.

And pass that pizza over here...OK? :)

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