Cooking Naples Style
"The pizzaiolo's life mixes a pinch of life, love and work." --Enzo Coccia
A day with Maestro Enzo Coccia - by Frank Milward, Wood Stone Corporate Chef
It's September 8th, 2004 and I am in Naples, Italy where I've flown halfway around the globe for the World Pizza Festival. I work for a little company called Wood Stone and though I'm an educator I'm going back to school. Why?
Many people consider Napoletana (Naples-style) pizza to be the finest in the world. Naples is famed as the birthplace of pizza (see "History" sidebar) and today its popularity is resurging in locations as diverse as Tokyo, Seattle, New York and Mexico City. In our current oversaturated culinary landscape, the traditional Naples-style pizza offers cooks and restaurant owners a chance to create a real point of difference.We've heard the buzz about Napoletana pizza growing for some time. Like many other things handed down from one generation to the next, this tradition is up for interpretation. Everyone seems to have an opinion. My goal was to travel to Naples and bring back to America the real, everyday story of Napoletana Pizza.
Napoletana Pizza:Part I - The Dough | Part II - The Pizza | Part III - The Oven
Let me tell you a little about what I do. Each day at the Wood Stone Test Kitchen I teach people how to cook in a stone-hearth oven. It's a great way to make a living. Over the past 8 years I've had the opportunity to share my skills and insight about this ancient art with many, many people. We've worked together both in the Wood Stone Test Kitchen, where we see over 600 visitors a year, and at trade shows around the world. We've cooked everything from California Style Pizzas and thin Flatbreads, to deep dish Chicago-style pizzas, to proteins like Filet Mignon, Braised Rabbit, Rack of Lamb and Salmon Encroute.
The Big DaySince my arrival in Naples a few days ago I have spent almost all of my time watching and working with the world's best pizzaiolos. These pizzaiolos are all individually capable of producing Napoletana pizzas that will leave you speechless and wanting more.
Teaching the rest of the world how to create Naples-style pizza from scratch, however, takes a patient, unique and seriously committed person. Today, thanks to my host Caputo Flour, I will work with Enzo Coccia. Many believe that he is the premier teacher of the proud art of being a pizzaiolo. Enzo has taught his trade to people from all over the world. He is passionate about pizza and he takes his responsibility to instill the proper Napoletana culinary tradition in all of his students (including me!) very seriously.
By the end of the day I am humbled by the simple precision of this sophisticated artisan. His professional makeup falls somewhere between scientist and magician. I harbor a sneaking suspicion he just might know the real formula for turning base metals into gold or water into wine. One thing is for sure--we have produced two beautiful batches of dough that are ready for the oven.
A Byte of Pizza History A modern pizza, that is, with mozzarella di bufala and tomato was made in 1871 in Naples for Princess Margherita of Savoia by Raffaele Esposito. This patriotic pizza, of basil, tomato and mozzarella, in honor of the new tricolor Italian flag's red, green and white, became the pizza alla Margherita. 1
Sometime during the day, a day in which Enzo has demonstrated patience many times, he mentions 'the Pizzaiolo's life mixes a pinch of life, love and work'. I can't help but feel fortunate to work for Wood Stone and to be here in Naples experiencing this moment. I feel fortunate for meeting Enzo and his fellow Pizzaiolos, the artisans that live this special life.
1Per the Verace Pizza Napoletana (VPN) Discipline and Specifications Manual. http://www.verapizzanapoletana.org/