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Pie is a constant

I received my March edition of Smithsonian Magazine. One of the articles that caught my interest was how the Covid-19 outbreak has affected the Pizza business in Naples. In addition it features the history of Pizza and highlights the Neopolitan custom known as “pizza sospesa,” a form of generosity that involves eating one pie and paying for two, leaving the other for a less fortunate stranger.

Smithsonianmag.com. “Pie is a constant, In Naples, the formula calls for pizza.”

Posted by
11929 posts

Thanks, Janis. I saw this article online before today’s Smithsonian magazine arrived. We tried to find the “Gold of Napoli” movie with Sophia Loren they show in the photos, but it was unavailable. 😔

We have been making pizza here at home for several years, and now have a wood-fired (actually pellets) Ooni pizza oven that will reach 900 degrees if we let it. We have been experimenting with crusts and have settled with a NYT recipe that uses 00 flour and is mixed literally by hand.

Posted by
2506 posts

Lola, That Sophia Loren film would be great to see. Too bad it is unavailable. I had to look up the Ooni pizza oven. Looks like a great oven. Compact, & great reviews. It would be fun to have pizza parties this summer, when we can gather outdoors again. My daughter and I took a Pizza Making class at Sur La Table years ago. I looked up 00 flour on Amazon. Have you tried the Antimo Caputo Chefs Flour from Naples? Or?

Posted by
700 posts

The film you are looking for is either:

L’oro di Napoli or The Gold of Naples.

It is available on the internet (free with short commercial breaks) as: El Oro de Naples. In Italian with Spanish subtitles..

Posted by The Museum of Cinema on the dailymotion website.

I’m watching it currently. If the description is correct, it is a collection of 6 different episodes taking place in Naples- 6 mini movies paying tribute to the city.

Posted by
4400 posts

Janis - paying for less fortunate folks is clearly a Naples thing. The Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy series that’s currently showing Sunday nights on CNN included a scene last week with the Naples Chief of Police and Stanley, getting espressos, but ordering three. The third one was “suspended,” for someone needing it later. Sounds like Neapolitans take care of one another. I wonder what other things there might be purchased sospesa?

I’ve been using Caputo Tipo “00,” purchased through Amazon, for some time now. Outstanding for pizza crust! I’ve used a recipe from Denver chef Ben Davis for years - the best for high altitude results. And without an actual pizza oven, we’ve got a clean, spare big floor tile in our regular oven - it serves as a great pizza stone.

Posted by
11929 posts

Our extended family ( us and adult shildren) now counts four Ooni pizza ovens. Ours is petted-fired, another is woodfired, one usedps oropane, Nd Indon't know about the fourth. Mt hey must be used outside. Ours quickly gets to 900'degrees which means younhave to be very quick to turn and retrieve the pizza. It works better to damp it down a bit to 700 degrees which is a bit less demanding.

There is a decent recipe for crust in the accompanying recipe book, but the best one uses the NYT recipe with OO flour. There is a video on the technique along with the recipe:

https://cooking.nytimes.com/guides/1-how-to-make-pizza

Ironically,we had some "00" flour as it was the only thing left on the store shelves the last time we shopped, when the pandemic lockdown started nearly a year ago. We got all our groceries delivered from then on, It the price of 00 flour soared, when it was available, on Amazon. I last bought some from King Arthur for around $3 a pound.

Fortunately the NYT recipe is half 00 flour and half all-purpose.

Posted by
1934 posts
  • In that film Loren cooks the famous (to Neapolitans) fried pizza. A street food To be eaten while walking home from school/workplace; she's cooking in an hole in the wall, not in a sit-down restaurant with a real oven. Out of Naples fried pizza is quite difficult to find. In my northern town there are hundreds of places making good and not-so-good pizza in the traditional doom-shaped wood oven, but only one place making it fried. It's difficult to make a good fried pizza, to me it's the K2 of home cooking. And it's not the healthiest thing to eat, I am afraid.

  • Same film, a different way of taking care by feeding unknown people: the scene of the child's funeral. The mother who's taking her kid's body to the cemetery gives confetti away to the street kids standing by and looking at the funeral. I think it's the sweetest and toughest social rule I've ever heard about. Thank God it disappeared together with the hunger years. I always wonder how people so obsessed with hunger and death got their reputation for being happy and lighthearted.

  • In origin it was only a "Suspended Coffee". Neapolitans were too poor to give pizzas and other stuff away. More, the price of the coffee consumed while standing has being capped by law up to the 90s. "Pizza sospesa" and stuff was invented in the last 10/15 years by local associations of restaurateurs and charities. I have memories of my Neapolitan Grandfather buying my monthly ice cream and leaving a "paid coffee" at the counter. He did it any time. On the other hand, I was entitled to only one ice-cream per month, if he had started giving pizzas away, frankly I would have been quite pi**d off! Interestingly, He always said "paid coffee", never "suspended". Don't know why, probably because the Italian for "suspended" is too close to the same word in the local dialect and he hated speaking Neapolitan in front of me.

Posted by
4248 posts

We have been making pizza here at home for several years, and now have a wood-fired (actually pellets) Ooni pizza oven that will reach 900 degrees if we let it.

I love my Ooni (or Uuni as it was when I bought it), makes the best pizzas in minutes. I also have the cast iron skillet for fish and vegetables. I'm looking at the gas converter this year as constantly replenishing the pellets is time consuming and alters the heat. According to all the reviews I've read there's little to no difference in the taste as the majority of the smoke from the pellets disappears straight up the chimney before it even touches the food so with the gas you have a constant, steady heat which is great when you're churning out multiple pizzas.

Posted by
11929 posts

You must have the larger oven---ours would never hold a cast-iron skillet!

I cannot imagine that changing to gas from pellets will change the flavor. That comes from the slight charring, not from any smoke---as you say, it just goes straight up the chimney.

Posted by
5646 posts

@JC, we had a pizza-making class with an award-winning Italian pizza chef, while we were in Sicily. He started the class by asking the question "which is better for making pizza - wood oven, or gas?" Most people said wood. His answer was "makes no difference: its the temperature that cooks the pizza. You dont want or need wood smoke to flavor the pizza, just heat."

Posted by
4400 posts

I should add that my pizza dough recipe uses a combination of Caputo “00” and semolina flour, mostly semolina. But from Zoom cooking classes taken over the past several months, led by a Neapolitan who now operates a B&B/cooking school in Tuscany, her flour gnocchi, orecchiette, and other pastas call for “00.”

Posted by
11929 posts

Cyn, our "tried and true" pizza dough recipe uses 50/50 semolina and regular flour. This dough is mixed in the Cusinart with very little effort and comes out nice and stretchy but not sticky. It makes a thin, crisp crust that tastes great. But it does not have the lightness and the puffy edge that Neapolitan pizza has. And it works better in the regular oven at 475 degrees than in the 750-degree Ooni oven. For that, the Roberta's recipe in the NYT seems better. Or the one in the Ooni cookbook ( also online) that used all "00" flour.

We have been getting our groceries delivered for the past year; we don't go to the store. And there were times when I could not find either semolina or 00 flour, at least not without paying an outrageous price.

Posted by
2506 posts

I am now looking at pizza peels. ;) Recommendations? Stainless? Long handle to turn pizza? perforated? Light weight? I searched the Ooni website for their offers. Most are sold out now.

Posted by
4248 posts

I've tried all sorts of pizza peels and have found that wooden ones are best, dusted with coarse semolina.