A note about Neapolitan Pizza...
"The pizzaiolo, the pizzamaker, shuffled his feet nervously as he stood by the stern judge. He was defending his pizza's crust -- it was crunchy. Unfortunately for the contestant, crunchy is a no-no in the heartland of pizza production. "Stupid move," the judge said tersely. "Why enter a contest of Neapolitan pizza if you can't make one the right way?"
A crisp crust may be something consumers across the globe associate with 21st-century pizza, but here crackle is unthinkable. Chewy is also out. Crust is not even a proper description for the billowy circumference of pizza. Neapolitans call it the crown, and it is as thin and light as pastry...."
-- from "Naples, by Pizza Posessed" by Daniel Williams, The Washington Post
Pizza as we know it today (crusty flatbread topped with tomatoes and cheese) was invented in Naples, Italy. Before the 1700s, flatbreads existed but were never topped with tomatoes—now a defining characteristic of pizza. Tomatoes were brought to Europe in the 16th century by explorers returning from Peru, but they were believed to be poisonous by many Europeans until poor peasants in Naples began to top their flatbread with it in the late 18th century. The dish soon became popular, with visitors to Naples seeking out the poorer neighborhoods to try the local specialty.
Neapolitan pizza, or pizza Napolatena, is today's closest relative to this original Italian pizza. Neapolitan pizza is made from the best and freshest ingredients: a basic dough, fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, and extra virgin olive oil. One of its defining characteristics is that there is often more sauce than cheese and always lightly topped, leaving the pie softer and best eaten with a knife and fork. Because of this, Neapolitan pizzas are generally pretty small (about 12 inches), traditionally serving just one. Neapolitan pizzas are cooked at very high temperatures (800°F-900°F) for no more than 90 seconds. Here's a great story on "What to Expect at a Neapolitan Pizzeria"...
Baker Raffaele Esposito, who worked at the Naples pizzeria “Pietro... e basta così,” is generally credited with creating Margherita pizza, now known as the classic Neapolitan-style pizza. In 1889 King Umberto I and Queen Margherita of Savoy visited Naples and Esposito baked them a pizza named in honor of the queen whose colors mirrored those of the Italian flag: red (tomatoes), white (mozzarella), and green (basil leaves).
Inspired by the Neapolitan tradition of using the highest-quality ingredients, at Pizzeria Otto we sampled and tested a half-dozen flours, several dozen types of tomatoes, and multitudes of salamis and cheeses to find the the very best-tasting elements for our pies. Although we were sure to try the most renowned Italian pizza flour (Caputo 00) and imported Italian tomatoes (San Marzano), we decided to go with ingredients which are almost exclusively sourced from local providers... Happily, our decision was entirely based on using those ingredients which gave our pizzas the most delicious flavor, texture, and character. We use unbleached flour from wheat grown exclusively in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, delicious plum tomatoes from Central California, and our meats and cheeses are locally sourced wherever possible.
We believe that this upholds the Neapolitan tradition of using the best ingredients, but it also means that we are supporting our local growers, supporting our local economy and leaving a smaller transportation footprint. Most importantly, these ingredients make our pizzas as delicious as our humble abilities can muster. We are truly lucky to live in a region which produces ingredients that can equal and surpass the best that the world has to offer.
Check out this great story by Eater PDX on our recent pilgrimage to Naples!