It would join the Mediterranean diet, falconry, and a Moroccan cherry festival on the list of cultural gems.
Soon, eating pizza in Naples may not just be a spiritual communion between mind, tongue, and stomach—it could also be a profoundly cosmopolitan act. Last week, the Italian National Commission for the U.N.’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) agreed to promote Neapolitan pizza as a candidate for UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list. Cultural practices, items, and, yes, foods on the list are slated for careful and coordinated protection by UNESCO’s member states, with help from a fund dedicated to the cause.
Why pizza, and why now? “[T]he art of the Neapolitan pizza maker...represents Italy in the world,” the Italy’s Ministry of Agriculture said in the proposal, the Local reports. It helps that the traditional pizza napoletana margherita is the colors of Italy: green, white and red.
It is true that making Neapolitan pizza is a craft, one protected by the True Neapolitan Pizza Association, or Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, if you’re feeling Italian. The AVPN is a membership organization that promotes the pizza worldwide. According to their (very strict) rules, the “Pizza Napoletana” is made from a special type of wheat flour, a special type of yeast, natural water, peeled tomatoes or fresh cherry tomatoes, sea salt, and extra virgin olive oil, and cooked in a wood-fire oven. The dictates get very, very specific. When spread, for example, the dough should be no more than 0.11 inches thick in the middle, and 0.4 to 0.8 inches at its crust. The guidelines get even more complex—you can read them here. Or watch Naples’ pizzaoli at work here:
Previously, traditional Mexcian cuisine, the French social practice of celebrating with excellent meals, the Mediterranean diet, and Japanese food preparation associated with the New Year have made the UNESCO cut—so recognizing food is far from unprecedented. Good luck to the pizza, and buon appetito to Naples.