Best Pizza In The World competition
This is from The Guardian, July 1.
"Best pizza in the world"
You want to taste the real thing? Then track down the champion pizza maker in Naples
Saturday July 1, 2006
Il campione ... Pasquale Sivo.
In a sports arena in an edgy suburb of Naples, the atmosphere is tense as big and brawny men emerge from their prep stations carrying mozzarella, dough and tomatoes. Family and friends yell encouragement and pat them on the back as they make their way towards the stage, like prizefighters going into a boxing ring. Battle commences in front of specially installed wood-burning ovens and for the next few hours delicious thin-crust pizzas, about as far away as it's possible to get from the over-laden lumps of stodge most of us find when we open pizza delivery boxes, are cooked and presented to a panel of judges.
Naples is the spiritual home of the pizza and the true Neapolitan pizza is even recognised by the EU as a "copyrighted" traditional specialty. A proper margherita must have mozzarella "from the southern Apennines," and be served with locally grown tomatoes and only a leaf or two of basil. It has to be round and no more than 35cm in diameter, with a rim not more than two centimetres high.
With 12,000 pizzerias in the city, and some 25,000 in the whole region of Campania, every self-respecting Neapolitan will eat pizza at least once a week. The top pizzaioli, or pizza makers, therefore, are admired, even revered, which is why contestants are waiting impatiently for the results of the Naples Pizza Championship, held annually in Italy's rough-and-ready but highly alluring third city.
There are other categories in the competition - pizza by the metre, gluten-free pizza, creative pizza and freestyle acrobatics in which performers send dinner-plate sized rounds of white dough flying through the air - but it's the person who is judged to have made the best pizza tradizionale who takes away the top prize.
As the judging slips are counted the air of expectancy is palpable.
Pizza-making is a macho thing. There are only a couple of women out of all the competitors and most of the pizzaioli seem to be big, muscled men with shoulders like hams, wearing aprons, bandanas and scarves.
Pasquale Parziale, 58, has been cooking pizzas for 42 years. A true Neapolitan idol, he has won just about every prize going in his long career and now acts as a father figure to youngsters trying to get a start in the business. "It's strength, it's passion," he says. "What's pizza? It's flour, water, salt and a bit of yeast. It's how you work the dough, how you look after your oven, and what you put on the pizza. That's how a good pizzaiolo stands out from mediocrity."
The verdict is in and the winner is Pasquale Sivo, who comes on to the stage to thunderous applause. The judges have given him top marks for his perfectly round pizza, with a slightly burned, crunchy crust. They also approve of his base of crushed tiny tomatoes grown in the volcanic soil near Mount Vesuvius, as well his perfectly placed splodges of mozzarella.
Clutching his award afterwards, he says he has been making pizzas at his pizzeria, La Sorrentina, for 28 years. "It's a life," he says, tears of pride welling up in his eyes, before he is led away to celebrate by his family. La Sorrentina is a typical rustic Neapolitan pizzeria about 10km from the centre of Naples in Fratta Maggiore. It's a family-run place - his two brothers, wife, son and father-in-law all work there. He offers 30 types of pizza but his speciality is the true Neapolitan. His message to British holidaymakers is "Come and taste real pizza!"
· Best Neapolitan Pizza 2006: Pasquale Sivo, La Sorrentina, 37 Via Domenico Pirozzi, Fratta Maggiore (00 39 338 3248615), closed Mondays.