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The "best" way to eat a Neapolitan pizza?

When you have a properly made Neapolitan pizza (ie., where the crust is thin, soft and with a little bit of a crunchy crust, and where the cornizone is blistered and slightly charred and blackened), what is the "best" way to eat it?

I am told today, quite emphatically by the way, that the best way -- and dare I say the "only proper way" -- to attack a Neapolitan pizza is thusly.

1. Let it sit for about 2 minutes after it's served from a wood-burning oven
2. Then lift it up and make a libretto out of the pie
3. Fold in half, so you go from full circle, to semi-circle.
4. Then take the semi-circle and fold it in half again to you have a conical or triangular shape.
5. Now, you get to eat.

True?

What do you think?

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  1. The ipsedixit is wrong.

    Never let a proper pizza Napoletana cool. You have a knife and fork, use them to first cut the pie into quarters and then move the slice to your plate. Continue with the knife and fork while the pie is still molten.

    Over time, migrate to a hand-held technique as things cool if you're uncomfortable with a knife and fork.

    A house red works for some, a beer is better.

    18 Replies
    1. re: steve h.

      Look, I'm not espousing this technique, or saying that another one is better.

      I'm just asking if what I was told is true or not.

      After posting, I did a bit of research and this is what Mario Batali had to say about letting a Neapolitan pizza cool, or rest, before eating:

      "[E]ven though you're hungry, let it sit for two minutes on the table before you try to eat it, because then it sets. If not, it's so hot you pick it up and the topping slides off. It's not good for anybody. It's soup on a wet crustino basically."

      Read more from Mario here: http://www.slashfood.com/2010/09/10/m...

      [shrug]

      1. re: ipsedixit

        No worries.

        I spend a lot of my time in pizza joints in Naples and Rome (two very different pizza cultures).

        Post this on the Italy Board and you'll probably get the same two positions described here.

        At the end of the day, a really good pizza is a delicate thing that loses its attraction as it cools. Wait two minutes? Not for me. Others will differ.

        just my $0.02.

        1. re: steve h.

          As an aside, don't you find something missing in the pizza experience when eaten with knife and fork?

          No matter the type of pizza, I always prefer my digits as the vehicle of getting pizza from pan to mouth. With Chicago pizza being the one possible exception ...

          1. re: ipsedixit

            It all goes back to your "let it sit two minutes..." thing. While revenge is a dish best served cold, a very good pizza Napoletana is best served piping hot (right out of the wood-fired oven). A knife and fork limits the burn stuff. Fingers work as things cool. The down side is that the cooler pizza is not as tasty.

            On a different tack, supper this evening was a lovely "scottadito".

          2. re: steve h.

            But will a couple of minutes really make that big of a difference in the taste? It should still be piping hot. But it may be the difference between scorching your tongue and not tasting anything or hot enough to still appreciate all the flavors.

            1. re: Jase

              For a normal human being, it would probably take more than 2 minutes to finish the whole pie anyway.

              So, I think allowing the pie to rest may have its benefits. Aside from allowing the temp to cool, it might also allow some of the flavors to blossom and blend with one another.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                I have to respectfully disagree. A good pizza Napoletana begins to deteriorate as soon as it's taken out of the oven. The last piece is never as good as the first.
                Let wines breathe, let cooked meats rest. Eat your pizza as soon as it comes out of the oven.

                just my $0.02.

                1. re: steve h.

                  I'm going to have to try this sometime, steve.

                  Although probably not with a true Neapolitan pie, but next time I make pizza at home I'm going to make two identical ones, and eat one straight out of my oven, and another one allowing it to rest a bit.

                  Say a prayer for the roof of my mouth ...

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    Sounds like a great idea. I bake pizza margheritas at home. Maybe use that as a baseline. A multi-topping pie is a whole different animal and is maybe beyond the original scope of this thread (pizza Napoletana).

                    The remedy for hot-out-of-the-oven pizza is cold beer and a knife and fork. Pay particular attention to the taste of the first slice and the taste of the last. Drink more beer as appropriate.

                    Best of luck.

                    1. re: steve h.

                      I keep my pies simple. Usu. just cheese, EVOO, tomatoes and maybe some basil, onions or minced garlic.

                        1. re: steve h.

                          And this is how I do it.

                          Preheat my oven as high as it can go. Heat up my cast-iron pan on the stovetop until it's screaming hot. Flip the pan upside down, place the pizza on the flipped over pan's bottom, stick it in the oven, and voiila, pizza!

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            Have you tried oven on broil? This might be a good reason to get a cast iron grill top. Bigger pizzas.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              Mighty impressive. I use a pizza stone but like you I crank the oven all the way up and keep it there for at least an hour before baking. Let me know how the "pepsi challenge" works out.

                2. re: Jase

                  One major reason why eating it fast matters for me is that the olive oil in the sauce soaks through and into the crust, which causes it to change from crisp to soggy.

                  1. re: limster

                    Howdy limster,
                    Pizza is serious stuff. How's the UK treating you?

                    1. re: steve h.

                      Howdy! Not as easy to find good pizza in London, but Franco Manca in Brixton Village isn't bad.

          3. Ipse, I'm with you and Batali on this one. I NEVER eat pizza with a knife and fork. If you don't let it cool, you risk that lovely, blistering burn on your palate.

            2 Replies
            1. re: iluvcookies

              I'm with you--I've burned the roof of my mouth far too many times on hot pizza. I use my hands but might guide the tip w/ a fork, if it's droopy. I don't like to fold but maybe that would help w/ the burned mouth.

              1. re: chowser

                Burning your mouth on the first bite really ruins the rest of the pie for you, doesn't it?

            2. I don't think the waiting time is necessary. If you are eating in a restaurant, it takes at least a minute or two for the pizza to be removed from the oven and placed at your table. It can take longer than that in some establishments. The waiting, unless you are removing the pizza from the oven yourself (as Batali might be), is built into the serving time.

              My biggest question is your description of a "properly made" Neopolitan pizza being slightly charred and blackened. I get that "well done" is desireable, but black is bitter -- and I disagree with that premise.

              A well done pizza is best eaten by cutting into slices and folding them in half. Forks and knives are optional.

              1 Reply
              1. re: RGC1982

                Charring and leoparding is pretty much standard for Neapolitan style pizza. I would say "proper."

              2. if im in a hurry (2 slices for lunch) they get sandwiched together.
                if im eating normally..it gets kinda folded in the middle so the middle pointy end doesnt flop down ..just so that the toppings dont fall off (and no it must be hot)

                the only pizza ive ever eaten with a fork is that weird chicago pie thingy they eat there....

                1. We've traveled through Italy quite often, including numerous trips to Naples.

                  Pretty much everyone ate their pizzas with a knife and fork, at least up to the crust which might be eaten by hand. The other exception would be those square slices of thickish precooked pizzas sold sort of as open faced sandwiches.

                  I always eat my pizzas with a knife and fork regardless of where I am. The reasons are few and simple. I don't like grease on my fingers. Proper Italian style (especially Neopolitan) pizza is thinner than American pizza with patches of almost liquid cheese on a thin and runny tomato sauce, so it's not quite easy to take simple and firm bites eating by hand without a lot of juice dripping down your fingers and you end up tearing apart the pizza with your teeth in big chunks and slurping it down rather than properly eating it. A proper pizza from Napoli is fabulous and I'd rather take my time and savor each bite.

                  Buit I'm never one for turning certain foodstuff into a cult where you must do this or do that, so it's each to its own.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Roland Parker

                    your description of the proper Italian style pizza, while unintentional, made my mouth water! (Including the liquid running down your fingers.) Now how can i talk my BF into pizza tonight instead of whatever other thing he's lovingly making us already?

                  2. to my palate, the system that ipse described would be the best way to
                    1) completely ruin the beautiful variations in textures of such a pie
                    also
                    2) imho, cooling of any sort changes the tastes of the ingredients.

                    i'm with steve h. on this.

                    this whole discussion reminds me of my nursery school days when kids liked to take white bread and roll it into a dense ball, then eat it: yuck to an adult, but as kids we liked it.

                    1. My eating tutor maintains that the right way is the way you decide to eat it.

                      1. I do eat it this way although the ladies by me the other day looked at me as if I was eating it wrong... they are using knives and forks. I ate it like a truck driver. :D

                        1. There's no best way to eat anything.

                          From a practical standpoint, every Neapolitan style pizza I've ever had has been too wet to do this folding routine. It would be a mess.

                          Additionally, the idea of biting through 4 layers of dough with each bite is unappealing to say the least.

                          I prefer a combination knife and fork and fingers, as I've seen done in Naples, and restaurants serving similar styles across Italy and the US.

                          As far as letting it cool off, that doesn't take long when you're cooking a pizza for 90 seconds. I eat it was soon as I can, because I can't wait.

                          1. I never eat pizza straight out the oven. It needs to cool just a little. There's nothing worse than burning your tongue -- you can't fully enjoy the flavors of the pizza or anything else after that.

                            As for whether to use a knife and fork -- I do more often than not, but it really depends on the individual pizza. Soupier pizzas with crusts that are really thin at the center (like most of the ones in Naples) call for knives and forks.
                            I often start out with knife and fork, then finish off a slice (once the center, thin part has been eaten) by holding it.

                            The main problem with folding a slice is that with each bite your tongue encounters the blander crust flavors first rather than the spicy toppings and sauce flavors. So I'll fold if the slice is too wobbly to be held flat without drooping, but I'd prefer to eat a non-folded slice whenever possible.

                              1. re: srsone

                                The OP was asking about Neapolitan pizza. The slice article was about the classic NYC slice, two different things.

                                1. re: melo7

                                  Yeah, it's hard to do a full or half fold with a Neapolitan pie; it's just too soft and gooey (or wet) in the middle.

                                  That said, a full fold is the only way to eat a NYC slice. Long live the orange grease!

                                  1. re: melo7

                                    i only know new york/new haven style...
                                    when i hear neapolitan all i know that to mean is thin crust pizza with just cheese and sauce--- no toppings

                                2. this is my favorite place to eat it.
                                  http://settebello.net/
                                  and eat it I do.
                                  it's delicious.
                                  very tender and the crust is so, I can't find the words, yumm/delighful/amazing
                                  my second favorite is this one.
                                  http://www.pizzeriabianco.com/

                                  1. If ipse's not 'avn a bit of fun w/ us, then ipse's been had.
                                    1st giveaway. "make a libretto out of the pie" followed by step 3. which duplicates step 2 if the intended meaning of libretto is little book (it surely can't mean "make a text of an opera out of the pie"). No doubt the use of Italian (libretto) intentionally aided the charade.
                                    2nd giveaway - one of ipse's legs is now longer than the other from being pulled so vigorously.
                                    3rd giveaway - NOBODY*, in Italy or anywhere else, eats pizza by folding a whole pizza several times till it's a triangular glob of dough..

                                    *No doubt there's a few people who play the role of exceptions that prove the rule.

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: ilikefood

                                      He does speak with authority.
                                      At the end of the day, the best way to eat a pizza in the style of Naples is in Naples. Da Michele makes a serviceable pie. Very inexpensive. Eat it while it's hot.

                                      1. re: steve h.

                                        I disagree. I've had much better neapolitan-style pizzas in the US and other countries than in Naples (including at Da Michele).

                                        1. re: steve h.

                                          i live in naples.........

                                          ive only found one or 2 good pizzas here...

                                            1. re: srsone

                                              Naples, Florida?

                                              Marcella Hazan now lives there, I believe.

                                              1. re: Roland Parker

                                                yes......to the first...

                                                dont know to the second...

                                                if u checked my profile it says floriduhh on it.....

                                        2. This is a very important question with only one right answer:

                                          1) You NEVER let it cool. The colder it gets, the less enjoyable the pizza is.
                                          2) You always use a fork and knife to cut of the first piece of each slice. The very middle of the pizza is too thin to pick up with your hands, so you have to fork it.
                                          3) Once you've taken the first bite of the weakest part of the pizza (the center), you fold it half hot-dog style (as described in original post).
                                          4) As it's folded, you take your bites very carefully so that you have a small bite of the inner-most part of the pizza, as well as some crust. Because the crust alone is not as good without cheese or sauce. So you have to get crust in every bite.

                                          Most importantly, you eat every last crumb off that plate. You do NOT waste Neapolitan pizza.