Coffin Baked Pizza: A Neapolitan Specialty?

My friend Jeff just drew this article to my attention and I thought I would share it with all of you… You know, just to completely negate my previous article about how awesome the pizza in Naples was….

Maybe it tasted so good because they used coffin wood to bake it… Is this the secret ingredient???

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Mouth-gasmic Mozzarella di Bufala

Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, white stringy pillows of comestible bliss. This is not your ordinary tasteless zombie mozzarella, but rather a rich, flavorful cheese that can only be produced in designated areas of Italy’s Campania, Lazio, and Puglia regions.

Produced from the milk of a domestic water buffalo, the flavor of Bufala mozzarella cheese is much richer and creamier than its cow milk (Fior di Latte) counterpart. What makes this mozzarella so particularly special however, is its characteristic texture. Heating milk curd in boiling water (temp of curd must reach at least 180F), it melts and is pulled into the stringy recognizable mozzarella consistency. Formed into a large ball, the cheese is then hand pulled and thrown into a pool of cool water by the famous and well respected “Mozzarella Men”. Describing the scene, it was something of an Italian Willy Wonka.

After being formed into various sizes and shapes, the cheese is left to in a bath of salt water for a minimum of 4 hours to acquire its acidic, salty, and creamy taste. Mesmerized by the pulling and plucking of the cheese from its ‘mother ball’, I could barely wait to CONSUME.

Some Bufala Mozzarella Facts for the Ignorant Eater:

  • Never put mozzarella in the fridge, if its the fresh kind thats sold in a plastic bag full of water. In cold temperatures the cheese becomes dry and flavorless. It can last outside the fridge for 4-5 days at a room temp of 60-68F.
  • When cutting into a piece of fresh mozzarella, finding water in the cheese mass is not an indication of high quality.

Though this product has seen a lot of controversy in the past, with tainting and impure milk scandals, it remains nonetheless the pride of Campania. To be honest after a week of eating this stuff I can’t look at it for a while, but oversaturation of the product by no means it isn’t good. Mozzarella di Bufala Campana makes string cheese seem like a white stick of plasticized doom.

A Pizza in Naples

Amongst the chaos of trash-littered streets, whizzing cars and vespas, and whistling men dressed in various shades of purple, in Naples, Pizza is king.

Pizza: a fantastical almost hypnotizing dish with baffling simplicity. Flour, Water, and Yeast are the main components to this traditional recipe that helped to put Italy on the map as one the world’s most respected food capitals. Born in Naples, it is here that pizza is not only a filling dinner, but a testament to the very heart Neapolitan culture.

Unlike other pizza variations, the Pizza Napoletana can be recognized by its slightly raised crust and chewy texture. This pizza is a bit more doughy than the Roman variation, which is typically flat and crunchy. The most typical recipe is the Pizza Margherita, which is simply fresh tomato sauce, Buffalo Mozzarella, and fresh basil.

La Pizza Margherita

Enzo Coccia, head Pizzaiolo at “La Notizia” pizzeria in the heart of Naples, explained with emotion the world of pizza that separates Naples from the rest of Italy. “In the 1980s, Pizza Napoletana became a mass consumer product, with pizzerias in the city growing from 250 to 1300 in just a few years. When a product becomes mass consumed, it loses its identity.”

While top quality ingredients such as Caputo double 00 flour, and San Marzano tomatoes go into making a top quality pizza napoletana, Enzo explains that the most important ingredient is passion and concern for the product itself. Coming from a family of pizza makers, being a Pizzaiolo for Enzo isn’t simply to pay the bills, but rather, as an homage to his family and to his city’s culinary traditions.

He also added that the right oven is key in creating the perfect texture and “cottura” (baking). At La Notizia, the oven was one of the restaurants most serious investments. Costing almost 15,000 Euro ($18,000) the oven was constructed using bricks made with ash from Mt. Vesuvius, by hand. No electric $3,000 oven could replicate the pizzas that came flying out of Enzo’s oven of gold.

Not to mention, this was one of the most awesome pizzas I’ve ever had in my life. The slightly chewy and soft texture of the dough, the sweet and tangy flavor of the tomato sauce, the spice of the fresh garlic. My mouth was exploding in sensory ecstasy.

Ah, Naples… How I love thee.

And of course, a video because who doesn’t want to see me get violated by an overenthusiastic Neapolitan pizza man? Pardon the video quality my friend Alice is an idiot. 😀

Off to Campania: Eating like a Mob Boss

Bay of Naples at Sunset

It’s that time of the month again….No, not THAT one.. I mean it’s off for another gastronomic tour to one of Italy’s most beautiful and notorious regions: Campania. Campania, found on Italy’s southwest side, is home to a plethora of famous tourist destinations such as Amalfi, Sorrento, Positano, Capri, and last but definitely most notorious, Naples.

Naples Street View, Via Toledo

Travelers coming to this part of Italy are surely in for an eyeful of beauty, and a mouthful of food, but must definitely be cautious of their surroundings because despite the romantic landscapes, Naples and its surrounding cities are ‘littered’ (pun intended) with mafia violence and professional thieves. In Amalfi and other coastal tourist destinations in the area, the corruption in this region is hidden a bit more than it is in Naples; however, as a foreigner in Naples one must be incredibly aware of his surroundings and his personal belongings. Even Italians themselves recognize Naples (Napoli in Italian) as being at the crux of Italy’s mafia corruption. The Camorra (as is known the mafia in this region) is incredibly strong and while they probably could care less about a tourist, be sure not to get caught in the middle of a shoot out! (I kind of wish I was kidding.)

Nonetheless, aside from the professional pick-pocketing and potential stray bullets, Campania is home to some of Italy’s most famous food masterpieces, and thus the motivation for my arrival to the Heart of Darkness (to extend my hyperbolic attitude today).

What is the most internationally famous element of Italian cuisine? Pizza. Created in Naples in the late 18th century for King Ferdinand and his wife Margherita (hence the Pizza Margherita).

Traditional Margherita Pizza: Buffalo Mozzarella, Fresh Tomatoes, and Basil

Buffalo Mozzarella is also a key staple product in this region, despite recent tainting issues this sensually rich and flavorful cheese remains the pride of every Neopolitan. Here in Campania it is freshly made and enjoyed by all.

Mozzarella di Bufala

I will be gone until next Friday (May  14th), and will be leaving my computer at home because bringing it to Naples equivalent to having MUG ME tattooed onto my forehead. This should be true Grassroots Gourmet adventure.

The Amalfi Coast

Tainted Bufallo Mozzarella: Holy Cow!!

Mozzarella di Bufala

Italy, a country that cherishes it’s nationally protected products such as its precious wines, cured meats, and olive oils, was completely devastated to discover that 25% delicious bufala mozzarella cheese coming out of central Italy was being diluted with cow’s milk!

Theoretically, bufala mozzarella is made with the milk of the Asian black water buffalo, that (as the story goes) came over with the Norman kings in the year 1000. Italian farmers have cherished this breed of buffalo since the 1200s.

Asian Water Buffaloes

Unlike cow’s milk mozzarella cheese, bufala mozzarella is a richer and creamier version, used on neapolitan style pizza, caprese salads, and various other delicious recipes.

This is a huge scandal in the world of cheese and Italian food! Bufala mozzarella tainted with 30% cows milk!! AN OUTRAGE!!!!!

To read more about the crazy ordeal, check out the article

This isn’t the only blow to this cheese’s reputation, “In 2008, tests at hundreds of mozzarella plants showed that the cheese was being produced with milk that contained dangerous levels of dioxin, and mozzarella sales plunged.”-ABC news

Oyyyyy che scandaloso!!!!