What Is Neapolitan Pizza? | A Delicious Introduction

Are you curious about the origins of Neapolitan pizza and want to gain a better understanding of this popular dish? Then you’ve come to the right place! In this blog post, we’ll be exploring what is Neapolitan pizza and where it gets its unique flavor. We’ll go over the different styles, toppings, doughs, baking methods used in making authentic Neapolitan pizza and why it has become an international favorite. So get ready to learn all there is about this classic Italian cuisine – let’s dive into what is Neapolitan pizza.

What Is Neapolitan Pizza?

First, we will explore the answer to the question “What Is Neapolitan Pizza?”. Neapolitan pizza holds a unique and significant place in the global pizza phenomenon. As the original pizza, Neapolitan pizza is considered the standard by which all other pizza styles are judged and the foundation of pizza culture worldwide.

Neapolitan pizza is more than a dish – it represents a culinary tradition codified in law and protected as part of Italy’s cultural heritage. Its recipes, ingredients, and baking methods are safeguarded to preserve the authenticity of this iconic food.

Beyond its cultural importance, Neapolitan pizza occupies a special place in the hearts and taste buds of pizza lovers globally. Its light and airy crust, tangy San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil captures the essence of Italian cuisine.

The Historical Roots of Neapolitan Pizza

Neapolitan pizza traces its origins in the working class neighborhoods of Naples, Italy. The exact beginnings are uncertain, but evidence suggests primitive forms of pizza existed in the 1500s to 1600s. Archaeological findings indicate that street peddlers in Naples sold flatbreads topped with olive oil and herbs centuries ago.

16th-18th centuries

  • Flatbreads with olive oil and herbs sold by street vendors in Naples emerge as forerunners to modern pizza.

Late 18th century

  • Baker Raffaele Esposito from Pizzeria Brandi is credited with creating the classic Pizza Margherita, named for Queen Margherita, in 1889. The pizza’s red (tomato), white (mozzarella) and green (basil) represented the Italian flag.

19th century

  • Early pizzerias open in Naples, often serving working class Neapolitans. The dish gains popularity.
  • Bakers begin using yeast and focaccia-style doughs rather than traditional bread doughs.
  • Wood-fired brick ovens emerge as the gold standard for baking pizzas.

20th century

  • Immigration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries brings pizza from Naples to America. Neapolitan pizza influences early American pizza styles.
  • Use of mozzarella di bufala (buffalo mozzarella) increases as does pizza consumption in Naples and Italy.
  • After World War II, Allied troops exposed to pizza in Italy help fuel its growing popularity worldwide.

21st century

  • In 2004, the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (True Neapolitan Pizza Association) codifies strict standards for Neapolitan pizza.
  • UNESCO grants Neapolitan pizza Traditional Specialty Guaranteed status in the European Union in 2009.
  • Neapolitan pizza making receives UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage designation in 2017.

The Craft Behind Neapolitan Pizza

Neapolitan pizza baking is an artisan craft honed over generations and guided today by strict traditional standards.

Certification and Standards

The Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN) sets guidelines protecting the tradition of Neapolitan pizza:

  • Dough must be hand-kneaded and undergo slow fermentation for 6-12 hours.
  • Only wood-fired ovens at 905°F may be used, with pizza baked 60-90 seconds.
  • San Marzano tomatoes, sea salt, mozzarella di bufala, basil, and olive oil are designated ingredients.

The European Union also safeguards Neapolitan pizza with Protected Designation of Origin status.

Techniques and Training

Mastering Neapolitan pizza requires extensive training and skill:

  • Extensive kneading technique to develop elastic dough.
  • Learning proper pizza stretching technique.
  • Managing the blistering heat of a wood-fired oven.
  • Coordinating toppings and monitoring baking.
  • Developing an intuition for the perfect bake.

Ingredients and Preparation

Ingredients also impact the Neapolitan pizza making process:

  • High protein flour with W260-380 rating is required, giving a softer dough.
  • San Marzano tomatoes give the sweet, low acid taste signature to Neapolitan red pizzas.
  • Mozzarella di bufala has a softer curd and higher moisture content perfect for pizza.
  • Pizza is always cooked in a wood-fired brick oven fired to over 900°F.

Neapolitan Pizza: A Cultural Emblem

Beyond a dish, Neapolitan pizza embodies Italian cultural heritage.

UNESCO Recognition

In 2017, the art of Neapolitan pizza making joined UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritages of Humanity. The designation recognizes the culture, community, and craft behind Neapolitan pizza.

Geographical Indication Status

The European Union protects the Neapolitan pizza tradition via its Protected Designation of Origin certification. Only members of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana may use the label.

Community and Social Gatherings

Eating pizza in pizzerias is intricately linked to Italian social life. Neapolitan pizza is preeminent in fostering community:

  • Multi-generational families chatting over pizza at their neighborhood pizzeria.
  • Football fans enjoying pizza while watching matches with friends.
  • Workers stopping for quick slices at tiny pizzerias.
  • Pizzerias as open and egalitarian community hubs in Italy.

This spirit now infuses pizza culture worldwide.

Variations and Innovations

Variations and Innovations

Despite codified traditions, Neapolitan pizza retains flexibility allowing for innovations.

Traditional vs. Neo-Neapolitan


  • Strict adherence to VPN standards.
  • San Marzano tomatoes and fior di latte mozzarella.


  • More flexibility in ingredients and preparation.
  • Use of all types of tomatoes, other cheese.


  • Increasing demand for plant-based and gluten-free Neapolitan pizzas.
  • Innovation in doughs and cheese while retaining traditional techniques.


  • Taking advantage of seasonal ingredients like zucchini blossoms, wild greens, or tender garlic shoots.
  • Reflecting regional differences across Italy in Neapolitan pizza interpretations.

Neapolitan vs. The World: Comparative Insights

Though the original, Neapolitan pizza differs substantially from the major pizza styles that emerged after:


  • Thin, soft crust
  • Blistered cornicione
  • Minimal toppings
  • Wood-fired oven
  • 1 minute bake

New York

  • Large hand-tossed crust
  • Crisp undercarriage
  • Generous toppings
  • Coal/gas oven
  • 8-10 minute bake


  • Non-traditional doughs
  • Adventurous toppings
  • Stone deck ovens
  • Fusion of styles

Chicago Deep Dish

  • Thick, buttery crust
  • Layered like a casserole
  • Dense, extended bake


  • More crust varieties
  • Variable topping styles
  • Electric or wood ovens
  • Regional flair

The Neapolitan style remains the foundation. Its fast, blistering bake in wood-fired ovens aligns closest to the original emergence of pizza.

The Global Journey of Neapolitan Pizza

The Neapolitan tradition seeded pizza culture worldwide, evident in the global spread of Neapolitan pizzerias.

Globalization’s Impact

  • Immigrants from Naples brought their pizza to new lands as far back as the late 1800s.
  • Post World War II rise in pizza’s popularity accelerated its global spread.
  • International trade and supply chains enabled ingredients like San Marzano tomatoes and mozzarella di bufala to reach global markets.
  • Modern pizzerias integrate Neapolitan style while adapting to local cultures.

Iconic Neapolitan Pizzerias Around the World

Even far from Naples, strict Neapolitan traditions thrive:

  • Italy: Da Michele, Starita, I Masanielli
  • USA: Una Pizza Napoletana, Pizzeria Bianco, Ribalta
  • Argentina: Big Mamma, Olivia
  • Japan: Seirinkan, Napule Vita

These iconic pizzerias and others authentically maintain Neapolitan pizza culture globally.

Experiencing Authentic Neapolitan Pizza

Experiencing Authentic Neapolitan Pizza

The best Neapolitan pizza balances tradition and quality. Here are tips to recognize the real thing:

Identify Genuine Neapolitan Pizza

  • Made according to AVPN standards
  • Baked 60-90 seconds in wood-fired oven
  • San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella
  • Soft, puffy crust with charred cornicione


  • Aromas of yeast and baking bread
  • Sweet and bright San Marzano tomato sauce
  • Delicate, silky fresh mozzarella
  • Light and airy crust with yeasty, complex flavors

Eating Tips

  • Fold and tear pizza slices rather than cutting
  • Eat pizza with your hands
  • Savor individual components – crust, cheese, sauce, basil
  • Pair with a dry white wine like Greco di Tufo

Sustainability and Ethical Considerations

Making Neapolitan pizza more eco-friendly aligns with its artisanal roots.

  • Local ingredients reduce transport emissions
  • Renewable oven fuels like fruitwood pellets
  • Responsible water usage
  • Fair labor practices
  • Engaging customers on sustainability

The Economic and Social Impact of Neapolitan Pizza

Neapolitan pizza generates economic opportunity while fostering social bonds:

Economic Impact

  • Over 120,000 pizzerias employ over 200,000 people in Italy alone, generating €15 billion yearly.
  • Mozzarella di bufala production and San Marzano tomatoes provide jobs and growth in southern Italy.
  • Global pizza market estimated at over $145 billion, with Neapolitan at the core.

Social Impact

  • Multi-generational pizzerias remain cornerstones of communities.
  • Pizza is an equalizer enjoyed across society without barriers.
  • Few foods bring people together to socialize like pizza.

Conclusion: What Is Neapolitan Pizza?

Neapolitan pizza represents a delicate balance between preserving centuries-old tradition and innovating for the future. This heritage continues driving the global passion for original Neapolitan pizza.

The craft, community, and culture enshrining Neapolitan pizza ensure its enduring legacy as the queen of global pizza styles.

5 thoughts on “What Is Neapolitan Pizza? | A Delicious Introduction”

  1. Pizza Napoletana and Pizza Margherita are two classic Italian pizzas that differ in their toppings and origins.
    Pizza Napoletana, also known as Neapolitan pizza, is the original pizza that originated in Naples, Italy. It is made with San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, and extra-virgin olive oil. The dough is made from high-protein flour, yeast, water, and salt and is left to rise for several hours before being stretched by hand into a thin, round shape. It is cooked in a wood-fired oven at a high temperature, which gives it a crispy crust and a soft, chewy interior.
    Pizza Margherita, on the other hand, was created in honor of Queen Margherita of Savoy in 1889. It is also made with San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil, but it also includes tomato sauce and is topped with fresh slices of tomato. The colors of the ingredients – red tomato sauce, white mozzarella cheese, and green basil – are said to represent the colors of the Italian flag. Like Pizza Napoletana, it is also cooked in a wood-fired oven.
    In summary, the main differences between Pizza Napoletana and Pizza Margherita are the toppings and their origins. Pizza Napoletana is the original pizza from Naples, made with San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, basil, and extra-virgin olive oil, while Pizza Margherita is a newer creation that includes tomato sauce and fresh tomato slices in addition to the same toppings as Pizza Napoletana.

  2. A Neapolitan pizza can be one of many but it’s made with a specific kind of crust and cooked very quickly. There was a group of guys who got together in the 1980s to produce specifications for the “official” version. That’s a bit much IMO but the idea is that the crust is thin, chewy, lightly topped, and has a cornicione, or outer crust, that is thicker than the rest of the crust.
    A Margherita pizza is a Neapolitan pizza made with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. So it’s a subset of the larger set of Neapolitan pizzas.
    The story is that it is named after the queen Margherita because it was invented in her honor, or she chose it as a favorite, or she liked it, or whatever version of the fairy tale you’re told. Most likely it was named for her, but there is no way it was created for her since it existed long before she became queen.

  3. Traditionally a pizza Napoli would be a pizza with anchovies and oregano as the topping. A pizza Romana would be with oregano, anchovies and capers. a Margherita would be topped with bssil. All could be Neapolitan style pizzas. Other traditional pizzas would the cappricciosa, the quattro stagioni, the marinara and a few others, again all could be made in the Neapolitan or Roman style. The Roman style being made with a much thinner crust and no “crown” around the edge.

  4. Overall, Neapolitan pizza is known for its simple, high-quality ingredients and traditional cooking method, while American-style pizza is known for its wide variety of toppings and more flexible cooking method.

  5. here are two main types of pizza bases: yeasted and flatbread.
    Yeasted pizza bases are made with flour, water, yeast, and salt. They are typically allowed to rise for several hours before being cooked, which gives them a fluffy and chewy texture. Yeasted pizza bases can be thin or thick, depending on how much the dough is stretched before cooking.
    Flatbread pizza bases are made with a variety of different flours, water, and salt. They are typically cooked at a high heat, which gives them a crispy and chewy texture. Flatbread pizza bases are often thinner than yeasted pizza bases and can be used for a variety of different toppings, including Mediterranean-inspired ingredients and vegetables.

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