Its rise is a boon for British food. But how do you eat this notoriously floppy item? Knife and fork? Slice? Or, as the hardcore insist, folded like a crepe?
The rise of Neapolitan-style pizza, soft, pliable and blast-cooked to perfection in under 90 seconds, is the best thing to happen to British food in the past decade.
Those slow-proved bases blistered with delicious char, topped with sweet San Marzano tomato pulp and a modest layer of imperious ingredients, are frequently incredible the most fun you can have with food at circa 10. From the Dusty Knuckle in Cardiff to Little Furnace in Liverpool, Cals Own in Newcastle to Berthas in Bristol, How to Eat the series isolating the best way to eat our most beloved foods salutes this flour-powered vanguard.
Is Neapolitan pizza unusually floppy? Undeniably. The Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana [pdf] directs that a pizza should be no thicker than 4mm at its centre and, in its airy, chewy elasticity, the Neapolitan base is famed for its easy digestibility. It is a revelation, despite some objecting to Nea-pizza on the basis that a slice cannot support its own weight. Such naysayers are more than welcome to continue to eat the many pizzas available, from Brooklyn to Bolton, that feature bases as sturdy and appetising as cardboard. It leaves more gloriously limp, drooping Neapolitan pizza for the rest of us.
There is, however, one growing problem in this buffalo mozzarella-covered sphere, and that is a sudden voguish tendency How To Eat is looking at you, the otherwise impeccable Honest Crust in Manchester to send Neapolitan pizzas out from the kitchen unsliced. Not just in restaurants, but in more chaotic street food environments, too. This leaves you in the unfortunate position of having to eat your pizza with a knife and fork or tear it by hand, which seems a barbaric way to treat such a precious item.
It is authentic, apparently. But does that make it right? Let How to Eat (HTE) cut to the chase on the Neapolitan slice.
On knives, forks and pre-slicing
First things first, announces Pizza Pilgrims website, eating pizza with a knife and fork is a very Italian way to do things so dont feel like this is any kind of cop-out. Indeed, there are those who see the New York slice and the habit that arose from that of pre-slicing whole pizzas in restaurants as an Italian-American invention, yet another strand of US cultural imperialism alien in Italy itself. Most Italian sources agree that in restaurants, cutlery should be used to eat your (whole, unsliced) pizza, not your hands.
That may seem weird for something we think of as street food, but it is not nearly as bizarre as the genuinely WTF method used in Naples by those eating pizza on the street. Pizza a portafoglio, literally wallet pizza, involves folding your pizza in half and then quarters, so you can walk along eating your newly portable pizza like a crepe or kebab held out away from your shirtfront, warn its advocates. This (what DIY calzone?) was the original way to enjoy this working-class street food, traditionalists insist.
But you can have too much tradition, HTE finds.