Napoletana Pizza


Napoletana pizza is the epitome of classic Italian pizza. It is known for its blistered crust and smoky flavor profile that comes from a 90 second bake in an infernally hot 900F wood-fired oven.  While the look and taste is synonymous with Italy, it is only recently making its way into popularity in the United States.

“What?” you ask, with a quizzical expression on your face. We all know about wood-fired pizza here in the United States, right? But true Napoletana Pizza is a whole other animal. In a typical show of immense Italian pride, Napoletana Pizza is governed by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN), which is headquartered in you guessed it….Naples, Italy.  There is even a U.S. delegation known as VPN Americas, which oversees the  DOC (Denominazione D’Origine de Controllata) for pizzerias in the United States.

So what is all of the hype about? I mean is there a difference, really?  Think of it this way: If you walk into a McDonald’s in California, do you expect the same Big Mac that you would in Maryland? Of course you do. Such is the spirit of the AVPN, whose desire above all is to protect the integrity of Napoletana Pizza. Started in 1984, the AVPN seeks to preserve a 300 hundred year history with a series of strict requirements that each pizzeria must meet in order to identify itself as a true Napoletana Pizzeria.

The requirements under the DOC, govern first, the oven.  In order to be certified, a facility must use a wood-fired oven. Coal-fired, gas or electric ovens are not allowed, due to the difference in flavor.

Secondly, the pizzeria must use all natural ingredients in its pizza production, to include: ‘00’ Flour, San Marzano Tomatoes, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, sea salt, yeast, and fresh basil (Ideally, the products will be imported from Naples or Campania, but this is not a requirement)

The DOC also insists on very specific dough production, proofing, and cooking methods: from the marble slab required for rolling dough, to the long-handled steel pizza peel that is used to remove the pizza from the oven, every step in between is regulated in order to produce the best possible pizza.

Even the general appearance and texture of the pizza are regulated, from the size (11”), to the risen edge, and thin soft middle.


So what does the certification process look like? There are actually two certifications that can be obtained. The first is for the pizzeria, which requires rigorous inspections of all aspects of the pizza production.  Certification starts with the application and photos of the establishment (food trucks or mobile facilities are not eligible).  Once the application is submitted, a visit by a representative of the VPN is scheduled, to be financed by the applicant. Since many of the inspectors from VPN are former pizzaioli themselves, they are often able to assist an establishment with ways to improve upon their techniques.

A second option for certification is a more recent addition to the VPN offerings, and targets the individual pizzaiolo. After a 3-day class in Marina Del Rey, California, the participant takes a written test (to prove understanding of materials and processes), and a practical exam (to show proficiency in making pizza in the true Napoletana style). Once completed, the pizzaiolo goes through an interview process to show thorough understanding of the process. The major benefit for the pizzaiolo in obtaining this certification is that the certification follows them to wherever they decide to hang their pizza hats.

According to the VPN website, 30 pizzeria’s were certified in 2012, an increase from the 23 in 2011. Currently, there are 70 VPN certified pizzerias in the United States. This is really only just a handful when compared to the 163 AVPN certified pizzerias in Italy, an area roughly the size of Arizona. It looks like we have some catching up to do here in the US !

Armed with my newfound knowledge and appreciation of Napoletana pizza, I am ready to try a DOC certified pizzeria, but my schedule dictates otherwise.

In the meantime, here is a list of DOC certified pizzerias (courtesy of with one hopefully close to you!

CA: Cupola Pizzeria (San Francisco)

DC: Amy’s Neapolitan Pizzeria

FL: Via Napoli (Orlando)

GA: Fritti (Atlanta)

IL: Spaccanapoli (Chicago)

NJ: Ah’Pizz (Montclair)

NY: Naples 45 (NYC)

PA: Il Pizzaiolo  (Pittsburgh)

TX: Il Cane Rosso (Dallas)

Drop me a note in the comments if you happen to try one and love the outcome!

In the meantime, I wait eagerly for my chance to try some authentic Pizza Napoletana!

Until next time!


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