At a sales convention in the heart of midtown Atlanta, I had heard some buzz about a local pizza place that was gaining popularity. Naturally, I had to go see what all the fuss was about, and if indeed it was true Naples style pizza.
What Makes a Pizza Authentic Napoletana?
Perhaps the most important thing is that the pizza is cooked in under two minutes. Truly authentic pies are born in the flames of a 900° F or-more wood-fired “Forno” (oven). Oak wood is burned inside a dome shaped oven to produce the extreme heat needed to cook a pizza in under two minutes. Two minutes is the maximum, but the pizzas I saw coming were averaging just over a minute, so I quickly scratched this off my list. Even as a skilled pizza cook, I was surprised at how fast my pizza landed in front of me. Another equally important factor, but perhaps more obvious, is that all the ingredients must be imported from Italy. What’s less obvious is that this rule is so specific it narrows down to what region in Italy ingredients should come from.
Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC)
There are multiple systems now in place with the European Union to protect authentic products made using traditional techniques that were born in Italy, such as the use of Buffalo’s milk in mozzarella. Often you'll see the terms "DOC", "DOGC", or "DOP" paired with the word "certified". It's basically a really official way of identifying that a product is actually from Italy, sometimes even from a specific region in Italy. Everything I saw at this place was literally, “straight off the boat.”
The dough technique for a true Italian pie is much different than your average American style pizza. Low speed mixers manipulate dough in a much softer, sophisticated manner. Ingredients are mixed gently and allowed to rest before the dough is completed and removed from the machines. Only “0” or “00” grind flour, the finest available, is used to make the dough. On top of each mixer sat a pre-measured bag of SalFiore Di Romagna. Also called "Pope's Salt", it was salt from a region in Italy known for the best called Cervia.
My pizza at this restaurant tasted fantastic. The dough was chewy mostly, with a faint crispness from the char that spotted the flavorful crust. I had a chance to take in all of the flavors: sauce, cheese, meat and dough before each one of them were overwhelmed with capsaicin as I bit into a Calabrian chile. There were only the most minuscule (at least to me) details at Antico Pizza that could have been debated as “authentic” or not. While everything was from Italy, some stamps or certifications may have been missing here or there, but at a certain point it really becomes “splitting hairs”. Antico Pizza was clearly Italian, made with authentic Italian product, by real Italians. I had no idea when I left for Georgia that my last serenade with food would turn out to be so authentic; a true homage to Italian pie, called Antico Pizza.