People usually would come to Naples and say “finally I will have the real Neapolitan pizza”. But it’s not that simple. Because in Naples we don’t have only one single style of pizza. And we can even direct the job of the pizzaiolo while taking the order, using specific terms to communicate our preferences.
Curious? Here’s your guide on how to order your pizza next time you go to Naples.
Pizza a rota ‘e carretta
This is a Neapolitan term that literally translates as “cartwheel”. Although I’ve heard English-speaking people have decided to translate it as “flat tire pizza” (am I correct? Let me know in the comments). A rota ‘e carretta is a pizza larger than usual, with a thinner crust. L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele made this style very popular thanks to its worldwide reputation, but it’s not the only representant in Naples (a notable example is Pizzeria Pellone, in the Vasto district, not very far from central station).
The dough ball is the same as a normal pizza (or, sometimes, 10 grams more), but it’s stretched all the way down, leaving less space for the outer rim and the air to be trapped in a beautiful, inflated crust. But, in terms of dough and structure, nothing changes: it’s still the same direct dough, with hydration between 60-65%. In terms of flavors a rota ‘e carretta can be more satisfying for the simple reason there is more room for the ingredients. Note that only at Pizzeria Da Michele a simple Margherita has less mozzarella compared to its size: other pizzerias that go for the rota e’ carretta style are more generous with it.
The word verace means genuine, and it’s usually associated with the Neapolitan culture (but not only), and especially the traditional pizza. But what do we mean by that? All and nothing. There is not really such a thing as a pure, traditional Neapolitan pizza unless you want to worship the AVPN guideline like it was the Bible. To me, it’s more a way to set a category of Neapolitan pizza style that is not as extreme as the rota ‘e carretta or the pizza a canotto, which we will discuss in the next paragraph.
The classic Neapolitan pizza is 30-33 cm in diameter, with a moderate cornicione (crust). But those are not real standards. Popular pizzeria Starita a Materdei serve pizzas that are smaller than the average pizza you could buy in Naples. And the height of the crust can vary between 1 and 2 centimeters. Still, we are talking about the size, but the essence of the product is the same.
Pizza a canotto
You’re probably now familiar with this term that has been popularized in the latest years thanks to the explosion of the pizza-mania on Instagram with a plethora of hashtag. The canotto style identifies a small size pizza with a very inflated crust: in Italian, canotto means in fact inflatable raft.
Now, here’s the fact: you won’t find many canotto style pizzas in Naples. Actually, pizzerias that follow this style can be barely counted on two hands, and they’re not even in central Naples, but in other districts: a notable example is the pizza made by Raffaele Bonetta working at pizzeria Ciarly in Fuorigrotta.
The pizza a canotto is mainly identified with the city of Caserta and its surrounding, where the trend rose a few years ago and it became a staple in the majority of pizzerias there. But it is a mistake to think this style was born in Caserta. I’ll tell you more in a dedicated article.
If you lived in Naples, hung out with Neapolitans of an older generation, and dined with them in one of the many historical pizzerias located in the central area, one day or another you would happen to hear this peculiar order: “una Margherita all’ombra“.
“All’ombra” means with little tomato sauce. It sounds strange, but not everyone enjoys a good, juicy Margherita, and prefers instead a pizza with only a trace of red. It is indeed comfortable if it’s meant to be taken away and eaten on the street, as the folded slice will not drip sauce all over you. But personally, I’d prefer to be covered in red stains than giving up my sauce.
Pizza a portafoglio
We mentioned it before, but it deserves a place on this list: in case you didn’t know, in Naples, you can buy from many pizzerias a very small, street food version of a Margherita to take away which you can fold and eat in few bites. It is called pizza a portafoglio, and you can read everything about it in this article. So you will also have very clear the difference between a pizza a portafoglio bought in Naples, and any other kind of small street pizza you can buy from food stands in other parts of the world.
Pizza a vucca ‘e furn’
Meaning “by the oven mouth”, in Neapolitan language. That’s a pizza cooking technique used for the Calzone: this particular kind of pizza can’t really cook inside the oven, because the very hot temperature would brown the surface while leaving the dough and the stuffing raw inside, and leaving it for longer will burn the outside. Pizzaioli needs to cook it slowly keeping the pizza just in between the oven mouth, so the temperature is lower and that will give time to even out the cooking both inside and outside.
It goes without saying that you don’t have to say to a pizzaiolo to cook a Calzone by the oven mouth, as they know their job. However, there are people that prefer to order other kinds of Neapolitan pizza a vucca ‘e furn even if they’re not supposed to be cooked in that way: it happens when they maybe don’t like that wet and soft texture and prefer their pizza to be more dry and firm. That is totally the opposite of a Neapolitan pizza, but who are we to judge?
Actually, you won’t ever want to have a pizza avvampata. This term identifies the output of a mistake in cooking, with several shades of meaning. The most common is when a pizza undergoes a sudden explosion of temperature (maybe because someone has thrown pampuglie – wood chips – in the oven), so it burns on the surface, but it doesn’t finish its cooking inside. An inexperienced pizzaiolo would take the pizza out of the oven before the time, positive that it’s cooked, but will serve a pizza that will actually be still uncooked inside and under the base.
Other people will use the word avvampata to indicate their pizza has been cooked faster than usual and it looks pale. But it’s not completely correct, because in this case, all you have to do is asking the pizzaiolo to complete the cooking. With a pizza avvampata, instead, there’s nothing you can do: the explosive flame (lampa, in Neapolitan language) has already burnt the surface, and the pizza can’t go back in the oven to complete the cooking on the inside. You just have to throw it away and start over.
Did you know any of these terms for Neapolitan pizza styles? Have you heard of any others? Let me know in the comments.