Italy has put the art of pizza-making, specifically that practiced in the city of Naples, forward for World Heritage recognition. The famous dish has come to be a symbol of Italian culture.
The Italian government on Friday unveiled its proposal to have the art of pizza-making that originated in Naples added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage traditions. If selected, this would be the first time the UN's culture agency has picked something related to food-making, officials said in Rome.
"The art of pizza-makers is a worldwide symbol of Italian character and this candidacy shows once again the government's commitment to protect and champion, in all international fora, Italian food traditions," Maurizio Martina, minister of agriculture, told Italian news agency ANSA.
Hoping to capitalize on the "Made in Italy" label promoted by the 2015 Expo in Milan, which centered on international food production, Rome hopes Neapolitan pizza can join the art of puppet theater from Sicily and violin crafting from Cremona on UNESCO's prestigious list.
Pizza's candidacy was boosted by an online petition and Twitter campaign organized under the hashtag #PizzaUnesco. The petition gathered some 850,000 signatures - and not just from Italians, but from pizza lovers all over the world.
It's not genuine unless it's been handed kneaded (or on the slowest setting of a mixer) and cooked in a wood fire oven, says the AVPN
Pizza's true home
Having the protected status granted by UNESCO would also help cement the reputation of Neapolitan pizza as the home of what is arguably the world's most recognizable dish.
Although similar flatbread meals covered with herbs and cheese had been around since the times of ancient Greece and Rome, modern pizza evolved Naples in the 19th century, when cooks there began to add garlic, mozzarella cheese, tomato and basil to the classic dish.
Local lore suggests that the quintessential iteration, pizza Margherita, was created to honor the visiting Queen Margherita in 1889. That this traditional pizza is red (from the tomatoes), white (mozzarella cheese) and green (basil), is said to have been done on purpose to mimic the Italian flag.
Pizza entered the global stage when Italian immigrants brought it to New York City and Chicago in the early 20th century. Lombardi's, the first pizzeria in the United States, opened in 1905 and the dish has gone on to immense international popularity.
But true Neapolitan pizza remains a coveted art that must be practiced using only specific ingredients and very precious standards, according to the True Neapolitan Pizza Association (AVPN). The group publishes an 11-page rulebook on the art of pizza-making, such as maintain the exact temperature of 485 degrees Celsius and the use of a wood-burning oven, as well a list of approved suppliers for pizzerias.
According to the AVPN, only pizza Margherita and pizza Marinara can bee considered the real deal.
UNESCO will make its decision by the end of 2017. The call will come only after exhaustive debate involving some 200 countries.