Pizza with buffalo mozzarella. Is this a quality pizza?

by Enzo Coccia

Towards the end of 1994 the then Naples’s mayor, Antonio Bassolino, had the brainwave of wanting to certify a product like the pizza that would represent Naples. He discussed it with Mr. Antonio Pace, President of Vera Pizza Napoletana Association, and they decided to write a disciplinary that would safeguard this product. At that time, I was the Secretary of the Association and I remember that we started our task with enthusiasm and passion. In this path, one of the few experts on the subject was Mr. Raffaele Beato, the then Director of the regional governing body E.R.S.A.C. (Ente Regionale di Sviluppo Agricolo in Campania), and in cooperation with the Research Institute of the Chamber of Commerce and the Second University of Naples, we began to put the first disciplinary of the Neapolitan Pizza in writing. The route taken was to get the  UNI standards for the certification of a quality product. The drafting of a disciplinary, besides the historical memory, the geographical localization of the product, the production process, involves the identification of the ingredients that constitute the final product. During the meetings there were lively debates from which it emerged that the production of the Neapolitan pizza required some certified products (oil, tomato and mozzarella).

I would define that moment as historic and we had to choose between the buffalo mozzarella and the fior di latte, both with a cultural and historical feedback as Neapolitan pizza toppings. The buffalo mozzarella was chosen since it is a cheese with spun dough as established by the Presidential Decree of 10 May 1993. I clearly remember the meeting with Antonio Brandi, at that time President of the buffalo mozzarella Consortium, during which, to promote the use of buffalo mozzarella on the pizza, we agreed on organizing a series of events. The most impressive one was the first Pizza Fest arranged at Maschio Angioino in 1997 and thrown after the conference for the end of the disciplinary drafting during which the pizzaioli baked some pizzas in the first mobile ovens. The specialized press coined the expression “pizza doc”. Before that time, my pizzaioli colleagues and I, as Directors of the VPN Association, at the many Chamber of Commerce meetings, encountered difficulties in proposing the buffalo mozzarella on the pizza. There were economic, technical and cultural controversies. Today, we are facing the opposite problem: over the last 20 years the number of the pizzerias has exponentially increased and the demand for this cheese too. What can we do to safeguard the quality of the pizza with the buffalo mozzarella?

Marco Contursi in his article “Truffa della mozzarella? Anche i truffati hanno le loro colpe gravissime” (Mozzarella fraud? The cheaters have their serious faults also) he states that anyone who wants to eat a very tasty mozzarella or a superb pizza should come to Campania. This will keep the local economy, represented by hotels, café and various shops, going. It will develop a territory. Opening a pizzeria in Milan or in New York City brings money only to the entrepreneurs and their suppliers. I truly believe that this is not the solution. When a product as the Neapolitan pizza has such a global consensus for its deliciousness and its characteristics it is not possible to localize it to the Neapolitan context. The buffalo mozzarella is experiencing the same problem that the San Marzano tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil Dop have.

Unfortunately, I have no answers. We must rely on honest and professional producers which protect their activities with the quality that is part of themselves.