The future of pizza in Italy? Real knowledge or social media?

by Enzo Coccia

Many times my job takes me all over Italy and the world, not only for consultancies, but also for events, exhibitions, conferences. Several weeks ago, I went to Rome to be part of a panel of judges to choose the best emerging pizzaiolo in Italy, a competition organized by Luigi Cremona Witaly and I was also asked to do some hours of teaching on the traditional Neapolitan pizza in a Campania’s cooking school. Two different situations in which I had the chance to observe some guys from all over Italy intend on becoming pizza makers.

Unfortunately, the picture I saw was very distressing and, therefore, my opinion on the future of pizza in Italy is uncertain. I am well aware of instigating a burning debate with this my blog post but – as it has always been my style – I prefer to be honest. These guys didn’t show the desire to know the tradition, the history of this fantastic product, while a superficial and aseptic approach prevailed: the desire of making a social impression instead of being, appearance is everything.

The everyday doings, the job’s sacrifices, the perseverance, the discoveries of excellent products and producers are, for them, marginal factors, they represent only a means to express and build their own “personality”, they are neither driven by curiosity nor by the desire to be rooted in this ancient culinary tradition, they do not judge the profession as the expression of one’s own identity, on the other hand, they consider it just as a means to achieve success through social media users’ favor.

I know I will seem tragic – and, perhaps to some people unpleasant too – but in the Italian pizza scene, as well as in the Neapolitan pizza world, I do not see a light, a third way, another way as it happened years ago with the Roman Gabriele Bonci and the Venetian Simone Padoan. The boys that I recently met read fragments of science and technical knowledge on the Web, they invent new pizza doughs without know how and skills, believing that it is the only path to success, a false shortcut to become famous: they all want to become well-known pizzaioli and pizza dough makers as chefs Carlo Cracco and Antonino Cannavacciuolo are in the Italian cuisine, no one wants to be just a good and talented pizzaiolo which has as his sole objective that of simply satisfying the customer, without fueling his own huge ego.

Let me give you an example which led to my disenchantment, my disappointment: at the cooking school I asked some guys to cut the salami into julienne strips. They stared at me as if I were speaking Arabic. I had to explain to them that the salami julienne cutting protects it during the baking stage (radiation heat transfer), avoiding that, when the pizza is taken out of the oven, it becomes hard and dry. Ah! – I forgot it! – it is true provided that you use a top quality salami! Rather, it’d be sufficient to get curious and look at the world through the eyes of a child to improve yourself more and more at work too. So guys, aspiring pizzaioli from all over Italy, let me give you a piece of advice by quoting the great Eduardo De Filippo: “Without the true knowledge of the tradition there will never be a real innovation”. For this reason, the secret is to study and, above all, to develop a passion for what it is going to become your future job, you will certainly get much less “likes”.