by Lucy Gordan
Editor's note: Who makes Italy's best Pizza? It's difficult to pick just one, as there are many regional variations on Italy's best known dish. But a few years ago the National Pizza Association got together for a cook-off. The following article recounts the results, which will have to stand until the association holds another competition.
The "First National Championship of Typically Regional Pizzas" was held during the Festival of Italian Cuisine held at Marina di Campo, on Elba. Nazionale Italiana Pizzaioli (Italy's National Agency of Pizza Chefs), alias NIP , had chosen the 20 finalists, one from each of Italy's 20 regions, from over 900 contestants. The first and foremost criterion: each finalist had to use exclusively ingredients typical of his or her region. Before offering the sizzling mouth-watering product to an international jury to sample, each finalist had to present a platter of raw ingredients to a "control table" which judged their aroma and freshness.
Third Place, Autumnal Velvet
Pizza with tomato and mozzarella has long been the food most firmly associated with Naples. Until around twenty-five years ago, it was nearly impossible to find on a menu north of Rome. Thus, at first the jury's verdict might seem at the very least unexpected, if not outright revolutionary or heretical.
Angelo Conforti, center, and staff
Third prize for 2002 went to a strong and silent Calabria-born Piemontese: Angelo Conforti ? Pizzeria "La Casita", Piazza Vittorio Veneto 1, Borgaretto di Beinasco, (Torino), tel. 011-39-011-2589944, closed Tuesday. He garnished his "Autumnal Velvet" with truffles, porcini mushrooms, capriolo and Castelmagno cheese.
Runner-up, "La Cima Bianca"
The runner-up was gregarious Pugliese, Leonardo Todisco ? Pizzeria Poquito Mas, Piazza Vittorio Emanuele 5, 70052 Bisceglie (Bari), cellphone 338-4695151. His toppings for " La Cima Bianca " or "White Summit" were turnips greens, sausages, tomato, ricotta, and Alta Murgia cheese.
Leonardo Todisco, left, and staff
The winner and National Champion was a self-effacing, youthful Ligurian grandmother, Anna Maria Garoscio, one of only two female contestants. Her Tavernetta " La Rampa " is located in Via Barberis Colomba, 18035 Dolceacqua, (Imperia), tel. 011-39-0184-206198, closed Monday. She garnished her "Dolce Elba" with purée of watercress, pesto, valeriana, pine-nuts, and black olives.
National Champion: Anna Maria
This first ever Pizza competition in Italy confirms recent statistics: pizza, popular in the USA since the end of the Second World War and then gradually worldwide, has finally gained national recognition in Italy. Second only in popularity to their beloved pasta, Italians eat more than 2.5 billion pizzas a year, more than 45 per person, in over 38,000 pizzerie for a profit of over 6.3 billion dollars. To accomplish this, according to CIA - La Confederazione italiana agricoltori (The Federation of Italian Farmers), every year Italy's pizzaioli consume 7,500 tons of olive oil, 90,000 tons of mozzarella, 45,000 tons of tomatoes ( San Marzano, Pachino , and Ciliegino ), 135,000 tons of flour, and 300,000,000 basil leaves.
The Winning Pizza: Anna Maria Garoscio's "Dolce Elba"
"Every year Italians are eating more and more pizzas," explained Duvilio Nardi, secretary of NIP and, with his sister Fabiola owner of the "Pizzeria del Corso" on Corso della Repubblica in Forl?, tel. 011-39-0543-32674. "They used to eat only the "classics": la margherita, la marinara, ai funghi, ai quattro formaggi, and la capricciosa , to name a few. Now, in keeping with the finalists' and winners' pizzas, my fellow pizzaioli and my clients have much more imagination and choose their own toppings. On our most popular pizza, " Fabiola Uno " they are tomato, pineapple, crustaceans, and mushrooms."
In alphabetical order by region, Elba's other sixteen finalists were:
Abruzzo: "Peter Pan", Piazza della Repubblica 6, Magliano dei Marsi, (L'Aquila), cell. 338-7447076
Basilicata: "Da Clemente", SS 481, Monticchio Bagni, (Potenza)
Calabria: "Graticcio", Piazza Dante, Rossano Scalo, (Cosenza), tel. -0983-510605
Campania: "La Pagliarella", Via Panoramica, Castellammare di Stabia, tel. -081-8026896
Emilia-Romagna: "Pizzeria Maté, Via Leonardo da Vinci 3, Castelfranco Emilia, (Modena)
Friuli: "Piazza Italia", Via Cotonificio 22, Matignacco (Udine), cell; 347-2934993
Latium: "Marg?", Viale Regina Margherita 168, tel. -06-8841224
Lombardy: "La Corte di Re Art?", Viale Umbria 21, Milano
Marche: "La Ruota", Via Barbarigo 62012, Civitanova Marche, (Ancona), tel. -0733-702773
Molise: "Oasi di Nazzaro", San Nazzaro, (Isernia), tel. -0865-493856
Sardinia: "Lo Spiedino d'Ogliastra", Via Zinnias 23, Tortoli, (Nuoro)
Sicily: "Faro", Via Puccini 29, Canicatti, (Agrigento), tel. -0922-852550
Trentino-Alto Adige: "Maso della Pieve", Via Maso Pieve, Bolzano, tel. 0471-258197
Tuscany: "Antica Trattoria", Piazza Signorelli 30, Cortona, (Arezzo), tel. 0575-631191
Umbria: "La Casetta", Via Aroldo Pedini 9, Castel del Piano Umbro, (Perugia)
Valle d'Aosta: "Pizzeria Moderno", Via Eduard Aubert 21, Aosta, tel. 0165-35669
Veneto: "Meridiana", Via Milano 7, S. Maria di Sala (Venezia), 041-5760084.
Lucy Gordan is an award-winnning travel writer and cultural journalist living in Rome, where she is Epicurean-Traveler.com's Bureau Chief. She can be reached at email@example.com. Her website is www.lucygordan.com. Links to other recent articles by Lucy Gordan: