The real issue is the pizza chef

A test made in Naples: wood or electricity, the flavour doesn’t change. But with mediocre chefs no oven can help

07-02-2016
On Tuesday 26th January 2016 in Naples, Guglielmo

On Tuesday 26th January 2016 in Naples, Guglielmo Vuolo's pizzeria inside Eccellenze Campane hosted a confrontation between pizzas cooked in very different ovens. The two on the left, both black, are the typical wood ovens, to the right, instead, there's an electric oven called Scugnizzonapoletano, offering the same performance as a traditional one despite being open in front

It’s easy to measure the depth of an event: no notes mean failure, two full notebooks are a success. The latter is the case of Pizza forma mentis, on Monday and Tuesday 25th and 26th at Palazzo Caracciolo in Naples. The topic was The future of Neapolitan pizza: wood, gas or electric oven? Organized by Formamentis, a training and consultancy firm from Battipaglia (Salerno), together with Luciano Pignataro WineBlog, LSDM aka Barbara Guerra and Albert Sapere, and Maurizio Cortese’s Corteseway, it resulted in discussions that went much beyond the issue of the oven per se. And ended up with twenty people meeting yesterday at lunchtime at Eccellenze Campane, with margherita and marinara pizzas baked in wood or electric ovens, while the gas remained in the title. It was a very lively and nice epilogue, a sincere moment of conviviality and truth as well.

But had we even met in an impersonal space, with a notary, and dedicated tables with pizzas served by butlers wearing a livery, the substance would have been the same: a pizza baked in a wood oven in the right way - Guglielmo Vuolo, a master, was the one managing everything - or one cooked in an electric oven are the same. You can’t tell the difference and it looked that those who ventured into detailed analyses, certain that they could, in fact followed the The Hunt for the Red October method: that is to say take a guess, after all there’s always a 50% chance of guessing right.

A moment from the blind tasting on Tuesday 26th January at Guglielmo Vuolo’s pizzeria inside Eccellenze Campane in Naples. They served pizzas cooked either in a classic wood oven or in an electric oven offering the same temperatures and performance as a wood oven, so much so you couldn’t tell the difference. In the photo, left to right, American journalist Daniel Young, the owner of Izzo Forni Beppe Krauss and Italian-Parisian writer and culinary expert Alba Pezone

A moment from the blind tasting on Tuesday 26th January at Guglielmo Vuolo’s pizzeria inside Eccellenze Campane in Naples. They served pizzas cooked either in a classic wood oven or in an electric oven offering the same temperatures and performance as a wood oven, so much so you couldn’t tell the difference. In the photo, left to right, American journalist Daniel Young, the owner of Izzo Forni Beppe Krauss and Italian-Parisian writer and culinary expert Alba Pezone

One thing must be pointed out, though: Beppe Krauss, owner in Naples of Izzo Forni, is not the only one producing electric ovens and he knows well that all the models on the market, including his, that is to say those closed with a front door, develop temperatures that are much below 400°C while Neapolitan pizza requires 480°C.

All but one, his Scugnizzonapoletano which no competitor has yet managed to imitate. Krauss has not only found the solution that will safeguard Neapolitan pizza when the bans against chimneys and wood ovens will become more and more widespread, as in Paris since January 2015, but he also gave his masterpiece the shape of a typical dome oven, with an open mouth on the front. And despite this, the temperature remains high and a pizza chef can work with the discs as if he were using the usual wood oven.

Some pointed out there’s a sort of monopoly, with Krauss against all the others, but in these two days we had been invited to discuss the future and for sure others will come who will be able to offer the same performance as a wood oven. It will happen, in one, three years’ time or more, but it will happen. It happens with all good ideas. There’s one who starts, then there’s a second, then a third and so on. Vuolo said: “It probably won’t apply to my children, but my grandchildren will surely not use a wood oven as it will be forbidden”.

The organisers had already run a test months ago. Including a gas oven, which was then put aside as its results were negligible. And on that occasion the less successful pizzas were those coming out of the wood oven because, as they later learnt, it had not yet been working at full potential. You need to prepare some fifty pizzas, not six or seven, for it to be ready. So yesterday they chose rush hour and all the differences disappeared. Of course, as pointed out by Albert Sapere, pizzas with fiordilatte cool sooner because the cheese is less fat than buffalo milk mozzarella. But it’s a different question.

One thing’s for sure: it’s the pizza chef, the person who makes the pizza, who will make it good, excellent or bad. It’s not a question of oven and not even a question of wood or else. As Enzo Coccia, the absolute number one together with Franco Pepe said to the audience: “Have you ever had a terrible pizza cooked in a wood oven? Yes? Thanks for having confirmed that it’s the baker who makes the difference”.


Sections

Mondo pizza

All the news from the most copied and popular Italian dish in the world