Claims of authentic Neapolitan pizza are ubiquitous in New York – but how many of those pizzaioli are from Naples proper, or even care about recreating the incredible pies of Napoli? I spoke to Chef Giulio Adriani of Forcella in New York (locations in NoHo, Williamsburg, and a few blocks from Madison Square Park) to find out exactly what makes the best Neapolitan pies and where the chef recommends sampling them in his home city.
1. Tell us about your childhood in Naples. Did you eat pizza at home or prepare it with family?
"On Sundays at the home of my grandmother, Maria, she prepared the delicious deep fried pizzas called montanara (a light and airy fried pizza traditional in Naples). The best part was she stacked them forming something like a totem pole of pizzas, so that the top and bottom were both covered in tomato sauce and Parmesan. We were always fighting not to take the last one…it only had one part covered in sauce. It was something of a pizza roulette."
2. What's the criteria for the perfect Neapolitan pie? How do you replicate that at Forcella?
"Well, of course knowledge is first, then the use of appropriate ingredients: Caputo flour, San Marzano tomatoes, and the right olive oil. The challenge for me was the mozzarella, an ingredient I decided to produce by myself. Nothing in America was satisfying me enough in terms of melting texture, so I took a course in cheese making. I refined my art at one of the best mozzarella makers in America, Fiore's in Hoboken, New Jersey. That's when I realized what I needed to create the most authentic Neapolitan pie possible."
3. Describe your perfect meal at Forcella, start to finish.
"A perfect meal for me is simple…arancini (rice balls with tomato sauce, basil, mozzarella and Parmesan served with a side of marinara for dipping), crocchetta (potato croquettes with smoked mozzarella), and a Margherita (a classic pie with tomato sauce, homemade mozzarella, Parmesan, and basil)!"
4. What should we be eating at Forcella as the weather gets warmer?
"With warmer weather, people might want to substitute the fried appetizers with a salad. We have a very good one with arugula and watermelon. Then maybe a pizza with a refreshing twist, like the Fuorigrotta, with arugula and lemon."
5. What do you think about the overall pizza scene in New York? Are New Yorkers appropriately proud of what they have contributed to pizza culture?
"The pizza scene in New York is quite amazing. This is a pizza-eating city and a lot of new ventures of high quality are popping up. I am very proud to be a part of this and think that New York helped me to improve in client satisfaction, and also to create dishes using ingredients like kale or eggs that I hadn't considered using before."
6. Do you have any recommendations for our pizza-loving readers on where to eat pizza in Naples? What/how should they order?
"When in Napoli, you must order Margherita and pizza fritta, a sort of fried calzone. For pizza places, I recommend Da Michele, definitely my favorite. Then Il Pizzaiolo del Presidente. Ask for Enzo and say you are my friend."