Monday, November 19, 2018

The History of Pizza: From Street Food to Global Commodity to Cultural Heritage

Pizza is one of the most popular dishes in the world and comes in many forms. For example, one could find pizza with pineapple, French fries, würstel or bacon. The globalization of pizza has caused a homogenization and standardization of the production process, which has changed a lot during the last few decades. The industrialization of pizza has also led to the loss of knowledge about traditional pizza making. Therefore, there is the urgent need to safeguard the technique and skills of the Pizzaiuolo internationally. In this regard, the intervention of UNESCO is fundamental to preserve this ancient tradition. 


The origin of the term “pizza” is debateable. It may derive from the Greek word “plax”, indicating a flat or flattened surface. Some scholars argue that it derives from the Latin verb “pinsere”, meaning to crush or grind. Indeed, during Roman times, the bakers were called Pistores ("Pasta and Pizza", La Cecla, 2007).

Modern pizza, which featured tomatoes, was born in Naples in the 18th century and, at that time, there were two main types of pizza: Margherita and Marinara. The former is made mozzarella, basil and tomatoes; the latter with garlic, oregano and tomatoes. 

Pizza used to be eaten by poor people on the streets during weekdays. At that time, it was not well seen by the middle classes and by those coming from outside of Naples ("Pizza: A Global History". Helstoski, 2008).

Pizza Margherita


The Tuscan writer Carlo Collodi, famous for his book The Adventures of Pinocchio, described pizza in the following way: “The blackened aspect of the toasted crust, the whitish sheen of garlic and anchovy, the greenish yellow tint of the oil and fried herbs, and the bits of red from the tomato here and there give pizza the appearance of complicated filth that matches the dirt of the vendor” (cited in Helstoski). 

In 1831, Samuel Morse, the inventor of the telegraph, defined pizza as“a species of most nauseating cake covered over with slices of pomodoro or tomatoes, and sprinkled with little fish and black pepper and I know not what ingredients” (cited in Helstoski). In fact, in its infancy, pizza was a sort of popular “fast-food”.


This is confirmed by the fact that in Naples there was the “pizza a otto” customary system, which allowed people who could not afford to pay for pizza immediately to reimburse the merchant eight days later. The first pizza kitchens were created between the late 17th and early 18th century in Naples. They were places were “the dough was worked and cooked and passers-by could buy a pizza” (La Cecla).


One of the first pizzerias was “Zi Ciccio”, which dates back to 1727. Other famous historic pizzerias of Naples include Capasso, Port’Alba, Da Pietro, Ntuono, Da Michele and Sorbillo.
The origins of the “Pizza Marinara”, on the other hand, are humble. According to legend, hungry Neapolitan Marinari (i.e. sailors) ate for breakfast a type of pizza that eventually took their name.
By the end of the 19th century, pizza became popular also among aristocrats. One of the most influential pizza enthusiasts was the Queen Margherita of Savoy. According to some accounts, the Queen visited Naples in 1889 and Neapolitan Pizzaiuolo Raffaele Esposito was asked to prepare three different kinds of pizza. The Queen chose the pizza topped with tomato, basil and mozzarella as her favourite. This particular pizza, soon to become known as “Pizza Margherita”, represented Italy quite well, as the colors of the ingredients (green, white and red), were the same of the Italian flag.

Pizza Marinara


During the course of the 20th century, Italian migration led to the spread of pizza worldwide, especially to North America (e.g. in Montreal, as shown in the video at the end of this post!). 
Given the simplicity of this dish, Italian migrants could easily replicate it in foreign countries introducing new ingredients and adding new flavours. 
In the United States, pizza became a very popular fast food. Many pizza outlets gained success in the second half of the century and pizza quickly became a global and cosmopolitan dish, no longer synonymous with Neapolitan food and culture. In fact, it adapted to the cultures where it was introduced. 


Pizza quickly became a ready-to eat meal as frozen pizzas allowed consumers to prepare it quickly and enjoy it at home. So, the preparation and consumption of pizza has changed dramatically in the last century. 
Many pizzerias now make use of electric oven, instead of wood-fired oven, also due to legal restrictions that forbid the construction of new wood-fired ovens. Also, consumers often eat pizza far away from the place of production. In the last few decades, however, there have been several efforts to promote and safeguard traditional Neapolitan pizza.


In 1984, the Associazione Verace PizzaNapoletana (AVPN) was created with the purpose of promoting and preserving the traditional way of making pizza, which involves artisanal work by the Pizzaioulo and the use of wood-fired oven. This association created a disciplinary that sets rules on how the traditional Neapolitan pizza is made and asked for its legal protection from the European Union (EU).
In 2009, Neapolitan pizza became a TSG (Traditional Speciality Guaranteed) product according to the PGS (Protected Geographical Status) framework adopted by the EU law to protect traditional food products. 
On December 7th, as we have seen in the previous post, the traditional art of the Neapolitan pizzaiuolo has been finally included in the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list, also thanks to campaign #pizzaunesco.
In 2011, another association named Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani lobbied the Italian ministry of agricultural, food and forestry policies to have “The Traditional Art of Naples’s Pizzaiuoli” in the UNESCO’s representative list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity to raise awareness about this ancient tradition worldwide.

P.S. A few years ago I have had the chance of interviewing a pizziauolo who came from the province of Avellino (Italy) to Montreal (Canada) after World War II. From his insight, we can understand the way he adapted the Neapolitan tradition to the local culture to develop a successful business.


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Giacomo Tachis The Mescolavin: A Book in Honour of One of Italy's Greatest Winemakers

A legend in the history of Italian wine, Giacomo Tachis is one of those winemakers that did not go unnoticed. He was the man behind some of the most expensive wines, like Supertuscans Sassicaia, Solaia and Tignanello, as well as other top quality wines from indigenous grape varietals such as Carignano in Sardegna. He worked for more than 30 years with the Antinori family in Tuscany, and collaborated with wineries in other Italian regions, as well. He passed away in February 2016 and has left a strong legacy in the Italian wine industry that is still strongly felt today.

Photographer Bruno Bruchi and author Andrea Cappelli have revisited the places where Tachis worked and have done an extensive research on his life to put together a book “Giacomo Tachis Mescolavin”, edited by Carlo Cambi Editore and funded by the Chianti Banca Foundation. It is sold online at 125 euros and was presented at the convention of Saturday Novemeber 10th at the Cantina Santadi, where Tachis used to work and one of the better known wineries in southern Sardinia, near Cagliari, in an area especially known for the Carignano del Sulcis, a red wine characterized by smooth tannins and red berry aromas. 

Front page of the book featuring the Mozia charioteer, a Greek marble sculpture, and the cellar (Ph Bruno Bruchi)

Front side of Cantina Santadi (Ph Bruno Bruchi)

Born and raised in Piedmont, Tuscan by adoption, Tachis had a special place for Sardinia in his heart. His love for the Sardinian people, the land, food and the sea, which he used to contemplate, led Tachis enjoy Sardinia every time he had to go there for work. He had, indeed, a special interest for islands in general for their cultural and geographical uniqueness. 

The mescolavin is a word that means “the mixer of wines”, and though it could be seen as a negative word, it was actually the way in which he Tachis wanted to be called. He saw himself as the person who was in charge of making the most out of the grape varietals and vineyards he had at disposal. He was a strong believer that good wine could only be made by good grapes grown in a land where the vines suffered a little bit to get the nutrients from the soil, know-how and, above all, passion.  

The convention started with the opening of the street “Giacomo Tachis”, in front of the winery, followed by the inauguration of the torso of Giacomo Tachis made by professor Carlo Pizzichini from the University of Fine Arts in Florence. The daughter Ilaria Tachis and president Pilloni presented the torso to the public.

Presentation of the torso with Ilaria Tachis, daughter of the winemaker, and Antonello Pilloni, president of Cantina di Santadi (Ph Bruno Bruchi)

Several notable people working in the wine industry and people who collaborated with Tachis remembered him with fond memories at the convention. The profile that appears is the one of a man who loved making wine, as well as a true professional who strongly believed in the experience done in the field, even more than in university, to fully grasp winemaking. He used to say: “University starts now!” to aspiring winemakers who just left university. There were many fun and interesting anecdotes that came through during the homage to his life. 

Marchese Piero Antinori, who worked with him for over 30 years, remembered when the winemaker used to drive at different speed times, according to what wine he was thinking about. Presumably, the marchese added: "a wine about which he was not happy would slow him down, whereas a wine that he thought that did really well would make him go really fast". Marchese Guerrieri Gonzaga from Tenuta San Leonardo winery remembers that once in a lab he asked him what wine was his favourite and, after having pointed to a particular one, Tachis used to say: “That’s good, but the wine we are going to make is the other one!”. After all, he already had in his mind the final result that he wanted to achieve. Futhermore, the president of Cantina Santadi Pilloni stressed the strong attachment that Tachis had for the land and the deep relationship that the two have established. He was not just a collaborator, rather a very close friend. 

President Pilloni remembers Giacomo Tachis (Ph Bruno Bruchi)

Tachis was a lover of fine gastronomy and particularly enjoyed Sardinian food fondly, along with the genuine character of the Sardinian people. Thus, to honor the man and the wines that he helped to produce, the participants went to the restaurant Antigo Borgo in Narcao where the Santadi wines were enjoyed alongside local delicacies such as the famous Sardinian “porceddu”, suckling piglet flavoured with herbs as resemary and roasted traditionally with juniper wood.

The following day, after a very engaging and interesting visit to the Sant’Antioco archeological museum, we had a tasting at the winery, where local products were showcased. Pecorino cheese, Sardinian honey, local tomatoes, fennel, salami and many other gastronomic products were enjoyed, while a local band played music. Wines from other wineries could also be tasted. Particularly, the red Piede Franco Calasetta, made with pre-philoxera vines, impressed me for its finesse, smoothness and length in the mouth. The lunch at the winery featured also a beef, which was cooked at the open air at the winery for around 10 hours. Five wines from the Santadi wines led me to appreciate the excellent work carried out by the winery. The first two are Carignano 100%: Grottarossa is more fresh with red berry notes, the Rocca Rubia has more body, spicy and cherry jam notes. The Barrua is a full bodied red made with Carignano, with the addition of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It features balsamic and dark chocolate notes. I was also lucky enought to get a taste of the Terre Brune 1999, pure Carignano, which was still alive and kicking, with some tertiary notes as balsamic, sour cherry jam and an extremely long finish.  Finally, the sweet passito Latinia is made with Nasco grape variety and has aromas of thyme, almond and dried apricots. It has high aging potential and very long length in the mouth. 

 Grottarossa, Rocca Rubia and Barrua (Ph Giuseppe De Cesare)

Latinia Passito (Ph Giuseppe De Cesare)

The tomatoes at the stand of Cooperativa Santa Margherita (ph Giuseppe De Cesare)

Slow cooking of the beef at the winery (Ph Giuseppe De Cesare)

The legacy of Tachis still lives on today. The convention showed to the public some of the lesser known aspects related to the character of Tachis. His professionalism made him highly respected in the wine industry, and he was also very much liked for his human character. A lover of life, passionate about fine food and wine, strongly linked with the Sardinian territory, where he has been indeed remembered with the attention that he deserved.


Thursday, October 25, 2018

Discover Ericeira: Top Things to Do in Portugal's Surf Town

After a two months break from writing during which I travelled to nice spots in Europe, namely Portugal, Morocco and Sicily, it is time to revisit some of the places visited. 
One of the towns that really impressed me, despite the presence of the storm caused by hurricane Leslie which led to strong winds and rough sea, was Ericeira, half hour away from Lisbon. With a strong presence of surfers, it features small roads in white and blue, nice cafes and restaurants. 

As you arrive, the best thing to do is to take a walk in the small streets and get lost.You will eventually find locals that will direct you in the right direction. The food market, one of the smallest I have ever seen, is indoor and on the top floor it includes a bakery that you do not want to miss. Fresh bread, local pastries and a welcoming feeling will make you start the day perfectly. You will find typical Portugese pastries such as pasteis. In the main square,  Praça da República, where you will find also the information office with an upper floor dedicated exclusively to the surf reserve of Ericeira, you will find two cafes worth trying: Sunset Bamboo Bar, where delicious and healthy juices can be enjoyed with sandwiches, and Pãozinho das Marias, with a good selection of bakery products and a cafe that offers a delicious pastry products at an affordable price.

Espresso and Pasteis at Pãozinho das Marias

Goat Cheese Sandwich and Fresh Juice at Sunset Bamboo

Before leaving the town, you must enjoy the surfing (I recommend Surf Yoga Portugal) and get some souvenirs home. I opted for some ceramicals from the Ceramicas Ericeira whose owner is very kind and makes some beautiful artistic work. Also, do not forget to take a look at the ocean. There are some viewing points where you can see surfers in action or just observe the power of the sea.

Surf Camp in Ericeira (with me in the top, middle!)

Altough it is a small town, it feels international thanks to the omnipresence of surfers. I personally spent the evenings eating in the surf camps, but you can find plenty of good restaurants in the town as well, and seafood is of course one of their specialities. 

Check out All The Rooms to view a list of the top places in Portugal for breaks, beaches and boards! 


Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Four Best things to at St. Jacobs Market

It's Saturday and it's market time in a small town in Southwest Ontario, one hour and half outside of Toronto. St Jacobs holds a strong Mennonite heritage and indeed it is common to see Mennonites using traditional horses. Farming and tourism are two of the main economic activities. In particular, St. Jacobs Market, which takes place every Thursday and Saturday, is the main attraction of this little town of around 2.000 people.

I would reccomend going to the outdoor area for buying fresh vegetable and fruits (now the cherries are in season and are deliciuous). In the interior markets, I would reccomend eating at the area with local foods rather than the international stall, which had anything available in every other market.

Some of the things that I think you must try are:

1- Back Bacon, Egg and Cheese at Country Cravings. They make top burgers and back bacon at a very reasonable price. A must try.

2- Apple fritters with Ice Cream at The Fritters Co. 1/2 portion is enough for one person! Delicious fried and local apples with vanilla ice cream. Add some cinnanomon at the end and you are ready for a delicious snack!

3- Buy bacon to take away. Amazing quality at Stone Crock Meats and Cheese Stall.

4- Enjoy an espresso to end the meal before leaving the market.


Finally head back home with a car full of good foods at a great price. A great discovery, for locals and tourists alike.


Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Best Things to Eat at Saint Lawrence Market in Toronto

A beautiful day indeed. Going around the stalls at Saint Lawrence Market on a Saturday in Toronto with friends can be an incredible learning opportunity as you get to taste some delicious food in a rather large but well organized food market, which features some seatings too, and original street signs.

THE MARKET Having worked in Borough and Spitalfields markets in London, I truly appreciate the atmosphere that a market can give you: a sense of community, good food and peaceful atmosphere. As a sommelier, I love to smell the aromas of the different vegetables and herbs (thyme, oregano and basil among my favourite). Also, I love the smell of coffee and the espresso you can get in the lower floor is actually one of my favourite in Toronto, a city that can now offer really interesting coffee shops as alternatives to the large chains as Starbucks which are very common in North America. Having lived in Bordeaux, I appreciated the canele dessert at a pastry stall in the lower floor, though its price is high, especially compared to France where it originates. In fact, the prices at the market are not cheap, but quality has a price, especially in North America.

Whether you are visiting Toronto or living in it, like I do, a visit to the Saint Lawrence market on Saturdays should be on your to-do list. Around 5pm you can also find some discounted products!

A market with a strong history that dates back to more than two centuries ago, it is definitely one of my favourite spots in Toronto and one that is definitely a must for food lovers.


Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Best Things to do in New York: A Foodie's Guide

Visiting New York City at the end of last month brought me back to 10 years ago, when I first came to North America. Turning almost 17, my visit to NYC was an enjoyable event that I shared it with other young international students. This year I went by myself, in part because of the volcanic wines conference, in part because of my past fond memories of this beautiful city, which offers spectacular views and excellent foods.

First thing I realized: cost of living and accomodation are incredibly expensive, pretty much comparable to London. I stayed in the 'hipster' neighborhood of Williamsburg. A nice and relatively calm area to stay. Taking the subway to Manhattan is a must and there are many places to visit. Being there only a few days I would reccomend for sure walking around the High Line Park, former railway turned into a pedestrian walkway with lots of greenery and views on Manhattan. 

High Line Park: Signs of the old railway

In Lower Manhattan you can find Chelsea Market, featuring all sorts of restaurants and shops, including a wine shop with a wide variety and premium selection of fine wines. Walking around the market one realizes how much cosmopolitan food NYC offers. My sight was especially focused on the spice shop, with an incredible array of blends ranging from Italian to Southern Smoky Barbecue.

Spice Selection at Chelsea Market

Moving south, Ellis Island is worth a visit surely to learn more about the history of immigration in the US. Though, bear in mind that there might be a long waiting time to catch the boat that takes you there. Also, those of you interested in immigration history might want to go to the Temperament museum, which offers guided tours of houses where immigrants lived. I personally opted for the Native American Museum. A pleasant discovery, and it is free. It is not so much about the encounter and relationships between Natives and Europeans, but rather focuses on ancient civilizations across the Americas.

With regards to food and drinks, one has an incredible amount of options in NYC. For those who want to enjoy a nice cocktail (i.e. The Brooklyn, which I would reccomend) with a nice view, going to the The Standard Hotel High Line on the rooftop is definitely an experience worth doing. Live music will entertain you while you watch the stunning view and the beatutiful layout of the bar, which is open to everyone. 

Brooklyn Cocktail at The Standard Hotel High Line

Neapolitan Pizzeria Gino & Toto Sorbillo is a good place if you fancy traditional pizza made with high-quality ingredients. I particularly enjoyed the Calzone with Escarole. The wine selection is also good. I had a Greco di Tufo from Feudi di San Gregorio - mineral, fresh and with a lingering citrus finish - which paired well with the Calzone. For dessert, tiramisu, a classic that here will not disappoint you. 

Calzone with Escarola


For a great burger, go to Juanchi's in Williamsburg. Great selections of ingredients (I went for the grass-fed beef), craft beer, good price and a friendly service will make the experience one to remember. If you are craving for coffee, Birch is actually a great option. As an Italian, I was quite impressed with their espressos. Also, there is a cozy atmosphere and you will find a few branches in the city.

Walking around NYC is surely tiring, but an enriching experience. I remember having a nice and long walk around Lower Manhattan and enjoying the view at High Line Park at sunset time. Also, simply standing and watching Times Square, with its all commercials and infinite amount of people who come and go, made me realize why this place is nicknamed the "Crossroads of the World". Indeed, nearly 39 millions people visit Times Square every year. I am happy to be one of those this year as I found it extremely interesting from a cultural and anthropological standpoint.

Sunset view at High Line Park

I will be back to NYC soon. There is still a lot to see and discover but this second trip has definitely made me "hungry for more" as New York chef Anthony Bourdain would say.    


Saturday, January 20, 2018

It's Voting Time Guys!!

Hi guys,

I hope you are all doing great and enjoying good food and wine, in good company. As of me, I am back to a fantastic holiday in the Canary Islands and Sevilla. I will write more about my food, wine and travel experiences in future posts:) 

I am writing to you to inform you that this year too I have been selected for the Millesima Wine Blog Awards finals. What an honour and a pleasure. I could never think to be chosen once again, for an article that I really enjoyed writing, that is, my latest post on food and wine pairing in the volcanic island of El Hierro!

As you might already know from last year, my goal now is to try to get as many PUBLIC VOTES as possible to try to win the competition. So I invite you all to go to the link below and choose FoodTravelCulture!  The deadline is Janaury 29th, so very soon. So please vote now and share this link to friends, as well. 

I promise in return to keep writing beautiful articles and posting videos on awesome places to visit, gastronomy and excellent wines!



Sunday, December 31, 2017

Comida Herrena y Vinos Volcanicos : When the Pairing Goes Local in the Island of El Hierro

El Hierro is a small, unique island. The smallest of the Canary Islands, located in a remote corner of the world in the middle of the Atlantic, it has always been of interest to many European conquerors

This tiny volcanic island also features an interesting food and wine scenery, which recently has also been slightly changed with the arrival of immigrants working in resturaunts and coming from Venezuela, a country to which El Hierro has been in contact with for centuries, as many people from El Hierro moved to Venezuela until the 1960s. Now the opposite migration takes place. People are fleeing Venezuela due to political and economic instability, and finding peace and serenity in El Hierro, and other islands of the Canary Archipelago. Some plants from Venezuela are also found in El Hierro, like the Uva De Mar (sea's grape), which I found while hiking in the island.

While driving through the islands, one can notice vineyards in the volcanic soil, goats and sheep (whose milk is used to make an excellent cheese in the area of San Andres) and extinct volcanoes, facing the Atlantic Ocean, which is also the provider of good seafood that is used for the local cuisine.

Volcanic vineyards in El Hierro

In El Hierro wine has a strong tradition. It was an Englisman, John Hill, who planted the first vines here in the 16th century. The volcanic soil gives to the wine minerality, and also longevity. Some of the reds made are indeed ageworthy. Most of the vines planted today are of white grape varities such as Baboso Blanco and Vijariego, though some good reds are produced. They are often planted in steep slopes, up to 700 metres high. The main producing areas are El Pinar, Echedo and Valle del Golfo.

As a gastronome and sommelier, I often try to find wines that match well the food I am having. Of course, there is not a written and strict code for pairing food and wine. Yes, we are all different and with different preferences. Overall, however, we can say that dishes can be paired well by concordance (foods and wines with similar aroma charcteristics, like spiceness such that found in Lebanese red wines with Lebanese spicy foods) or opposition (foods and wines that are quite different and thus balance each other out, such a sweet Port wine with a salty blue cheese like Stilton).

One rule of thumb which I often tell my friends who ask me advice is that a LOCAL food and wine pairing is a good starting point. If we think that the concept that "eating local" is sustainable, clean and fair, then "eating and drinking local" is even more so. Furthermore, while travelling it makes even more sense. For example, while I was eating in restaurants in El Hierro, I was served local and fresh food, such as seafood and goat cheese.It made perfect sense to drink some local wines with it, and in the island I found three wineries that are worth mentioning: Tanajara, Bodega Frontera and Uwe.

Food and Wine Pairing in El Hierro: Local Cheese, Jamon and a bottle of Frontera Tinto

Tanajara, despite having had a rather good feedback from an international wine competition, is unfortunately closed down as I am writing, though one can still find their wines in the local supermarkets. For the price average of El Hierro wines which is around 7 euros on the shelves, these wines are more expensive (around 15 euros for the 2010 tinto) but of premium quality. The Bodega Frontera is a cooperative that makes wines with an excellent quality-price. I have met Rafael, the winemaker, last year and he told me that recently they have exported some wine to the USA, as well.

Uwe is a small winery managed by a German guy from Baveria. I have met him today at the local market in the town of Frontera. He told me that is making use of indigenous grapes mostly, like the red Negramoll. Uwe also told me about the local tradition of making the so-called "Vino de Pata", an artisanal wine made by a mix of red and white grapes (or in some cases, like in Uwe's 2010 Vino de Pata, just white grapes) pressed by feet. The 2010 I tried from Uwe was sherry-style, dry, with almonds notes and aromas of almonds and marzipan, clear signs of oxidiation. I found the "Vino de Pata" also in a bar in EL Pinar called Chachi, which offered it at room temperatures along with tapas. Here in El Hierro this wine is considered the drink for everyday and is very food-friendly. When aged, it can give rise to some interesting tertiary aromas. When young, it is easy drinking and fruity.

Uwe and I at the Frontera Market

Vino de Pata at Bar Chachi

In the restaurants of of El Hierro, one mostly finds the wines from bodega Frontera and some are excellent for food pairing. I have tried the Blanco Seco which features citrus and tangerine notes along with a pleasant minerality and long lenght. I paired it with the the local "Pez Peto", the wahoo fish, and it was a great pairing. This volcanic wine gave a feeling of saltiness which paired by concordance with the salty fish. The wine also reminded of a white which I tried from the Greek island of Santorini, which is also volcanic.

Blanco Seco with Seafood

Another pairing that I have enjoyed was the Frontera Blanco Seco with a local and fresh goat cheese from San Andres, which has a quite delicate flavour, perfect with a white and fresh white. Instead, the same cheese but smoked (ahumado, as they say here) paired well by concordance with the red Tinto from Bodega Frontera. Indeed, the smokiness of the cheese was great when matched with the peppery and spicy notes of the wine. Also, it was very good with the fatty Jamon which had salty and meaty flavours, balanced out by the minerality of the wine.

Blanco Seco with Goat Cheese and Honey

In short, while in El Hierro, doing just like locals is a good idea when it comes to food and wine paring. Having local food and wines proved to be one of the best experiences I had in this tiny island, which has a lot to offer from an eno-gastronomic point of view. Given the limited wine production, one has to travel to El Hierro to enjoy these volcanic wines, preferably along with some local cheese, jamon and fish.
El Hierro is a slow island, the capital of tranquility, and it is the ideal place for fully enjoying food and wine pairing, the local way.

Friday, December 8, 2017

From History to Heritage: The Art of Neapolitan Pizzaiuolo Becomes UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage

Yesterday the art of Neapolitan Pizzaiuolo has become recognized as UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage in the latest meeting of the organization in Jeju, South Korea. After years of being left on a waiting list, this candidature has finally become accepted after a long and seemingly never ending process, which saw also the participation of a worldwide petition (#pizzaunesco) that has obtained two million signatures: a noteworthy achievement. I have been researching on the topic of pizza as Unesco's heritage since 2014, for my thesis of Master at the University of Gastronomic Sciences, which I then presented at an international conference on food heritage at an international conference at the Sorbonne University of Paris in 2015. 

Let's have a look at what happened historically with the candidature from the missed opportunity in 2011 to the official recognition and victory in 2017.  

#PizzaUnesco and Neapolitan Pizzaiuolo Davide Civitiello in London

#PizzaUnesco in London

The candidature focused on the figure of the Pizzaioulo: his work by hand, the longlasting rising of the dough, the use of wood-fired oven and the use of natural yeast, without use of chemical agents. The major association that supported the candidature was the Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani, whose aim is to protect the figure of the Pizzaiuolo internationally.


In 2011, Italy’s decision to include “The Traditional Art of Naples’ Pizzaiuoli” in the list of candidates for UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage was featured in newspapers such as the British “The Guardian” and the Canadian “The Globe and Mail”. Coldiretti, the most important Italian association representing Italian farmers, supported the application and noted that the traditional way of making Neapolitan pizza was in risk of extinction and that many pizzerias in Italy made use of imported cheap ingredients from China (Kington, 2011).

The Italian ministry of agriculture Giancarlo Galan was in favour of the candidature and asked for more collaboration from the Neapolitan authorities. He noted that the tourism department and the municipality of Naples did not reply to the various requests made by the ministry of agriculture to prepare the candidature for Neapolitan pizza making. So, he was deeply disappointed by the lack of administrative support at the local level (“Galan: ‘Pizza nel Patrimonio UNESCO, ma Comune e Provincia Assenti’”, 2010).

The Italian ministry of tourism Michela Brambilla stressed the importance of preserving the tradition: “To propose a candidature to UNESCO means identifying a symbol in which all Italians identify. Surely this is the case of Pizza, not the same can be said about the Palio di Siena”(Torriani, 2012, own translation).

The traditional art of Naples’ Pizzaiuoli seemed like the ideal candidature, although there was some scepticism because the Mediterranean diet had just been inscribed in the ICH list.

The president of the association, Sergio Miccù, said that the inscription of “The Traditional Art of Naples’ Pizzaiuoli” would have raised the visibility of traditional pizza making internationally and favoured the development of tourism in Naples. He also observed that we live in a world where everything can be copied and it is all highly mechanized. Pizza, which was born as a popular fast- food, was easily imitated in the various countries of the world where it was introduced. So pizzas today often have very little to do with the Neapolitan tradition (Miccù, S. personal communication, February 10, 2014).

Given that traditional Neapolitan pizzamaking can only done by hand, it should be considered an art, which has been passed down from one generation to the next. Furthermore, Miccù noted that pizza represents a very important part of Neapolitan culture and identity: “Quando dici Napoli, dici Pizza. Quando dici Pizza, dici Napoli (When you say Naples, you say Pizza. When you say Pizza, you say Naples)”. In fact, Neapolitans eat pizza very frequently and consider it the most representative dish of the city.

The community of Neapolitans was deeply disappointed by the decision of the Italian Commission for UNESCO to choose Cremona’s traditional violin craftsmanship instead of the traditional art of Naples’ Pizzaiuoli in 2011, also given the international popularity of pizza. Rosario Lopa, president of the committee for the protection, promotion and valorization of Neapolitan pizza said: “A vital opportunity for the development and valorization of the gastronomy was lost, both for the image of the city and for new occupational opportunities” (Torriani, 2012, own translation). In another interview, he also noted that Neapolitan associations and institutions did not cooperate well in the making of the proposal. Indeed, there were divisions and disagreements within the community of Neapolitans involved in the UNESCO candidature (“Pizza Patrimonio dell’Umanita’: L’UNESCO dice ‘No’”, 2012).

As I explained during my presentation at pizza chain RossoPomodoro in London during the #PizzaUnesco tour in 2015, recognizing this tradition can help preserve this ancient tradition, which could disappear due to the expansion of global, mass-produced and cheap pizza. Also, Unesco's safeguarding can ensure that the traditional art is promoted around the world and that the figure of the Pizzaiuolo gains international reputation.

#PizzaUnesco Tour in London in 2015

The international petition to have the traditional art of Neapolitan pizzaiuolo being recognized by UNESCO has achieved notoriety thanks to the hard work put by the Fondazione Univerde (led by Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio), Coldiretti (Italy's largest farmers' association), the associations of pizza makers and the many pizza ambassadors around the world that have supported the application. It was definitely a crucial development that has significantly helped to have the candidature being finally recognized at the Jeju Meeting of 2017.

Myself at Coldiretti Stand for the #PizzaUnesco Petition in 2015


The addition of gastronomy to the UNESCO's intangible culture heritage list list can be seen both as a positive development and a problematic one. The fact that since 2010 there have been an increasing number of culinary practices recognized by the UNESCO is clearly a good step towards safeguarding gastronomic heritage. However, commercial interests should not override the purpose of the convention, which is safeguarding intangible cultural heritage.

The traditional art of Naples’ Pizzaiuoli is a gastronomic tradition that represents intangible cultural heritage has been righlty included in the representative list of ICH of humanity. Instead, vague and broadly defined food practices should not be included because they merely reflect the political and economic interests of the countries, but they do not have special symbolic and cultural meaning for the communities to which they are associated.


The inscription of a gastronomic tradition in UNESCO’s representative list fosters economic development, so it is not surprising that there is a lot of lobbying involved in the nomination of food traditions. However, there should be a greater focus on the cultural importance given to the gastronomic traditions by the local communities. By setting clear criteria for enlisting food traditions and empowering the local communities, UNESCO can make major improvements in the way gastronomic heritage is identified and protected.

The fact that the traditional art of the Neapolitan Pizzaiuolo, which so much represents the identity and culture of Naples and is an important part of the Italian cultural heritage, has been included in the UNESCO list is an crucial step in the right direction. Our hope is that this cultural recognition will not used for merely making profits by large chains and putting UNESCO logos outside pizzerias, but rather defend, promote and preserve this cultural tradition, which is in risk of extinction due to the popularity and development worlwide of fast-food pizza chains.

To read about the inscription of the traditional art of Neapolitan Pizzaiuolo into the ICH list check out UNESCO's website.

P.S. In the following post I will have a look in depth at the history of pizza. So, stay tuned!



Sunday, November 26, 2017

Volcanic Interview #5: Eva Cartwright

Eva Cartwright, importer of Hungarian wines in UK and owner of the Somlo wine shop, tells us about her #govolcanic project, Hungarian wines and the potential of the volcanic wines business. 


Eva Cartwright

When did you become interested in volcanic wines? 
I was born and raised in one of the most characteristic volcanic wine regions of Hungary, Somlo. I have a wineshop/winebar here. Having had the honour to be John Szabo MS’s local guide on Somlo during his research for his book on Volcanic wines in 2014, the idea of developing this niche further started to form in me. In 2015 it crystallised into #govolcanic - a project collective name, also a summarising hashtag I invented. I started to develop a UK sales- project for the wines I have already been working with - extending the niche to my entire country - then hopefully next year to Central European Region also.

What kinds of styles of wines do you import? 
The main governing factor is volcanic soil. Quality over quantity and uniqueness in terms of varietal, style, region is also a common characteristic across the portfolio. These latter criteria also allow for some wines not necessarily or strictly only from a volcanic vineyard of a predominantly volcanic region. These are sometimes to either contrast their lava-based fellow wines or to show a geological feature equally unique to the volcanic background. For example I have an Eger kékfrankos that is from a volcanic region but this particular wine is from a 100% limestone plot. I also have Raspi wines from Sopron from such a singular and unique schiss-based growing area that some wines from here; display more minerality than the most brutal lava-based ones.

Do you see a growing interest in London for volcanic wines? 
Absolutely. People love it. The appeal is extremely and unusually wide, too. Finally a wine-niche that can interest the husband who is ready to try something unique after years of the same Chablis, the wife who is amazed by the visual scenery of these ancient extinct volcanoes and already plans her next family holiday there, and also the kids who are fascinated by the science behind the concept and can be kept entertained for hours with rock-samples alone. Also the over-hyped hospitality sector of London is desperate for new and unique ideas, tastes and hidden treasures. I can confidently say that - thanks to John’s book-launch timing also - #govolcanic is an absolute hit, in the right place, at the right time.

#GoVolcanic Project

Why did you decide to focus on Hungarian volcanic wines? 
I am from a volcano - pretty much predestines my inclination. Also, I am totally and utterly in love with Somlo and its wines - I literally feel sick if I have to be away too long from them. I believe with a passion that Somlo is one of the world’s most unique terroirs. Once you taste wines from this tiny, mere 400 hectares small hill, you will be able to pick them out from a 1000 others. The people, the view, the almost entirely indigenous grapewine population all adds to the magic of this place.

Do you plan to extend your portfolio to other volcanic wine regions ?
Yes. I plan to go over the border of current Hungary next year. My slogan already says : “..from the ancient vineyards of Old Hungary” - under old Hungary I mean the country of the Austro - Hungarian Empire and the centuries before, up until the end of WW I, when our country was broken up and shrunk to its current area.

For info about the UK based import company check out the website Witness Mountain

Click here for info on the Hungarian wine shop click here 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Exploring Soave during Sapori Soavi: Food, Wine and Arts

Living in Soave, the small town in the Veneto region that makes some of the world's best white wines, I often come across festivals and events that are food or wine related.
While going for a coffee this morning I have seen a whole range of producers and artists in the main street (via Roma), and all offering interesting products to the tourists and locals alike for the local event "Sapori Soavi" (ie. meaning both pleasing flavours and taste of Soave, thus playing with the words). 

Cheese and wine are two of my favorite products and I could not resist to buy wines (a Recioto - the sweet wine- and a Soave) when I found the stand of the family Casarotto, which recently won an award for their Soave at the Merano Wine Festival.  I have met Celeste Casarotto in Merano indeed, and I was really moved by his passion for his job and his genuine and authentic character. 

At the cheese stand I have found a farm from the Lessinia area making outstanding cheese of different styles. I have tried the one whole milk and the one with rosemary, which was divine. Heated a little bit on a frying pan it gives its best. I really pleasant discovery, with the herbal character being a very good fit and not overpowering the flavor of the cheese itself.  I look forward trying it with the Soave wine by Casarotto.

Moving to the "artists' section" I have met really nice people working in traditional way and making hand-crafted objects that are no longer common nowadays. I am glad the traditions are being kept alive and hopefully the new generations will keep those running.

To sum up, today Soave was filled with good food and nice people. That's all you need to have a beautiful day really!