World Heritage status for a pizza? It's done and the Neapolitan won

| by S.A. Whitehead
World Heritage status for a pizza? It's done and the Neapolitan won

Congratulations go out this week to all Neapolitan pizziuoli (a.k.a. pizza makers) on making the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's list of Intangible Cultural Heritage items. The art of Neapolitan pizza-making appears on the 2017 list, along with Dutch windmills and several other types of art practiced around the world, according to UNESCO spokeswoman Lucia Iglesias. 

The decision was made near Seoul, South Korea, where a UNESCO committee met to discuss the entries. When the final decision was made, UNESCO tweeted simply, "Congratulations #Italy."

The entry of the item on the esteemed list states:

Italy - Art of Neapolitan 'Pizzaiuolo'

The art of the Neapolitan 'Pizzaiuolo' is a culinary practice consisting of four different phases relating to the preparation of the dough and its baking in a wood-fired oven. The practice originates in Naples, where around 3,000 Pizzaiuoli now live and perform, and plays a key role in fostering social gatherings and intergenerational exchange. Knowledge and skills related to the element are primarily transmitted in the 'bottega' of the Pizzaiuolo, where young apprentices can observe their master at work.

As Pizza Marketplace reported last week,  2 million Italians signed a petition asking UNESCO to give Neapolitan pizza its official World Heritage status. Their petition stated that Italians wanted to preserve the true nature of the originally created Neapolitan style, which — according to historic documents — does not include the addition of items like hazelnut spread or non-Italian sauces and cheeses. 

The campaign, led by Pizziuoli — a Naples pizza makers association — was created in hopes of gaining official recognition that pizza creation was an art form born in the city of Naples, and the status would protect this art from misappropriation and even food piracy. Specifically, the application for status makes it clear that Italians and the pizza makers' organization see Neapolitan Pizzaiuolo as a dish with four distinct phases:

  1. Dough and oven fire preparation.
  2. Specific ways of spinning and twirling the pie dough.
  3. Topping placement and ingredients
  4. A specific baking method. 

But if you thought this might put new boundaries on pizza makers worldwide, you can breathe a sigh of relief (or perhaps shed some tears if you are Italian) because Iglesias told Pizza Marketplace, the items on the list are not involved with the product itself — the pizza. Rather, these list entries are made to recognize the practices "representations, expressions, knowledge, skills" involved in the item's creation, along with the "instruments, objects, artifacts and cultural spaces associated therewith."

In total, a dozen items from nations worldwide were entered on the list, with more still under consideration, Iglesias said. Those already accepted, including Neapolitan pizza, are:  

  • Kazakhstan: Kazakh traditional Assyk games
  • Portuga: Craftmanship of Estremoz clay figures
  • Germany: Organ craftsmanship and music
  • Greece: Rebetiko songs and cultural expressions
  • India: Kumbh Mela, the festival around dipping in a sacred river
  • Indonesia: Pinisi, art of boatbuilding in South Sulawesi
  • Iran: Chogān, a horse-riding game accompanied by music and storytelling
  • Iran Azerbaijan: Art of crafting and playing with Kamantcheh/Kamancha, a bowed string musical instrument
  • Ireland: Uilleann piping
  • Italy: Art of Neapolitan ‘Pizzaiuolo’
  • Kyrgyzstan: Kok boru, traditional horse game
  • Malawi: Nsima, culinary tradition and form of maize flour porridge of Malawi


Photo: iStock

Topics: Food & Beverage, Marketing / Branding / Promotion, Ovens, Pizza Sauce, Pizza Toppings

S.A. Whitehead

Award-winning veteran print and broadcast journalist, Shelly Whitehead, has spent most of the last 30 years reporting for TV and newspapers, including the former Kentucky and Cincinnati Post and a number of network news affiliates nationally. She brings her cumulative experience as a multimedia storyteller and video producer to the web-based pages of and after a lifelong “love affair” with reporting the stories behind the businesses that make our world go ‘round. Ms. Whitehead is driven to find and share news of the many professional passions people take to work with them every day in the pizza and quick-service restaurant industry. She is particularly interested in the growing role of sustainable agriculture and nutrition in food service worldwide and is always ready to move on great story ideas and news tips.

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