"Do you know why I stopped you sir?"
"No, officer. Did I do something wrong?"
"Ha..." (as he shakes his head)
"Uhh, I'm not sure what you're talking about."
"Ok wiseguy, lets see...you're using baker's flour, there's a Costco can over there labeled "Pizza Sauce", your cheese is processed and delivered pre-shredded, I don't see olive oil anywhere, and your basil is dry and comes out of a red pepper shaker...Put the pizza down and step out of your restaurant sir."
This is how I picture a dreaded run-in with the Pizza Police. Don't laugh. These guys are real and they're keeping a serious eye on Neapolitan pizza all over the world. Picture a group of round, middle-aged, half-bald Italian men (at least that's how I picture them) going from pizza shop to pizza shop to ensure the proper use of quality Italian ingredients.
Years ago, this group of Italians feared the direction pizza was headed. They were afraid modern standardization and mass production would ruin the masterpiece created on the streets of Napoli many centuries ago. In 1984 they formed the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (VPN) and dedicated themselves to protecting and promoting Neapolitan pizza.
Ok, so they don't really just show up at restaurants and start arresting pizza makers. Quite the opposite. Most Neapolitan pizzerias want to be a part of the VPN, and once they commit themselves to VPN standards they become eligible for membership. Then, a member of the VPN makes a special visit to see if the pizzeria meets these requirements. Being a member of the VPN is an honor pizzerias are proud to boast. These exclusive pizzerias receive a special sticker for display (along with some other pizza awards) that guarantees authentic Neapolitan pizza. The sticker looks like the logo on the right so look for it next time you go out for a slice..it also gives me a good idea for a Halloween costume. According to VPN's website, there are less than 40 pizzerias in the U.S. that are VPN certified. This is a very prestigious group of pizzerias where you know you're getting the highest quality Italian ingredients.
The VPN will only certify restaurants or pizzerias. You believe that? I don't know why because as I'm going down this list of rules I'm saying "Got it!" after each one. You want a wood-fired oven? "Got it!" You want 00 Flour? "Got it!" San Marzano tomatoes? "Got it!" Fior di Latte or Bufala Mozzarella? You get the point. Maybe if I send enough crazy fan mail to those pizza-filled VPN members, they will have no choice but to make me the first ever backyard brick oven to be admitted. Not calling them round, middle-aged, and half-bald wouldn't hurt either. Until that day comes, I'll be working on my recipes!
This VPN stuff is pretty serious huh? Here is a pizza laugh to lighten things up a bit.
Also, since I sent out that initial email I have been flattered by all your interest, responses, and questions. Thank you very much and lets keep this pizza passion going!
And finally, I just emailed all my relatives in Italy about Forza Pizza so I need to shout them out...Ciao tutti a Caccamo, Cosenza, e Roma. Questo e' Forza Pizza e io sono molto felice che lo potete vedere. Esplorate il mio sito e dimmi che pensate. Non posso aspettare ad andare a mangiare pizza con la mia famiglia in Italia! Nel frattempo, scrivetemi o mandatemi fotografie di tutti! ~Ciao
Enjoy the updates and Forza Pizza!!