On our recent trip to Italy, I was looking forward to eating pizza in Naples; after all, Neapolitans are said to have not only created the dish but also to have perfected it.
So I had pizza three times in Naples, and all three were wonderful.
But the one that sticks in my mind was from Pizzeria Le Sorelle Bandiera, which according to what I read on my place mat, had a special advantage over the others, thanks to what lies under the restaurant.
The First Geothermal Pizzeria in the World
Neapolitan Yellow Tuff benefits from an extraordinary thermal insulation and moisture control system. These special features are attributed to both the vacuous structure of the rock and the absorption properties of zeolites, special minerals in tuffs; the latter can absorb and release water molecules, making tuff cool during hot weather and warm during cold periods.
This physiochemical phenomenon makes tuff an excellent thermal insulation, allowing minimal changes in the environment’s temperature and humidity. These constant conditions of temperature and humidity are favorable for the rising process, allowing the leavened pizza dough to confer the unmistakable organoleptic characteristics and digestibility of Neapolitan pizza.
Microclimate measurements and urban studies conducted between the Decumani and Cardini have shown that the “belly of Naples”, once a Roman forum and today Piazza San Gaetano, is an “island microclimate”, where the average constant temperature and humidity guarantee full leavening (maturation).
Inside the monastery of Teatini, once the temple of Castor, was born the pizzeria La Sorelle Bandiera, where leavening is constantly monitored by observing environmental parameters that have been identified to make our pizza unique. Le Sorelle Bandiera is the first geothermal pizzeria, the only one where the mixture has a natural leavening process approximately 24 hours in an environment made of tuff using products exclusively made in Italy. The secret, then, is geothermal energy, which is built into the tuff of this city.
A stone that has the ability to maintain a constant temperature creating a sort of microclimate that ensures the dough will rise in the ideal conditions.
But could I actually taste the difference imparted by that underground microclimate?
It’s hard to say.
Anyway, it’s a good story, and the pizza was delicious. Here’s Julie and Michael after receiving theirs.
Now, you’ll notice the pizzas aren’t cut. Perhaps it’s because doing so before the actual moment of eating would destroy the integrity of the product, allowing the juices to make the crust soggy—perhaps it’s simply the pizzeria passing on the work to the customer. That’s the way it is everywhere in Naples.
Note: The basic margherita pizza was five euros, and prices went up from there, but not much.
Also, Naples as a city was more enjoyable than I expected. It wasn’t crawling with tourists, like Rome, Florence and Venice. The people were friendly, helpful and full of life. And after a while, I even got used to the graffiti, a plague that I optimistically think will run its course.
Next week: Puglia