Napoli has the VPN (Vera Pizza Napoletana) to give the stamp of approval to Neapolitan pizzerias serving up pies that project pure Italian pride. But here in Orlando, we’ve no such pizza police. Is that pricey oven in the back of the restaurant really doing its job? Here’s how you can tell just from looking at your pie.
The deck of a woodfired oven should be a minimum of 750 degrees, which means any excess flour on the dough will char. If the oven’s hot enough, the bottom of your pizza should have stripes and spots (like a leopard – get it?) of charring. If any other flour other than 00 (aka “doppio zero” or double zero) is used, the char will be bitter. No buono.
The crust of a woodfired pizza is called a “cornichon,” and the cornichon should have some serious bubbles, indicating that the dough is properly fermented and activated in the hot oven. Without those big bubbles, you can assume the dough needed more time to rise.
Assuming you ordered a pizza with a red-sauce base, that sauce should be thinly and evenly distributed, and it should be bright red with a slight acidic tang. The VPN requires that Neapolitan pizzas are made with a raw sauce of San Marzano tomatoes. Cooked sauces are generally sweeter and darker in color.
Traditionally, a woodfired Neapolitan pizza features two kinds of cheese – crumbled caciocavallo and torn or sliced fresh mozzarella. It’s easy to spot the mozz (you’ll see the melted rounds). The caciocavallo underneath is thin and almost translucent, so you can see the vibrant sauce.
For the last five to eight seconds of cook time, the pizza maker will “dome” the pizza, raising it up on the peel inside the oven to allow the flames at the top of the oven to act as a broiler, crisping up the toppings and fully melting the cheese.