The Pizzeria Otto team is all about delivering authentic Neapolitan pizza to Portland's Roseway neighborhood, and to make the magic happen, it recently completed a research trip to Naples, Italy. Aside from the ingredients, Neapolitan pizza bares little resemblance to the sliced pizzas most of us are most familiar with, and Pizzeria Otto cooks its pizzas inside of a 900-degree oven in about 90 seconds for a soft center and charred outer crust. As owner Clark Hale shows below, that's just how it's done in Naples.
All photos by Pizzeria Otto
As the Pizzeria Otto team flew into the rough-and-tumble Italian port city of Naples, they had three things on their minds: Why do Neapolitans make the best pizza? How is it great? And is Neapolitan pizza really so different from American pizza?
Wherever the Pizzeria Otto team went, they asked locals for their favorite pizzeria recommendations. "Our first pizza of the trip was actually in a coffee shop. After a heated discussion involving employees, customers, and passersby from the street, the shopkeeper told us to wait for him as he ran a few doors down and brought us his favorite pie: Gino Sorbillo pizzeria's Margherita di Bufala."
"You'll never find sliced pizzas in Naples. The soft crusts and the generous toppings and sauce would never survive the journey from plate to mouth intact. Neapolitan pizza is truly a different animal— Mostly, Neapolitans use a knife and fork. This softness is a signature, and something that Neapolitans strive for in their pies."
"It is common for Neapolitan diners to fold an entire pizza into a 'booklet' or 'wallet' ('libretto' or 'portafoglio') and eat it with one hand, like an American might eat a burrito." [Editor's note: Mmmm—pizza burrito.]
The Vera Pizza Napolitana designation governs how authentic Neapolitan pizza is made worldwide, but Pizzeria Otto says, "We found the spirit of Naples focused more on ingredients from local farms and producers. We floated this theory with the locals, and they all wholeheartedly agreed."
A vendor at the Campania Slow Food conference said, "The spirit of Italian food is to use the best of what you have growing around you, and to treat it with respect."
"What we learned is that Neapolitan pizza is a distillation of the spirit of Naples. It is a working class, no frills food, made with the very best ingredients available, and presented with great love but without flair. The unpretentious attitude with which Neapolitans approach food, and their passion for attending to the smallest details, humble us and inspire us to continually perfect our own pies."
Pizzeria Otto uses Northwest-grown organic wheat for its flour, plum tomatoes from Northern California, and toppings drawn from local producers, such as hams from Tails & Trotters and rabbit and game from Nicky Provisions, as well as locally foraged mushrooms and truffles. It opens for dinner daily at 5 p.m., at 6708 NE Sandy, and you can get takeout at 971-373-8348.
And now, the many shapes of Neapolitan pizza unearthed by Pizzeria Otto: