Is Vera Pizza Napoletana (VPN) certification worth it? That’s what the Wall Street Journal set out to discover — the process, challenges and rewards of producing a certified Neapolitan pizza? The article details the VPN certification path of Justin Piazza, owner of La Piazza Locale in Glendale, Arizona, who invested $25,000 in specialty equipment and six months learning authentic Neapolitan pizza-making techniques. Check out the in-depth Wall Street Journal article: Pizzerias Seek Certification for Neapolitan Pizza, but Some Say It’s Cheesy
What is VPN certification?
There are an estimated 76 restaurants in the U.S. that have earned Vera Pizza Napoletana certification from American Delegation of the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana, an internatinal non-profit organization established in the 1980s to cultivate the art of making Neapolitan pizza. What does it take to get certified? According to americas.pizzanapoletana.org, basic requirements include:
1. Wood-burning oven. The real Neapolitan pizza must be cooked in a wood-fired dome oven operating at a temperature of about 900 F. Gas, coal, electrical ,or wood/gas combined ovens, while capable to produce a delicious pizza, do not conform to the Neapolitan tradition and are not allowed.
2. Proper Ingredients: Only fresh, all-natural, non-processed ingredients (preferably imported from Naples or Campania region) are acceptable:
a. wheat flour type “00”: highly refined flour which has been milled to standard “00” (doppio zero). A small amount of wheat flour type “0” (Manitoba) is allowed to be added providing the percentage ranges from 5 to 20%. This variation is dependent on the external temperature and is used to enforce the ’00’ flour and not replace it.
b. Fresh tomatoes: the following variations of fresh tomatoes can be used: “S.Marzano dell’Agro Sarnese-nocerino D.O.P”., “Pomodorini di Corbara (Corbarino)”, “Pomodorino del piennolo del Vesuvio” D.O.P.” Canned Peeled tomatoes: the recommended tomato is the “Pomodoro pelato S.Marzano dell’Agro Sarnese-Nocerino D.O.P.”. If peeled tomatoes are used they should be strained, broken up and homogenised by hand. The use of fresh or industrially prepared “Roma” tomatoes (“pomodoro lungo tipo Roma”) is allowed.
c. Mozzarella: Certified mozzarella di bufala campana D.O.P, mozzarella S.T.G. (see attached appendices for suppliers and technical details). Fior di latte: “Fior di latte dell’appennino meridionale D.O.P” or other certified ‘fiordilatte’.
d. Extra Vergin Olive oil (EVO).
e. Basil: Fresh Basil must be used.
f. Cheese: Grated Hard cheese must be used Fresh Garlic
g. Origano: “Origanum vulgare” from the “Labiatae” family.
h. Sea salt
i. Yeast: Compressed yeast, biologically produced, solid, soft and beige in colour ,with quite an insipid taste and a low degree of acidity must be used. Yeast must be purchased in packages ranging from 25-500 grams. (Saccharomices cerevisiae) (See Italian Decreto Ministeriale. 21/03/1973 e 18/06/1996). The use of Natural yeast (Sour Dough) is also permitted.
j. All types of fat must be excluded from the dough.
3. Proper technique for the preparation of the dough. Hand-worked or low speed mixer (fork or spiral). No planetary or vertical mixers are allowed.
4. Proper technique for the preparation of the pizza. Opening the dough only by hand and slapping on the working surface, transfer of the pizza on a peel by hand and adjusting the shape, cooking on an oven with a temperature of not less than 900Â° F for a time not exceeding the 90 seconds.
5. Proper Equipment. A proper work surface (usually a marble slab), a wood or aluminum pizza peel to introduce the pizza into the oven and a long handle metal round peel to turn and remove the pizza from the oven.
6. Final Product. Pizza Napoletana must be not larger than 11 inches with a raised edge crust of about 1 inch and a thin center. The pizza should be soft and elastic, and easily foldable.
7. Documentation. A set of documents, pictures and video need to be provided to the Association for the first preliminary evaluation.
8. Others. In case of multiple restaurants, each individual store is bound to uphold the standards of the Association and pay a correspondent membership fee. The membership does not automatically be extended to any new units opened subsequently the joining of the Association, nor the membership is transferable from one location to another. Rather, each individual location is evaluated and billed separately. An yearly renewal fee will be due at the beginning of each calendar year. In the event of non-compliance of these rules by one or more of the associated restaurants, the VPN Association maintains the right to suspend or rescind the membership on an individual or collective basis.