Pizza is a college food, a party food, a snack, a great leftover, a delicacy, and more. It’s so versatile that it’s easy to forget that it’s also really old, and actually from Italy.
Italy hasn’t forgotten. Last year the European Union put pizza on the “guaranteed traditional specialties” list, which means that any pizza advertised as Neapolitan must fall under specific guidelines: it must be cooked in a wood-fired oven, the crust must rise up to two centimeters high, and the whole pie must be topped with canned tomatoes, mozzarella (from Campania, the region where the city of Naples resides), olive oil, and basil. The Italian Pizza Makers Association has also been encouraging the government to regulate the industry by requiring pizza-chef hopefuls to apply for a license in Italy.
Now, Italy is going for worldwide recognition by submitting “the art of Neapolitan pizza making” to the Intangible Cultural Heritage List from UNESCO. UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) is one of those things you hear about occasionally but never really register—it’s considered the “intellectual” side of the United Nations, promoting peace and understanding through cultural and scientific achievement. Getting onto that list is a feat; Italy had to prove that pizza-making is a key component of Italian culture for their application, which was submitted with 850,000 signatures from Italy and beyond. Now that the application was accepted, it will be voted upon by nearly 200 representatives from around the world in 2017.
Other food-related subjects on the Intangible Culture Heritage list are traditional Mexican cuisine, the gastronomic meal of the French, Washoku (traditional Japanese cuisine), Turkish coffee, and the Mediterranean diet.
In conclusion, here’s a fun fact to send you on your merry-nara way: “Pizza” is the most recognizable Italian word worldwide. And if you’re interested in a pizza history lesson, check out this video by UNESCO!