Learning from a Maestro: Enzo Coccia’s Neapolitan Pizza Traditions

Many legends in the industry have left their pizza empires in Naples, Italy to teach at our pizza school. Dubbed the “Master of Pizza Napoletana” by the Michelin Guide, Chef Enzo Coccia, author of “The Neapolitan Pizza, a Scientific Guide on Artisanal Pizza-Making”, is a point of reference for Neapolitan handcrafted pizza. Maestro Enzo Coccia taught a master class on  “The Culture of Neapolitan Pizza Cooked in a Wood-Oven” here at Pizza University in March 2019. 

In Italy in 2018 the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Tourism appointed Enzo Coccia as member of the Technical Coordination Committee for the Year of Italian food as representative and greatest expert on the Neapolitan pizza.
In 2000, Enzo Coccia also founded Pizza Consulting, a consulting and training company that teaches the difficult art of pizza worldwide while upholding rigorous standards and time-honored traditions.

Who better than the  Maestro Pizzaiolo who has written scientific guides on pizza-making, teaches at the university in Napoli, and is the owner of several successful pizzerias to teach us his secrets?

We once again checked in with the Maestro, who had just returned from opening Little Pyg – a Michelin Guide Pizza locale in Dublin, Ireland to find out the single most important message that he wanted to transmit to his students. This is what he said; “I would like everyone to understand the importance of the family traditions of the Neapolitan pizzaiolo’s career. It is a calling that is passed down from father to son for generations. That is how it happened with me. My father was a pizzaiolo, I became one, and now I am teaching the profession to my children.

“This,” says the Maestro, “is a very important aspect: the family tradition, the passing down of knowledge and know how that is very present in Naples, yesterday as it is today. It is not by chance that the art of the Neapolitan Pizzaiolo became a UNESCO- protected  patrimony.”

So what can you do if you are not born into a pizza-making family, you might be wondering?

Chef Coccia started his own training course for that very reason. It is through his courses and consulting projects where he strives to create an “indissoluble thread between himself and his “single-product” Neapolitan pizza.

According to the Maestro, these are the qualities that set a Pizzaiolo up for success with the Neapolitan traditions:

  1. passion for his/her work
  2. exclusive use of products of exceptional quality
  3.  a deep knowledge of technique, tradition and territory

While teaching at our pizza school, he began the day by handing students a photo-copied historical document from Luigi de Medici and then traced pizza’s history in Italy from the 16th century to modern times. Next, he taught students about the scientific process of making proper dough. He described why wood-burning ovens were integral to the Neapolitan traditions.

Students in his course learned to heat ovens properly, how to make dough and dough balls, as well as proper leavening times and methods. The Maestro also taught the proper ways to stretch and open the dough, how to make the pizza discs, and how to place the pizza on the peel and into the oven.

Once in the oven, students learned how to rotate the pizzas, feed the fire, and remove the pizzas from the oven properly.  The Maestro also gave invaluable tips for prospective pizzeria-owners on how to organize their stations and staff their ovens in order for maximum efficiency. He gave tips on types of storage facilities and proofing temperatures that worked best in various establishments.

In addition to the techniques themselves, Chef Enzo Coccia  believes that one must study  the region of Campania and its raw  ingredients, possess direct knowledge of the best producers in the region and select the most suitable products in order to create authentic Neapolitan pizza, which is a true work of art.

To learn more about the Maestro’s establishments, click here.

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