Pizza-lovers, everywhere, surely have noticed and wondered about the fancy traditional Italian pizzerias use acronyms like “DOC”, “DOP”, “VPN”, and “STG” on their menus and marketing materials. What do they mean?
These important acronyms preserve traditional Neapolitan ingredient and cooking techniques. DOC and DOP stand for Denominazione di Origine Controllata (“controlled designation of origin”) and Denominazione di Origine Protetta (“protected designation of origin”) respectively and certify that the ingredient originated in Italy. VPN or Vera Pizza Napoletana (“true Neapolitan pizza”) is a designation given by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (“association of true Neapolitan pizza”) that cultivates the tradition of the Neapolitan pizza with its requisite, preparation ingredients and manner of cooking. All VPN certified pizzerias will, theoretically, serve pies in the most authentically traditional manner. A slightly less rigid designation, STG or Specialita Tradizionale Garantita (“traditional specialities guaranteed”) ensures the presented product will fit the specific character of Naples style pizza in size, shape, consistency, and appearance.
Naples, the Birthplace of Pizza, boasts its traditional style that dates back to the 1500s. After explorers brought tomatoes to Europe from their native Peru the fruit adapted and thrived. many aristocrats feared the plant might be harmful. Because of its acidic nature, tomatoes would dissolve the lead based paint in the plates resulting in lead poisoning. Peasants were immune because they ate off of wooden plates.
Peasants and tomatoes abound in Naples, so chefs prepared volumes of cookbooks loaded with tomato rich recipes, including the modern version of pizza.
People came from far wide to try it. Legend states that luminaries included a visit from Italian King Umberto I and his wife Queen Margherita. Chef Rafael Esposito prepared the perfect pizza for the occasion: a pizza with all of the colors of the Italian flag. On top of the hand sculpted wood-fired brick oven crust, he layered the red crushed San Marzano tomatoes, white bufalo (“Italian water buffalo”) fresh mozzarella cheese and green basil. The queen loved it and Chef Esposito named it after her.
These are the guidelines for a truly authentic pizza. That is why you pay more for it. The VPN and STG guidelines are strict but when you eat a pie that fits the criteria, understand that you’re eating a pie almost exactly like the one served to Queen Margherita over 500 years ago. It’s cheaper than a trip to Italy and places like delivery friendly places like Keste Pizza & Vino and Don Antonio by Starita make it to where you don’t even need to leave your apartment.
You will, never, forget your first Margherita DOC pizza. I had mine during my first quest for the 31 Days of Pizza back in 2002. Since then, I’ve had over 250 during October (National Pizza Month) alone. You will agree with me, and the Queen—they are delicious.
Check out these neighborhood pizzerias that deliver with DOC, DOP ingredients:
1. Forcella La Pizza Di Napoli in the East Village and in Williamsburg, Brooklyn
2. Numero 28 in the West Village
5. L’asso in Nolita
Sean Taylor has been blogging about pizza since he began his annual Quest for the 31 Days of Pizza in 2002. He also teaches and performs improv comedy at the Magnet Theater. You can follow him on Twitter @seantaylor or visit him at www.seantaylor.us.
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