Above: the last pizza I ate in Italy in Lecce in October 2013, a “napoletana” with salt-cured anchovies and capers.
Every Italian food and wine blog that I follow posted yesterday on a controversy sparked by a Sunday evening news program aired by RAI 3, one of Italy’s three national television networks.
The show, “Report,” is analogous to “20/20” on ABC or “48 Hours” on CBS, a “gotcha” news program that generates views and clicks by means of pseudo-investigative reporting.
In Sunday night’s show, entitled “Let’s not burn our pizza,” the producers contend that because Italian pizzaioli (pizza makers) do not properly clean their pizza ovens, the resulting “hydrocarbons” in “burnt pizzas” can cause cancer.
Image via the RAI 3 site, where you can view the entire show online.
The residual burnt flour that discolors the bottom of the pies, says one University of Venice toxicology professor interviewed by the producers, is similar to the exhaust that you breathe on the freeway.
The producers make other outrageous claims as well: the use of oils other than olive oil, low quality flour, and even the boxes for delivery pizza can also be cancerogenic, they report.
Between yesterday and today, Neapolitan journalist Luciano Pignataro — one of Italy’s leading wine and food bloggers — published seven posts on his blog in response to what one of his contributors calls “hygienic terrorism.”
In a press conference yesterday organized hastily by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (the Authentic Neapolitan Pizza Association), Professor Antonio Limone, commissioner of the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale del Mezzogiorno (Experimental Veterinary Prevention Institute of Southern Italy), stated flatly that “the amount of hydrocarbons found in a burnt pizza is less than in mussels” (source: Luciano Pignataro Wine Blog).
“We cannot stand for attacks like this against [the region of] Campania,” said Antonio Startita during the conference, a “historic” pizzaiolo who works in the Materdei ward of Naples. “We must defend our treasures. A Neapolitan pizza not cooked in wood-fired oven is unthinkable.”