UNESCO Recognition of Italian Pizza: A Culinary Triumph

A Culinary Triumph

The recognition of Italian pizza, specifically the art of Neapolitan pizza making, by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity marks a significant milestone in the culinary world. This prestigious acknowledgment not only celebrates the rich history and cultural importance of Neapolitan pizza but also underscores the dedication and craftsmanship of pizzaiolos (pizza makers) who preserve this culinary tradition. This article delves into the journey leading to this recognition, the significance of the designation, and its impact on the global appreciation of Italian pizza.

A Culinary Triumph
A Culinary Triumph

The Journey to UNESCO Recognition

Historical Significance

The origins of Neapolitan pizza date back to the 18th century in Naples, Italy, where it began as a simple, affordable meal for the working class. The classic Neapolitan pizza, or “pizza Napoletana,” is characterized by its soft, chewy crust, made from simple ingredients like flour, water, salt, and yeast. Topped with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, basil, and olive oil, it epitomizes the Italian philosophy of using high-quality, fresh ingredients.

The Campaign for Recognition

In 2017, after years of campaigning by Italian cultural and culinary organizations, UNESCO recognized the “Art of Neapolitan ‘Pizzaiuolo’” as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This recognition was a result of efforts by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN) and other advocates who highlighted the unique techniques, traditions, and cultural significance of Neapolitan pizza making.

Significance of the UNESCO Designation

Preserving Culinary Heritage

UNESCO’s recognition aims to preserve the traditional methods of making Neapolitan pizza, ensuring that future generations continue to uphold these practices. This includes the meticulous preparation of the dough, the use of specific ingredients, and the distinctive cooking method in a wood-fired oven.

Celebrating Cultural Identity

The designation celebrates the cultural identity and heritage of Naples, acknowledging the city’s contribution to global culinary culture. It reinforces the importance of local traditions and the role of food in cultural expression and community bonding.

Enhancing Global Awareness

The UNESCO recognition has heightened global awareness of Neapolitan pizza and its artisanal methods. It has prompted pizza lovers worldwide to seek out authentic Neapolitan pizza experiences and to appreciate the craftsmanship involved in its creation.

The Craft of Neapolitan Pizza Making

The Pizzaiolo’s Skill

The pizzaiolo, or pizza maker, is central to the art of Neapolitan pizza making. Their expertise lies in crafting the perfect dough, which requires precise kneading, fermenting, and stretching techniques. The pizzaiolo’s skill ensures that the dough achieves the ideal texture and consistency.

The Ingredients

Authentic Neapolitan pizza is made with specific ingredients: San Marzano tomatoes grown in the volcanic soil of Mount Vesuvius, fresh mozzarella di bufala (buffalo mozzarella), extra virgin olive oil, and fresh basil. These high-quality ingredients are essential to achieving the traditional flavor and texture.

The Cooking Process

The pizza is traditionally cooked in a wood-fired oven at a temperature of about 485°C (905°F) for 60-90 seconds. This intense heat creates the characteristic blistered and slightly charred crust, while keeping the center soft and chewy. The rapid cooking process also preserves the fresh flavors of the toppings.

Impact on the Global Pizza Community

Boosting Authenticity

UNESCO’s recognition has encouraged pizzerias worldwide to adopt authentic Neapolitan techniques and standards. Many establishments now strive for certification from organizations like the AVPN, which sets guidelines for making true Neapolitan pizza.

Culinary Tourism

The recognition has boosted culinary tourism in Naples, with pizza enthusiasts traveling to the city to experience authentic Neapolitan pizza. This influx of visitors supports local businesses and promotes the city’s culinary heritage.

Inspiring Innovation

While the focus is on preserving tradition, the recognition has also inspired innovation within the pizza community. Chefs and pizzaiolos experiment with new toppings and techniques, blending traditional methods with contemporary culinary trends.


The UNESCO recognition of the art of Neapolitan pizza making as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity is a tribute to the rich history, cultural significance, and artisanal skill involved in creating this beloved dish. It underscores the importance of preserving culinary traditions while celebrating the global impact of Neapolitan pizza. This designation not only honors the pizzaiolos of Naples but also inspires pizza lovers around the world to appreciate and uphold the timeless art of Neapolitan pizza making. As a symbol of cultural heritage and culinary excellence, Neapolitan pizza continues to delight and connect people across the globe, one delicious slice at a time.