I was in Naples, Italy, last November, eating my favorite Neapolitan food (pizza--did you really have to ask?), when I heard startling news: if the mayor of this delightfully anarchic town has his way, tens of thousands of pizzerias all over Europe might be changing their menus, if not their very names. Mayor Antonio Bassolino, it seems, has petitioned the Italian government, and thereby the European Union, for controlled-name status for Neapolitan pizza.
Now, I need no convincing that the best pizza in the whole wide world comes from Naples, but much as I love it, I can happily make do with Neapolitan pizza from New Haven, Chicago, even Naples, Maine. But if Bassolino is successful, the only pizzas that can legally be called pizza napoletana will be those from Naples, Italy--made with Neapolitan flour, Neapolitan yeast and Neapolitan water and baked in a Neapolitan wood-fired oven. For the rest of the world, "flat bread in the Neapolitan style" may become the accepted name. Somehow, it doesn't have the same ring to it.
While it seems silly to legislate the definition of pizza, what's happening in Naples is a very small part of an important European movement to protect traditional foods from the galloping globalism that threatens the entire world of food and wine. And for that reason alone, I'm all for it, even though the movement sometimes comes off as ridiculous.