Pizza purists want to preserve the traditional ingredients and methods of cooking the Neapolitan dish.

national pizza month slice of pizza
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Italians, it seems, have become protective of pizza, the dish their home country is best known for but that has become beloved around the world. More than two million Italians have signed a petition requesting that the UNESCO officially recognize pizza making as an art form invented in Naples, giving the dish World Heritage status.

In 2009, UNESCO established the Intangible Cultural Heritage list, which includes 38 traditional “elements” of different cultures, including food, dance, and music, which are safeguarded by the organization. The list currently names just six types of cuisine: the Mediterranean diet, Turkish coffee, Croatian gingerbread making, French gastronomy, Mexican cuisine, and Japanese washoku. The special honor is meant to preserve traditional methods of cooking invented by the culture in question, with no precedent elsewhere.

The Telegraph reports that when a UNESCO “intergovernmental committee on cultural heritage,” convenes next week in Seoul, it could grant World Heritage status to Neapolitan pizza. Italians hope that such recognition would protect pizza from “food piracy and appropriation,” according to an Italian food producer called Coldiretti.

Coldiretti wants to ensure that the traditional tenants of pizza making are strictly adhered to, rejecting pizza made with “flour made from Ukrainian wheat, mozzarella made from Lithuanian curd, Tunisian olive oil, and Chinese tomato puree,” as the authentic dish.

At the moment, Neapolitan pizza is only recognized as a “guaranteed traditional specialty,” in the European Union, but World Heritage recognition may help keep the traditional definition of pizza intact, as espoused by Coldiretti, while the rest of the world experiments with the meaning of pizza, adding flavors like strawberry, pumpkin spice, and pop rocks.

For Neapolitan pizza to be considered the genuine article, it has to be made by a pizzaiolo, with wheat flour, sea salt, tomatoes, basil leaves, and mozzarella cheese made from buffaloes, not cows. The colors of those ingredients, you’ll notice, represent the three colors of the Italian flag.