And it's about time.
Officially validating a fact that is already almost universally acknowledged, UNESCO has announced today that it will recognize the art of Neapolitan pizza as deserving of World Heritage status on the Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
The move comes a week after over two million Italians signed a petition asking for recognition, which declares that the Naples-originated practice of "pizzaiuoli," or pizza makers, which includes preparing and flipping pizza dough, topping it, and baking in a wood-fired oven, is an essential part of the country's cultural and culinary tradition.
Pizza joins fellow new UNESCO World Heritage arts members chogan, an Iranian horse-riding game involving both storytelling and music, the Netherland's craft of windmill and watermill operation, traditional boat making on the island of South Sulawesi, Indonesia, and the traditional dish nsima from Malawi. Other edible members already on the list include Turkish coffee and its surrounding culture, Croatian gingerbread craft, French gastronomy, and traditional Mexican cuisine, which puts pizza in some good global company.
The status, which seeks to raise awareness of valuable cultural traditions, encompasses the whole cultural world around Neopolitan pizza, which traditionally comes in two versions: Margherita, with tomato, mozzarella, oil, and bazil, and Marinara, which is topped with tomato, garlic, oregano, and oil. This is a sticking point for some; as one Italian pizza-lover told Reuters: "I think, and I hope, that this could be the chance to make foreigners understand how pizza is made, without Nutella or pineapple.”
According to tradition, Pizza Margherita was created back in 1889 to honor the Italian Queen Margherita as she visited Naples, which may be why its colors match the red, green, and white of the Italian flag. And while it's likely nothing can stop the never ending list of new, strange pizza attempts, it's clear that the original pizza tradition continues to be running as strong as ever.