According to Erik Borger, the chef-owner of Il Lazzarone, there's a specific way to make authentic Neapolitan pizza. And he should know; his original Il Lazzarone restaurant in St. Joseph has been certified as authentically Neapolitan by the American Delegation of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana.
Recently, our food critic Charles Ferruzza visited Borger's newest outpost in Kansas City's River Market to get the details on making an authentic Neapolitan pie.
To be a true Neapolitan pizza, the dough can only have a few ingredients: Italian 00 flour, Mediterranean sea salt, fresh compressed yeast and water.
Take the dough out and push it around to get the air out. Flip it over to have a consistent airy crust. Then, Borger uses a Neapolitan slap technique: He picks up the dough and rotates it 45 degrees at a time until it's in its desired form, then he stretches it a few more times. Following Neapolitan law, he has to use stone surfaces for stretching and topping pizzas; he also uses a Neapolitan dough tray and many of his tools are from Naples.
To make a Margherita pizza, Borger tops the dough with freshly-milled DOP-certified tomato (DOP stands for Denominazione d'origine Protetta, or "protected designation of origin") and rotates that around until it fills about 87 percent of the crust. He then distributes rounds of mozzarella — "It's all about the balance of salt and cheese," he says — then adds Mediterranean sea salt, extra virgin cold-pressed olive oil, fresh basil and Pecarino Romano.
Borger then taps the peel (the pizza paddle) on the base of the oven (which is over 800 degrees) to get the excess flour off, then places the pizza in the oven. Sometimes, he uses sawdust for an extra punch of flame. He then uses the peel to turn the pizza about every 25 seconds a quarter to get an even char; it cooks for 90 seconds.
"It's the slowest fast food in the world," he said.
The pizza is best eaten within three to five minutes. Borger said that traditionally, it's eaten with a knife and fork from the center out. As a street food, Neapolitans will fold it two times, which they call a "Neapolitan wallet."