Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana
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In the Kitchen with the World's Best Pizza Makers

This summer Eddy Bourdages, 33, and his mother, Mireille Anderson, 57, made their first trip to Italy. “We wanted to open an authentic Neapolitan wood oven pizzeria, so we went to the source,” says Bourdages. Anderson has owned L’Odyssée Bistro & Steakhouse in Labrador City, in eastern Canada, since 2008. Her son, however, is a computer scientist who quit six years ago to attend culinary school. “I had never made a pizza in my life,” he says.

They enrolled in a weeklong pizza boot camp run by the Naples-based Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (Real Neapolitan Pizza Association), a nonprofit dedicated to promoting Neapolitan pizza traditions. The five students, who ranged in age from 18 to 56, attended lectures on ingredients, visited a flour mill and a mozzarella producer, and spent 28 hours making pizza under the supervision of master pizzaiolos. By day, the apprentices learned how to make the Neapolitan pie’s characteristic thick outer crust. At night, they worked at historic pizzerias throughout the city.

Bourdages was assigned to Al 22 (Via Pignasecca 22, 39/ (0) 81-552-2726), located on a street that is famous for its food market. “There were always two pizza masters at the front of the restaurant,” he says. “One stretches, dresses, and places the pizza on a traditional wooden peel being held by the second pizzaiolo, who loads it into the oven and plates it. During service I stretched dough alongside the pizzaiolo. Sometimes I’d get a thumbs-up; sometimes my dough would get restretched.” Bourdages and Anderson also signed on for an extra week of unpaid pizzeria work. “The dough making is the hardest part,” Bourdages says. “You have to know when to stop adding flour. That changes each day, depending on the humidity in the air. The pizzaiolos could stick a finger in the dough and tell it was ready.”

The program culminates with a written and practical exam that Bourdages says is like an episode of America’s Got Talent. “Three AVPN members watched us make a margherita pizza (crushed, peeled tomatoes, mozzarella di bufala, basil, olive oil) and a marinara pizza (garlic, oregano, olive oil, and two spoons of tomato sauce). They tasted them and evaluated every bite. It was quite nerve-racking.”

Bourdages and Anderson both passed, and celebrated by spending a day in Capri. Their pizzeria, Punchinello’s, will open in early 2013 in Labrador City. “We sourced an oven from Italy. We want people to feel like they’re in a pizzeria in Naples,” he says. “My experience changed my perception of pizza. But after living in a place where people eat pizza three meals a day, it also made me excited to eat sushi.”

From $1,720. 39/(0) 81-420-1205. This appeared in the October 2012 issue.

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