The art of the pizzaiuolo - passed down for generations in the southern Italian city - was among 12 of the new elements added to UNESCO’s list of “intangible heritage”, by the UN cultural body’s World Heritage Committee at the beginning of December.
The list was announced at an event in Seoul which was attended by Australian delegate for the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN), Johnny Di Francesco.
As the owner of the 400 Gradi Group and a Pizza World Champion, Mr Di Francesco makes mouthwatering pizzas on a daily basis and is thrilled that his art form is now celebrated on the international stage.
“The art of creating the true pizza napoletana represents the heart and soul of Italian culture, passed down through generations; it’s very important to us to preserve that tradition,” he said.
“For the last 10 years I’ve devoted my life to preserving pizza napoletana in Australia, so it’s a huge achievement to be a part of.
“I feel I have fulfilled a long-term goal and the UNESCO listing has given every pizzaiuolo around the world who makes la vera pizza napoletana the recognition that they deserve.”
Mr Di Francesco celebrated the news in the best way he knows how: by eating pizza!
“We visited a great pizzeria in Korea with the whole team involved,” he said.
The chef and restaurateur is the first Australian ever trained in Naples to the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana VPN rules.
“When I introduced pizza napoletana to Melbourne I always knew in my heart that I would be part of a movement that would one day mean our profession is properly recognised,” he explained.
The art of the pizzaiuolo is practically part of Mr Di Francesco’s DNA, as his father hails from the small town of Mignano Monte Lungo, just north of Naples.
His parents migrated from Italy to Australia in the 1960s and he was born and raised in the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick.
“I realised my passion for cooking authentic Italian food - especially pizza - at 12 years old thanks to my father, who taught me the love of life and food,” he said.
“I used to watch and learn, and with plenty of practice over the years I went on to train in kitchens and complete professional training in Naples.”
With a passion for true Neapolitan pizza and the skills to match, Mr Di Francesco is the perfect person to ask what the secret is to the perfect pizza napoletana.
“The truth is there is no secret! Pizza napoletana has no owners. Every pizzaiuolo has their own little touches to make their pizza special…but using the highest quality ingredients is always best!”