“What makes a pizza ‘Neapolitan'?"
I asked, “would you like the short or long explanation?” They insightfully said, “we want your answer.” This is what I told them …Pizza Napolitana is a protected food product. Like Champagne or Parmigianino Reggiano, there are specific criteria that must be upheld to rightfully call a pizza a Neapolitan Pizza.
The Pizzaiolo-First, the Pizzaiolo (pizza-maker) must be trained and certified. It was my privilege to apprentice under Enzo Coccia in Naples, Italy. One of the greatest living Pizzaiolo, he is also one of the world’s most renowned historians of the 250 years of pizza making. In addition to these lofty credentials, he was also one of the visionaries who began the SLO Food (Sustainable/Local/Organic) movement which now has chapters in nearly every municipality in the world. There are many levels of certification which finally culminate with being certified by the Italian Ministry of Agriculture, as ingredients are of the utmost importance. My mentor and honored friend Enzo was instrumental in introducing me to the most celebrated artisan food makers and food producers in Campania (the region which surrounds Naples) to see, smell, touch, and learn the processes that comprise the other elements of a Neapolitan Pizza.
The Flour-The flour used in Pizza Napolitana is quite specific. The use of Italian “00” flour (the finest possible milling specifications) is required, and of all the “00” flours produced, we have chosen the Antimo Caputo brand, as I had the great honor of spending many hours in this mill, and in their lab, and was impressed by the hourly testing of their mixture and the exacting standards by which they measure. This is the finest flour in the world, and we are proud to serve it. Great pizza starts with the dough. We use Mediterranean sea salt, Caputo flour from Naples, and fresh, active cake yeast. We incorporate these simple ingredients in well-fed groundwater from Coupeville, which offers a unique natural blend of minerals and salts which is perfect for emulating the mountain spring water found and used in Naples pizzerias.
The Tomatoes-The use of tomatoes grown in the San Marzano boundaries is also required. As of this writing, we are still using San Marzano tomatoes, and although scandal and genetic modification have all but driven this magnificent crop to the brink of extinction, we still have some rare few cases left to savor.
The Mozzarella-Neapolitan Pizza must also be made with fresh Mozzarella cheese, and we make ours fresh, every day.
The Oven-The Neapolitan Pizza must be cooked in a wood-fired oven. Our oven (named Saint Peter) was manufactured with volcanic soil and silica from Mount Vesuvius by an Italian oven maker called Pavesi. It was broken down into pieces, created and shipped to Coupeville, and then reassembled by Peter DeJong and his company, Fired Up Kitchens. Peter, a world-renowned chef and James Beard Institute Fellow, also came back after construction to train our core kitchen staff in the art of pizza making.
Lastly, The Neapolitan Pizza must be made by hand. From the dough ball to the opening of the dough and the crafting of the pizza – everything at Ciao is made by hand with skill and love.
The best pizza comes from the best ingredients, and we are fortunate to have access to the best right here on Whidbey Island.
Owner and founder Maria Coassin opened Gelatiamo in 1996 near Pikes Place Market in Seattle. She studied the art of making gelato under a world famous gelato master. The recipe she uses in her gelato was created in the 1700s. Gelato is made from the milk, rather than cream (found in ice cream) of dairy. Gelato contains about 50-60% less fat than ice cream. Because of the lower fat content, gelato becomes dense during the freezing process and subsequently has a velvety mouth-feel.
This local Whidbey farm is owned by Ron and Shelly Muzzall. They are fourth generation farmers and have three daughters, hence the name. They focus on conservation and sustainable practices. All of their beef grass fed.
Rosehip Farm & Garden is a small diversified farm in historic Coupeville. They grow a mix of vegetables and offer cut flowers and some bedding plants. They strive to grow “beyond organic.”
Willowood is a historic farm located in the heart of Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve. Named after the Willow trees that once abounded in the waterlogged prairie. Later, after irrigation practices were established, the Smith family began farming and have lived on the farm ever since. They are 100% organic and grow a unique variety of European legumes and other vegetables.
Frank Isernio was raised in Beacon Hill in Seattle, a neighborhood rich with first and second generation Italians. His parents had a small garden and raised chickens and rabbits and prided themselves on extravagant dinners with friends and family. As Frank grew older, his passion for sausage-making turned into a profession as he began selling his sausage to local restaurants out of the ice-filled trunk of his car. Today, Isernio’s is found in hundreds of restaurants and grocery stores all around the nation.
The Tao of Ciao
In my kitchen, you will not find a microwave, as I prefer and honor the cooking techniques of my grandmothers. Here we do all of our preparation by hand and cook in a similar manner the ancients used to bring food to the table. Our wood burning oven is made almost exactly like the oldest oven ever excavated. I am fascinated with the process of cooking with wood and fire and am passionate about this rustic form of cuisine. I prefer to cook and eat the food of people who live close to the land. I am inspired by and drawn to the food of the farmer, the peasant, and those without the means to host lavish feasts. I believe that the quality of food should be measured by the time it takes to get from the field to the plate. I believe that cooking simplicity leads to cooking perfection.
It is with those preferences that I found what I believe to be the perfect food – Neapolitan Pizza.
Meet the Family-Meet the Ciao family and come home for dinner often!
Thank you for your interest in our restaurant! Come meet the friendly staff of Ciao. Members of different hometowns, experiences, generations have got together, but we have two things in common. First – we all like cooking, and second – we all can’t wait to cook something special for you!