On an overcast Friday evening in April, seven well-dressed men gathered around a table at Pasquale’s Pizza ‘A Napulitana in South Kingstown. Wine glasses full, they took turns letting out a convivial laugh, telling stories, and affectionately slapping each other on the back.
Lively conversation in Italian and English seemed to reverberate throughout the restaurant, making this gaggle of guests and the owner, Pasquale Illiano, the most animate group in the place.
Pasquale’s guests hail from Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (APVN), an international organization that finds authentic Neapolitan pizzerias all over the world who make the dish according to their strict requirements. The group then gives them a special designation to denote authenticity. Lucky for Rhode Islanders, Pasquale’s earned this designation several years ago. AVPN President Antonio Pace and President for the Americas Peppe Miele, renewed the owner’s standing as a trustee for New England.
What drew the APVN to Pasquale’s? According to Peppe, the small restaurant sought out the nonprofit, and the food spoke for itself. A Neapoltian pie is unlike a New York slice or a piece of Chicago deep dish. Proof of real Neapolitan pizza is in the details – from the oven to the tomatoes, all of the ingredients and the machinery should come from Italy.
“Every element on the Neapolitan pizza is key. We cannot just focus on the crust, we have to focus on the crust as well as we have to focus on the cheese, on the tomato we use, the finishing olive oil we use, and even the basil is key,” says Pasquale.
The owner explains that when Italian immigrants came over to the United States in the early 1900s, they didn’t have access high-quality Italian products. So, the American version of this dish was born. Now that global product exchange is common, pizzaiolos like Pasquale can get the ingredients they need to preserve a centuries-old authentic recipe.
Pasquale and the APVN have had a close relationship for seven or eight years. Now when the group meets up annually, they talk about pizza and reminisce about what this simple food means to them. Antonio, Peppe, and Pasquale agree that above all, pizza is passion, pizza is love. South Kingstown