Usman says” There are European Union and Vera Pizza Napoletana Association rules you have to follow if you want to cook it and call it “Neapolitan Pizza”. And we adhere to these strict rules.”
The Italian Government were concerned that there were so many different versions of pizza that preserving the authenticity of Neapolitan Pizza, after all that is where pizza was born became extremely important.
While they all call it pizza, its only common defining characteristics are that it is generally made of bread, topped with sauce, inexpensive mozzarella-type cheese, and a bunch of other toppings baked together.
The new Pizzeria, Ecco, on Otley Road in Headingly (near the Arndale Centre), is set to change all this for good, with its specially imported pizza constituent ingredients from Naples.
In come the freshly-produced genuine Napoletana equivalents. Flour (from the valley of Campania), sea salt, extra virgin olive oil (from Puglia and Cilento) and water all originate from Naples. Luscious, sweet-sour tomatoes are grown in the volcanic soil close by the iconic Vesuvius volcano, and San Marzano tomatoes for the sauce are canned and shipped from growers in Naples. All are carefully blended together, by a head chef who travelled to Naples to learn from the experts precisely how to combine them, with not a single artificial additive, growth hormone, pesticide, nitrate or trans fats in sight.
In terms of the vegetables Ecco aims to get as many as they can from garden-growers in Leeds with the herbs coming from allotment growers in Leeds too.
The pizza dough itself is left to ferment for up to 24 hours before the naturally sweet sauce and toppings are added prior to being cooked at 800 degrees. The oven is handmade, imported from you guessed it Naples and cooks the food using wood – most modern pizza houses use gas-fired equivalents nowadays – to produce an altogether magical taste of Italy in less than 2 minutes (yes, 90 seconds to be precise!) cooking time.
The pizzas - and there are 29 different to choose from – are in in two sizes; a traditional 30cm circular and a half a metre length for two people to share, with choice of ingredients per quarter. There is also gourmet pizza and pizza from around the world, all inspired by different cuisines.
However, for the pizza purist, it will always be about the simplicity of the Margarita or Marinara, and as such they may wish not to venture away from these pioneers in pizza terms. However at Ecco, whilst still staying loyal to Neapolitan traditions, they wanted to develop a range of pizzas to cater for peoples tastes that have become accustomed to cuisines from around the world.
Hence Pizzas from around the world was developed, each having its unique taste with the emphasis on quality ingredients cooked using traditional methods.
Usman added: “I’m not just aiming to make Neapolitan-style pizzas that pay lip-service to the origin of pizza. My intention is to provide the best, most Authentic Neapolitan pizzas this side of Naples.
“Pizza is eaten every day by Italians and should be easily digestible and healthy. We combine the best, to produce the best, and are aiming for accreditation as the producers of the first, truly authentic Neapolitan pizza in England.
“To compliment the pizza will also provide a selection of salads and caramelised chicken cooked in the wood fired oven. In terms of our deserts we create under the supervision of our Maestro (teacher), our own delicious and fruity Gelati (ice cream) and sorbets produced to genuine Italian recipes. All this and more can be enjoyed in our new restaurant or in the comfort of your own home as we will be offering a home delivery service.
Ecco will be holding an event at the University of Leeds in the early part of January 2013 where you are welcome to try free pizza’s cooked using our mobile hand-made wood fired oven. The exact date will be announced nearer the time on our website at eccopizzeria.co.uk and via twitter
On the 19th December, when Ecco open their doors, please feel free to pop in between 12-2pm when there will be a free tasting session.
For further details, please see eccopizzeria.co.uk