“Fried pizza is Woman,” Isabella De Cham tells me boldly as she drops a half-moon pizza pocket into a bubbling fryer and I watch it rapidly double in size. “It’s always been made by women, that’s why we say ‘pizza fritta è donna’.” I’ve come to visit her at 1947 Pizza Fritta, a small eatery located near the city’s train station, to learn more about this cultural and culinary phenomenon – not fried pizza, but female pizza makers.
Enter any pizzeria in the historic centre of Naples and you’re sure to observe a crew of men kneading, stretching, tossing and baking superlative pies for throngs of hungry customers. Pizza in Naples is not only a source of epicurean pleasure and national pride; it is regarded as a veritable art form, one that is vying to be included in Unesco’s “Intangible Heritage” List (results to be announced in early 2018).
With hundreds of establishments striving to be recognized as the best in the city, it’s hard to stand out from the crowd, but one thing is certain about the competition: it’s dominated by men. But after watching Sophia Loren fry up pizzas in Vittorio De Sica’s L’Oro di Napoli, I knew this wasn’t just a man’s trade and, thus inspired, had set off in search of her modern heirs.
Isabella de Cham has been awarded the title of Pizza Champion (Livia Hengel)
At 24, Isabella is already considered one of the best pizza makers in Naples and has been compared to Sophia Loren’s character for her superlative creations. Her favorite variant, which features smoked provolone cheese from Sorrento, cacciocavallo, rucola and lemon zest, even landed her the title of Pizza Champion at the Campionato Nazionale Pizza DOC in Nocera last year.
“Traditionally pizza margherita was considered a luxury because mozzarella was costly. And standing in front of an oven was an arduous task – so it was the man’s job. Fried pizza instead used common ingredients, ricotta and fatty pork bits, and was…