Vera Pizza Day: A Worldwide Celebration of Neapolitan Pizza
One day a year, the fires in brick ovens across Naples are extinguished and celebratory communal bonfires are lit in the streets and piazzas of the city. This happens on January 17th, the feast day of Saint Anthony, patron saint of firemen, ironworkers, and, most importantly to us here at Ooni, pizzaioli.
To celebrate the Christian saint who reportedly went into the fires of hell to retrieve a flame for the people on Earth to cook with, Italians light large bonfires throughout the city, gathering around them to talk, cook and celebrate. Since fire is at the heart of pizza-making, Saint Anthony is at the heart of pizza-making in Naples. You can’t, after all, use a forno a legna (wood-fired oven) to cook thin, chewy, perfect Neapolitan pizzas if there’s no fire to be had.
Celebrations of Saint Anthony have taken place for hundreds of years, with current bonfires consisting of unwanted negligees and old IKEA furniture (it’s clearly no longer 400 A.D). However, this is only the third year they’re being fired up alongside the celebrations, and classes of Vera Pizza Day.
Hosted by the AVPN (Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana), the Italian authority on Neapolitan pizza, Vera Pizza Day is meant to honor the dish and its makers. And what better day than when pizza shops close down and pizzaioli take to the streets for a ritual of thanks to their patron, Saint Anthony?
When it comes to legends and pizzas, there’s no better authority than the president of the AVPN, Antonio Pace, who has said, “Pizza has no inventors. It has neither father nor owner. It is the fruit of Neapolitan ingenuity.” So there’s no single father (or, ahem, mother!) of the food, but it does have a motherland: Naples. Until recently, the Campania, the region that’s home to the coastal city, didn’t have a formal stake to that claim. But in 2017, UNESCO added Neapolitan pizza-making to their Intangible Cultural Heritage list, forever cementing it as a tradition of importance — to Italy, and to the world. While the craft of pizza-making is ephemeral — pizza is, after all, meant to be eaten — last year, the AVPN raised funds for a tangible representation of the intangible: a work of art dedicated to Neapolitan pizza-makers. In the past Vera Pizza Olympics the sculpture has been unveiled. You can find all the info on their website here.
This year, the day kicks off with classes in Australia , with a 24-hour celebration continuing around the globe, each country picking up the torch with classes and livestreams.
Ooni will be celebrating with four pizza masterclasses held by master AVPN pizzaioli and Ooni representatives. The masterclasses will be livestreamed globally on AVPN's YouTube Channel. Find the schedule for Ooni masterclasses at the end of the post.
If you’re not ready to light a bonfire outside your front door just yet, join us for masterclasses or try your hand at making a marinara pizza to AVPN standards using our recipe. You can even do it in your backyard without a forno a legna, since the Ooni Karu 16 is the first pizza oven to be recommended for domestic use by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (and though they’re not certified by the AVPN, the rest of our ovens make great Neapolitan pizza, too).
There is a saying in Italian, “Chi festeggia sant’Antuono, tutto l’anno ‘o pass’ bbuon,” or, “He who celebrates Saint Anthony’s Day passes the whole year well.” So, however you choose to celebrate — with pizza, bonfires, or classes — we think it will be worth your while.
Vera Pizza Day Schedule:
1.30 - 2.30 am (IT) | 4.30 - 5.30 pm 16 January (PST) | Peppe Miele president of VPN Americas, Los Angeles
5.30 - 6.30 am (IT) | 3.30 - 4.30 pm (AEDT) | Ooni ambassador Antimo Verde from his house in Melbourne
10.30 - 11.30 am (IT-CET) | Emmanuele Cirillo, owner of pizzeria Malafemmena in Berlin
9.30 - 10.30 pm (IT) | 3.30 - 4.30 pm (EST) | Ettore Rusciano from Washington and Kelsey Small from AVPN Napoli.