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Italians turn on Michelin-starred chef over sacrilegious pizza recipe

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 11/03/2018 By John Phillips

The humble margherita was invented in June 1889 by Raffaele Esposito in honour of the Queen of Italy © REUTERS/Ciro De Luca The humble margherita was invented in June 1889 by Raffaele Esposito in honour of the Queen of Italy A Michelin-starred chef in Italy has triggered a storm of protest from pizza purists loyal to the original Neopolitan dish for daring to produce a "healthy" version of the humble margherita to which he has audaciously added wholemeal grains and cereals.

The bearded Carlo Cracco put his alternative "crunchy" recipe, featuring petal shapes of mozzarella and a heavy tomato sauce, on the menu of his restaurant in the smart Victor Emanuel Gallery in the Italian business capital of Milan, charging as much as €16 (£12,50).

But his delicate tweaks of the original recipe was met with disdain in the proud southern city of Naples, the birthplace of the margherita.

The Neapolitan writer Angelo Forgione spearheaded the criticism, quipping that the new gastronomic creation was nothing more than “a cracked pizza”.

Two girls eating pizza in cafe. © Provided by Shutterstock Two girls eating pizza in cafe. Another purist noted that Cracco, a former judge in the Italian Masterchef, recently lost a Michelin star at one of his restaurants. "After making his own 'pizza,' they took away not only his other Michelin stars but also his Italian citizenship and his driving licence," the commentator said, adding that migrant Egyptians who often work as pizza bakers in Italy could do better. "When I saw Cracco's pizza I immediately awarded the Egyptian cook downstairs eight Michelin stars," he said.

Legend has it that in June 1889 the pizzaiolo - a man who makes pizzas in a pizzeria - Raffaele Esposito, invented Pizza margherita in honour of the Queen of Italy, Margherita of Savoy, and Italian unification, since the toppings are tomato (red), mozzarella (white) and basil (green), representing the colours of the national flag of Italy.

The world's love for the traditional margherita led to Unesco last year recognising Neapolitan pizza with official world cultural heritage status.

The latest debate over the modern provocation by the chef from Vicenza recalled the furore that raged last year over whether it was acceptable to use pineapple on pizza to create the so-called Hawaii pizza.

Some Neapolitan connoisseurs in Milan who tasted Cracco’s pizza, described on the menu as “a variation on a theme”, acknowledged grudgingly that it was tasty. But they suggested he produce a more popular, low-cost version in line with pizza’s proletarian origins, the leading Corriere della Sera of Milan newspaper reported.

Related: 11 Classic Italian Sauces Everyone Should Learn How to Make (provided by POPSUGAR)

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 “They  advised the chef to come down from the stars and come down to the level of alleyways of Naples, not as a celebrity pizza maker, but like the bakers who make pizzas that cost just 2 euros,” the Corriere said.

One resident of Naples, quoted by the Huffington Post, said: "For 16 euros here in Naples you can also have zeppole (traditional carneval cakes) and panzarotti (Neapolitan croquette potatoes) as well as a large beer and still have change."

Another celebrity chef, Gino Sorbillo, who recently opened a new pizzeria in New York, where guests included the likes of Bill de Blasio, the city mayor, weighed into the fray in defence of Cracco, saying that at the end of the day pizza is only a snack, not a sacred cow.

“Lads, I liked Carlo Cracco’s interpretation,” Sorbillo posted. “It is not Neapolitan, it’s his own pizza and that’s all there is to it.”

However the Fatto Quotidiano newspaper went so far as to recommend five alternative pizza parlours in Milan it said were better than paying Cracco's stellar prices.

"We are certain that nobody will go on purpose to Carlo Cracco to eat his revisited pizza margherita, except perhaps some foreign punter willing to try the experience of his new restaurant," said restaurant critic Ernesto Pentaglia.

Related: How to Make Pizza-Stuffed Cheeseburgers (provided by My Recipes)


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