Italians See Pizza Return to Its Birthplace, Naples

A pizza maker in Naples, Italy shows off a pie with a special message.
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Following two months of quarantine, the citizens of Naples, Italy, are rejoicing in a small victory over coronavirus: pizza has returned to the city. Pizza has been a mainstay of Naples, where the doughy goodness was born, for centuries, but when Italy became the epicenter of Europe for coronavirus, that changed. T

he COVID19 lockdown in the country caused everything to close, including its beloved pizzerias. "It has never happened since it saw the light of day, that in Naples, pizza couldn't be found," Luciano Pignataro, a journalist in Naples, told Al-Jazeera earlier this month. “Not in the Neapolitan Revolution of 1799, the fall of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, the two World Wars, during the cholera period, nor the Camorra war.”

Naples and the surrounding province, Campania, was shut down completely, and unlike Rome, they did not have take out or delivery. It was a call made by municipalities in effort to beat the virus. 

"Just last night I dreamed of a pizza that I was making for myself," Salvatore Di Matteo, who runs the family business Di Matteo pizzeria, told Al Jazeera. The pizza place was opened by his great grandfather in 1934. "Like every pizzaiolo, I have to test and taste both the dough and all the products, but I also eat one pizza a day, because I really do like pizza."

On Monday, restrictions in the province as the country were loosened as the number of patients and deaths due to coronavirus declined. 

Campania had a 4,300 cases since February, with half having to be hospitalized. As Italy announced over the weekend how they will slowly begin reopening the country, Campania’s governor, Vincenzo De Luca, announced that pizzerias can open Monday.

While it seems as if all of Naples has rejoiced in pizzerias opening up, it comes with restrictions. All must close by 10 p.m. and everyone inside working must wear masks, gloves and practice social distancing. Customers can only place orders by phone and cannot come to the shops. Everything must be delivered. 

“Surely this is a little restart for the entrepreneurs, important for us and for our region, our city and our nation,” Giovanni Pezzuto, owner of a Neapolitan pizzeria, told the Associated Press. “This is a symbol of hope for the little firm that slowly can restart.”

Pizzerias reopening will boost the local economy as many of the shops rely on local farms for tomatoes, cheese and flour to make the pies, as well as toppings like peppers, onions and meat. Since a majority of pizzerias in the city and surrounding areas still use the ancient methods of using wood to fire the ovens, local lumber yards also benefit. 

De Luca announced that home deliveries from bars, pastry shops, ice-cream parlors and restaurants, can also begin. 

Italy is one of the countries worst hit by coronavirus. They have suffered nearly 27,000 deaths, second to the United States, which currently has over 56,000, according to the World Health Organization.

The north of Italy was hit the hardest by the pandemic. The country imposed a mandatory lockdown in mid-February, which helped contain the spread of the illness as it traveled south to areas like Naples and Sicily, which have seen a manageable amount of cases. 

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