For years, the only way to eat pizza in New York was with your hands, and the only question that ever came up was whether to fold or not to fold. Now, with the trend in pizza toward Naples style, with its drippy mozzarella di bufala, that’s changed. The knife and fork have entered the picture. This is why many New Yorkers resent Naples-style pizza. Not because it’s wet and juicy in the middle (what’s so bad about that?), but because they think they have to eat it with utensils. You go through life merrily eating pizza a certain way, and then along come a bunch of Italians to tell you you’ve been doing it all wrong. Outrageous.
This, however, is merely a cultural misunderstanding. The knife and fork are just an option, not a requirement. Emily Post may not approve, but no one in a Naples-style pizzeria is going to look askance if you use your mitts to pick up a slice of pie and shovel it into your mouth. In fact, according to Italian-food expert Tony May, the preferred method in his native Naples is the same fold familiar to any New Yorker: “Take a slice between your index finger and thumb, then take it to your mouth and start biting at it.”
There is, for the record, a more-advanced folding technique used for pizza al portafoglio (the unsliced eight-inch mini-pies) sold on the street in Naples and recently introduced here, at Kesté in the West Village. The way to eat a pizza al portafoglio, says Kesté’s Rosario Procino, is to follow the method illustrated above: (1) Take the pizza and fold it in half, (2) fold it in half again, and (3) start munching at it from the crust edge, not at the pointy tip, lest all the molten mozzarella and hot oil spill out onto your shoes.