This Pizza Truck Is Slinging 'Black' Pies With Activated Charcoal

Social media foodies have turned to the chic look of Pizza Vitale's “black” pizza.



Thai rolled ice cream? Yes! Edible cookie dough? Sounds good. CBD-infused tea? Yummo! Activated charcoal “black” pizza? Umm…what?

After last year’s trend of colorful, sparkly “unicorn” foods the social media foodies have turned 180 degrees to the chic, black look of charcoal. Activated charcoal in foods, a movement common in NYC beginning a year or so ago where Instagrammers flocked to capture the aesthetic of the super-dark foods including  pizza, ice cream, lattes, burgers, pancakes, and more, has now come to the county via Pizza Vitale.

Francesco and Lili Chu Vitale started Pizza Vitale in March of this year. Francesco was a pizzaiolo (pizza maker) for more than 30 years in Italy and London before moving to New York City in 1995. The couple started making black pizza as a reminder of Francesco’s home, and have sold it as they know curious county foodies will appreciate trying it.

“When we go back to Naples to visit Francesco’s family, we always buy black bread (pane nero) as a nostalgic treat,” Lili says. “Pizza nera reminds Francesco of home, especially when he makes it with broccoli rabe and sausage since this a super typical Napolitana dish called broccoli en salsiccia.”

These black foods use the ingredient activated charcoal, also known as coconut ash or activated carbon. It’s made by heating coconut shells to extremely high temperatures until they are reduced to carbonated ash. That ash is then processed with hot air or steam at a high temperature. It’s often used in the medical field in cases of overdosing or poisonings as toxins and most drugs bind with the charcoal which helps the body get rid of unwanted substances.

Pizza Vitale use 100% pure food grade activated charcoal powder, along with the usual ingredients of yeast, salt, water and olive oil, for their pizza nera.

“Rise time for the dough is a little slower (with activated charcoal powder) so Francesco lets it rise more than the normal 48 hours,” Lili says. “It doesn’t really change the taste at all but sometimes you do feel the difference digesting pizza nera because it works to clean your stomach and intestines.”

People have claimed to use activated charcoal for hangovers, preventing gas, and reducing cholesterol; but none of these claims have been proven clinically. Some also purport it is effective for teeth whitening purposes.

Back in June of 2018, Eater.com reported that activated charcoal foods had been banned in NYC. Popular foodie spots that sold charcoal foods such as Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream and Round K were forced to throw away thousands of dollars in products and ordered to stop selling their charcoal products in a surprise inspection by the Department of Health. In a statement to the Observer, Carolina Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said:

“Restaurants in New York City are not permitted to use activated charcoal in food because it is prohibited by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a food additive or food coloring agent.”

However, Morgenstern’s (and other food purveyors) have claimed that this rule has never been enforced, and the black charcoal will not harm anyone in small doses.

“We don’t offer it often [on the regular menu],” Lili says. “Once we posted pictures of it recently, we did get special requests for private parties.”

 

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