Naples is the birthplace of pizza, and we were keen to do it justice.
Neapolitan pizza is quite unlike pizza found throughout the rest of Italy. Restrictions of the ingredients are tight; the tomatoes must be either San Marzano or Pomodorino del Piennolo del Vesuvio, and the mozzarella must either made from water buffalo milk or Fior di Latte (a specific type of cow’s milk). Furthermore, the dough must be kneaded and formed by hand, and baked for 60-90 seconds at 485 degrees celsius in a wood fired oven, producing a soft and elastic base once cooked. Yum! This is our experience of Naples through four pizzas in four days.
Pizza Imperatore 1906
We arrived in Naples on a Friday evening after 7 hours spent on 3 regional trains from Lucca. Although I’d heard about the city’s passion, noise and grit (and Sara had visited Naples previously), we both felt a pang of culture shock as we walked the raucous, dark streets of the Centro Storico (old town) on our way to pick up a late night takeaway pizza. This feeling was beautifully encapsulated when, back at our 5th floor apartment, a whole cake of fireworks were set off in the street below, exploding just outside our window.
Despite how tired and overwhelmed we felt at the time, our Margherita pizza from Pizzeria Imperatore 1906 turned out to be our favourite of our visit to Naples. Maybe it was our hunger levels, or possibly our initiation into Neapolitan pizza, but my goodness did it hit the spot. We were hooked, and immediately understood why there was a pizzeria on almost every block.
- Queueing chaos: 2/10 (disappointingly orderly)
- Pizza base: 10/10 (perfectly stretchy and very tasty)
- Toppings: 8/10 (simple but effective)
- Ambience: 8/10 (fireworks as dinnertime entertainment)
L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele
On our second evening in Naples, we headed to the hugely popular L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele, just across the square from our Airbnb. Upon arriving, the swarm of people surrounding the pizzeria gave us confidence this was a good choice, whilst simultaneously piquing our queuing anxiety. Almost everywhere we experienced in Italy had its own unique queuing system, and this was no different. A fellow punter took pity on us and explained how to navigate the rabble. At length, we placed our order, picked up some beers from a nearby shop to drink while we waited, and joined the impatient crowd to claim our pizzas.
This pizzeria served pizza as it used to be, without many “toppings” as we know them. You could choose between 4 options:
- Margherita – tomato, Fior di latte, basil, pecorino
- Marinara – tomato, oregano, garlic
- Cosacca – tomato, basil, pecorino, pepper
- Marita – half Marinara, half Margherita
Sara ordered a Marita, and I went for a Cosacca. In both cases, we were blown away by the level of flavour produced by so few ingredients. Maybe the protected local produce did have more flavour than those found elsewhere, or maybe these flavours are just easier to appreciate with few distracting toppings. Either way, we were both glad to have experienced what felt like the most authentic pizza of our visit to Italy so far.
- Queueing chaos: 10/10 (maximum confusion, loved it)
- Pizza base: 7/10 (a bit too floppy)
- Toppings: 10/10
- Ambience: 5/10 (eaten in our weird Airbnb)
Pizzeria e Trattoria Del Purgatorio
For our third Neapolitan pizza, we ate at a restaurant on the busy and largely pedestrian Via dei Tribunali. Despite its positive reviews, Pizzeria Del Purgatorio felt like it catered more to tourists, and matched neither the elegance or rustic charm of our first two pizzas. Desperate for more vegetables, Sara ordered a Siciliana, and I stuck with the classic Margherita. The pizza went down just fine, but it seemed like there was far better to be eaten in Naples.
- Queueing chaos: 1/10 (table service)
- Pizza base: 8/10
- Toppings: 8/10
- Ambience: 7/10 (good eavesdropping opportunities but the couple on the neighbouring table got distracted from their discussion of whether to make a go of their relationship so we were left with a cliffhanger)
‘a Puteca d”a Pizza
We’d seen “pizza fritta” (fried pizza) advertised and consumed throughout Naples. Having never even heard of it before, we were keen to experience it ourselves before leaving the city, even though we were very full of pizza by this point. On our final day, we joined the large crowd surrounding ‘a Puteca d”a Pizza, again in the Centro Storico. Long queues outside food venues generally mean either good food, or inefficient kitchens, or both.
We shared a pizza fritta filled with broccoli salsiccia (broccoli and sausage), one of our standard orders from our local pizzeria at home. Although the crispy folded outer was deliciously unhealthy, the pizza didn’t have the deep-filled, puffy centre that we’d seen from other vendors and definitely didn’t match our beloved Pizzeria di Camden on flavour. I’m sure there’s a place in my life for fried pizza so we’ll have to return to Naples to give it another shot.
Queueing chaos: 8/10
Pizza base: 9/10
Ambience: 9/10 (eaten in the suitably rowdy Centro Storico)
We did things other than eat pizza while in Naples (honest!), but for that you’ll have to wait for the next post.