Off the Grid Travel Series Part 1. Pizza Pizza! in Napoli, Italy

"When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down "happy". They told me I didn’t understand the assignment. I told them they didn’t understand life."
— John Lennon

Food makes me happy. Traveling to search out food, also makes me happy, and sharing these adventures with you, hopefully sheds some happiness into your life. Well, I recently got back from a trip to Naples (Napoli) Italy.

Everything I had heard prior to going was negative; "it's dirty, it's dangerous, it smells." The only positive thing people had to say about it was the pizza. They were certainly right about the pizza, but I think the city otherwise gets a really bad rap. The rest of the food was pretty damn delicious, in fact I didn't encounter anything that wasn't of high gastronomic standards, additionally the things you can try for the value of your money is tremendous. So prepare yourself for a different voyage, one that doesn't take place in a pristine setting filled with tourists, or that is covered with marble floors you can eat your food off of, but one so raw, energetic, and real that you can't help but be fascinated. The true test is to go and see for yourself, because you will certainly make your own opinion about it all. Just make sure you leave your carbohydrate fears at the door.

Pizza has a history dating back to the Ancient Greeks; they coated bread with olive oil, cheese and herbs. It is such a topic of pride within Campania, specifically Napoli, that there is an organization to designate which pizzerias are legit in their creation and whom is using ingredients true to the region, therefore certifying their pizza as DOC (denominazione d'origine controllata). The true pies may include San Marzano tomatoes (grown on the volcanic acres south of Mount Vesuvius), bubbling buffalo milk cheese (mozzarella di bufala) or fior di latte cheese from cows, fresh basil, and should also carry standards for the bread dough, left to rise at least 6 hours, the base formed from durum wheat flour.  Only then will the pizza be "Vera Pizza Napoletana". After this criteria has been met, the pizza will bake in a wood fired oven, very quickly, maybe 3-5 minutes at very high temperatures. 

While many pizzerias have a large menu of toppings to fit all taste buds - prosciutto, arugula, anchovies, mushrooms, etc., the three pizzas napoletanas protected by the association are "Pizza Marinara", consisting of tomatoes, oregano, garlic, olive oil and sometimes basil, the "Pizza Margherita" named after Queen Margherita who visited the city in 1889 and was served a pizza with colors of the Italian flag - being mozzarella, olive oil, tomatoes and basil, and "Pizza Margherita Extra" which is much like it's sister, but instead the mozzarella is cut into fillets. Given my love of cheese, I consistently went with the Margherita or substituted it with mozzarella di bufala, which gave a creamier, richer texture to the pizzas. Also, I was surprised to discover how thin and juicy the pizza dough was. The hot temperatures, olive oil and fat from the cheese leave the inside diameter of the pie soft, while the crust rises higher and boasts charred remnants from the wood oven. The results from any of the verified pizzerias, and most likely any trained pizza cook in the region, will leave you without words, and surprisingly not as full as you'd imagine. Everyone is served an individual size, to be eaten with fork and knife, and almost no one leaves crumbs on the plate. 

My personal favorite:
Pizzeria Starita
Via Materdei 27
Napoli, Italy 80136

Via Tribunal, 94
Napoli, Italy 80136

The side door into Di Matteo
The Margherita at Di Matteo's
Ham Pizza at Di Matteo's
The Mozzerella di Bufala at Di Matteo's

Antonio e Gigi Sorbillo
Via Tribunal, 38 
Napoli, 80138 Italy
The Margherita Extra with Bufala at Antonio e Gigi Sorbillo's 

Other notable pizzerias: 

Pizzeria Trianon
Via Pietro Colletta, 44/46
Napoli, 80139 Italy 

Pizzeria Da Michele
Via Cesare Sersale, 3
Napoli, 80139, Italy
*made famous by Eat, Pray, Love - loooonnnggg lines here

Pizzeria Brandi 
Salita Sant'Anna di Palazzo, 2 
Napoli, 80132 Italy
*Some Italians stay clear of this, as the tourists overrun the place, but it is home to the first "pizza margherita"

Pizzeria Pellone
Via Nazionale, 53
Napoli, 80143 Italy

Time for dessert in Naples? See Part 2, Neapolitan desserts, coffee and pastries. 
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