Disclaimer: This list should actually read “5 Great Pizzas, 1 Kinda Bad Pizza and an Amazing Bowl of Pasta in Naples”.
My wife and I spent 3 days in Naples, Italy at the beginning of this year. It was bitterly cold but we had no fear, because everywhere we wanted to go had a woodfire oven cranked up high. Naples is the home of pizza, arguably the best food in the world. Although I grew up loving a bastardized version of pizza, a fat cousin with bbq sauce and stuffed crust, in my grease-clogged heart I knew that in order to pay my true respects to the pizza gods, I had to eat the purest pizza as they intended. I had to go where pizza was invented and devour some of that OG pie. No hot dog stuffed crust or shwarma meat, just simple ingredients cooked to perfection. This was our pizza pilgrimage.
Il Pizzaiolo del Presidente, Via Tribunali 120, 80138 (see map)
We started our pizza pilgrimage here and I recommend you doing the same – this is a great all rounder pizza. A simple but great margherita. We ordered the Margherita con Bufala, which comes covered in buffalo mozzarella. These small circles of white cheese bubble with oil and stretch as you bite them in half. The crust is nicely charred, one of the best things about pizzas in Napoli! If you are one of those “I don’t like eating pizza crusts wahhhh” kind of people maybe you should lock yourself in a cupboard for a week and punch yourself in the face instead of coming to Italy because you are a bad person.
L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele, Via Cesare Sersale 1/3, 80139 (see map)
A few hours later we had made our way over to L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele, which is the pizza place most famous for being in a Julia Roberts movie called Eat, Pray, Love. It is widely regarded by all reviewers as the best in the city and by god did I want to prove them wrong. I wanted this place to be so shit! Who wants to agree with a Julia Roberts movie? I wanted to come home, walk over to the nearest Video Ezy, find a copy of Eat, Pray, Love and yell “WRONG!” in its face! Unfortunately my fantastic and mature plan was never to be because man alive, is the pizza at da Michele perfect. The soft, charred and chewy dough resembles naan bread a little, and the oily cheese mixes with the sauce in the middle of the pizza to create an incredible soup that’s impossible to eat with your hands. You gotta use cutlery with this pizza but goddamn is it worth it. We ate one pizza each which may have been a mistake since we planned to check out another pizza place later that night and the pies at da Michele are MASSIVE. They are so good though. Honestly you could come to Naples and only eat pizza from here and you could leave with no regrets. This was in my top 5 of things I’ve ever eaten. I owe Julia Roberts an apology. Just kidding, fuck Julia Roberts.
Da Pellone, via Nazionale nr 93, Quartiere Vasto (see map)
Have you ever been drunk off pizza? After two pizzas to ourselves from two different spots in a couple of hours we were delirious and decided to walk off our pizza induced stupor by heading to the other side of the city, where we would eat more pizza at a place called Da Pellone. We played it safe here and ordered one pizza to share. The problem was that this pizza was a monster – slightly wider than the pies at da Michele but almost double the thickness! I wish I could go into more detail but we were hammered off pizzas by this point in the night. All I can remember is that 1. this was a pizza and 2. we didn’t eat it all. We put ourselves on a pizza ban for the next 12 hours.
Pizzeria Brandi, Salita S. Anna di Palazzo, 1-2, 80100 (see map)
Remember how I said that one of these pizzas was kinda bad? Here it is. Pizzeria Brandi is credited with inventing the Margherita Pizza. We figured that while we in the town that invented pizza, why not go to the spot that invented the Margherita? The pizza here doesn’t hold a candle to the other pizza joints in Napoli. It’s by no means bad, in fact it’s better than almost every Margherita Pizza I’ve had in Sydney, but there are much better pizzas in this city to spend your money on. The biggest difference that Brandi offers is service. Where other pizza restaurants in Naples are very laid back and you can see your pizza being made while you wait, Brandi awkwardly tries to offer fine dining service with your pizza. Yes they have a much larger menu on offer too but the overall vibe was really offputting. You should skip this one!
Di Matteo, Via del Tribunali, 94, 80138 (see map)
See this glorious pizza above? This was breakfast on our last day in Naples, and ranks up there as one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had. The pizzas here are excellent. The sauce is a little chunkier than other joints and best of all, this was the only pizza we had that wasn’t just charred around the edges – the dough at Di Matteo bubbles so much that patches in the middle get charred as well! As good as this was, Margherita pizzas aren’t even what people rave about when they talk about Di Matteo – it’s all about the Pizza Fritta:
At some of the pizza spots we went to there was a huge deep fryer near the pizza oven. It looks like a giant beer keg filled with oil. Mostly these are used to fry arancini balls but some geniuses use them to make Pizza Fritta – a whole deep fried pizza! This isn’t battered or anything though – they put the toppings on one disc of dough and seal it shut with another, then drop the pizza into oil where it cooks for a few minutes, the dough bubbling and expanding while it swims in the oil. When it gets to your table it’s this glorious puff, as you can see above. As soon as you touch it with your knife it deflates and reveals the ricotta, sauce and meat inside.
Obviously this was ridiculously good. The kind of thing that you just keep nibbling at even though your stomach is about to burst. Honestly I could just eat deep fried pizza dough with some sauce to dunk it in for the rest of my life. What a great life that would be.
Europeo di Mattozi, Via M. Campodisola 4-8, 80133 (see map)
This was the last pizza of our trip, at a place that we weren’t going to go to until my friend Cam saw I was in Naples on the Instagramz and stressed how important it was that we come to Europeo di Matozzi before we leave. So, with 90 minutes until our train left Napoli Stazione we headed there for lunch. We were worried when we sat down though. This place was pretty la-di-dah. After the not so great pizza at Brandi, this was a bad omen. Thankfully, Europeo di Matozzi delivered like Dominoes (as in it delivered on it’s premise of good food, not as in delivered to your door at 3:30 on a Sunday arvo, maybe Dominoes was actually a pretty bad choice of comparison point). This pizza was topped with a few cherry tomatoes, plus a nice glug of oil to swim alongside the oil from the melted cheese. It wasn’t quite as good as the other pizzas we’d had in the last few days, but the real reason we were here wasn’t actually the pizza – it was for a little pasta dish called Frutti Di Mare, which means ‘fruits of the sea’.
This was, without a doubt, the best bowl of pasta I’ve ever eaten. The pasta was handmade, al dente and salty with the simple sauce – butter, parsely, garlic and the taste of the ocean – which came from the prawns, clams, octopus, crab and scampi in the bowl. All these creatures were cooked perfectly, they must’ve been cooked separately because not one bite was over or undercooked. It was so fresh, simple and goddamn good. Almost as good as the pizza at da Michele. Almost. I wouldn’t dare anger the pizza gods by putting a bowl of pasta on the same level.
So there you have it. A solid couple of days in Naples. Some other things worth doing that aren’t pizza or pasta related include trying to cross the street at night while yelling absurd claims like “This place is like the European Vietnam!“, visiting the ‘Castle of the Egg’ and filling what little room is left in your stomach with rum babas, the cute dessert that is native to Naples.