Originally posted on You Only Live Once.

One of the fun things about being an Australian travelling through the South is that everyone loves Australians in the South. There’s something about our hilarious accent that makes Southerners treat us like unicorns.

I was really excited about coming to Atlanta – not from a food point of view though. I was excited because 50% of my iTunes library is made up of songs by rappers from Atlanta. Another 20% is rap from elsewhere in the South, and throughout our travels I’d tried to make a few pit stops to indulge the crunk fanboy in me. We’d had luck in Texas, trekking out to Screwed Up Record Records and Tapes, the heart of chopped and screwed rap. In New Orleans I’d got into an argument with a record store owner who refused to let me see her collection of Bounce records. Memphis, home to Three 6 Mafia, only has tacky rock and blues record stores. As we slowly made our way north, I kept a glimmer of hope for Atlanta, and after crossing the Georgia border and instantly being greeted with a half dozen radio stations playing Rich Homie Quan, my excitement kept building and it made me feel some type of way.

Rap is inescapable in Atlanta. Future sings the hook on every song blaring out of each car sitting in traffic, and out of the small speakers that sit above you in the line for famous strip club Magic City. But if you wanna find any of these new records and tapes you’re better off sticking to the internet, because beyond the odd bootleg-selling hood mart, it was impossible to find physical copies of any Atlanta artist who wasn’t in Outkast. So with a sigh of disappointment and paper bag full of Sleepy Brown 12″s, I started searching for good food in Atlanta, of which there was an insane amount – and was recommended a BBQ place called Daddy D’z BBQ Joynt.

Atlanta isn’t a city that comes up often in the talk about which city has the best BBQ. In fact I wasn’t expecting to find any, least of all the best ribs we’d eat all trip. Daddy D’z sits proudly in the middle of a median strip, surrounded by busy roads. The huge signs above the roof of the restaurant make Daddy D’z impossible to miss – this was definitely the craziest looking spot we’d visited so far, so even if the food sucked, it had already taken that prize. We took a seat and were greeted by a bearded Tom Waitsian type old dude, in an apron and a pork pie hat – this must be Daddy D. He had crazy in his eyes, and we had Aussie accents in our throats, so immediately Daddy D went into full blown “I just saw a unicorn” mode.

“You’re from Australia?!” he shouted. “Don’t you go anywhere – you just wait here!” and he raced into the kitchen, returning with two ginormous pork ribs. “Now you take a bite of those and tell me they’re not the best ribs you ever ate!” – which we did, and they were indeed the best ribs we ever ate. “I told ya!” said Daddy D, as he waved goodbye to his staff and marched out the door, presumably to go start a blues fusion band. He’d left us in the much less exciting, but probably more capable hands of his staff, and we ordered two plates of ribs straight away.

Bianca and I have arguments over what we like in a good rib. I like that tender meat to come easily off the bone, whereas Bianca prefers a good chew to the meat. If it’s too much towards either way you’re dealing with some shitty ribs. The ribs at Daddy D’z are the perfect middle ground. Super tender meat that doesn’t fall off the bone when you pick it up, with an awesome smokiness and covered in a wildly good BBQ sauce – sweet, spicy and sticky. Some good ass ribs.

A lot of BBQ spots we visited focused almost entirely on the meat, with the sides being somewhat of an afterthought. We didn’t meet anyone that would ever go to a BBQ joint just for the sides so I guess that’s fair enough. But the sides at Daddy D’z are spectacular – you get a choice of two with each plate, so between us we had collared greens, fried okra, candied yams and brocolli casserole, with a decent chunk of corn bread on top! All the sides were as good as the ribs – which I’ve already stated were the best ribs I ever ate – so Daddy D’z BBQ Joynt takes home the glory of the best ribs, the best sides and the wildest looking spot of our trip.

Plus if you say g’day you’ll get that unicorn treatment.

Daddy D’z BBQ Joynt264 Memorial Dr SE, Atlanta +1 404-222-0206 (View Map)

Next up: The best BBQ of the whole trip? One last post to go!

Stay tuned for the rest of the smokey meat eating tour of America with Levins right here.

Part 1,  read it here: When Levins did Austin, Texas
Part 2, read it here: When Levins did Lockhart, Texas
Part 3, read it here: When Levins did Spooney’s Bar-B-Que, Mississipi
Part 4, read it here: When Levins did Memphis Tennessee

Part 5, read it here: When Levins went to Big Bob Gibson’s Bar-B-Que, Alabama



Originally posted on You Only Live Once.

It’s a five hour drive from Memphis to Atlanta. The drive is made easier knowing that you’ve stolen a week’s worth of breakfast cereal from The Comfort Inn that you were staying at, god knows you’ll need that fibre after the meat with a side of meat you’ve had for almost every meal this holiday. It also helps if you get a fancy hire car with the cable radio stations. The Comedy Central station is just hour after hour of stand up from different comedians, most of which aren’t Carlos Mencia and really help make the time fly by. You also burn a few calories, necessary after all those aforementioned meat meals. Oh and while we’re on the subject of meat meals, the best way to make a five hour drive seem shorter is to visit a BBQ spot bang in the middle of the journey.

To get to Atlanta from Memphis, you have to drive through the state of Alabama. I can’t tell you much about Alabama. We were amped about being in the same state that My Cousin Vinny was filmed in (we were considering trying to find  Sac-O-Suds but realised it was actually in Georgia) and had read about a cool donut place but the main Alabama landmark we were looking forward to was Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in the town of Decatur.

Strangely complicated spelling of the word ‘barbecue’: check. Location in the middle of the highway, surrounded by nothing: check. Fluorescent cartoon pig: check. From the outside of the restaurant, Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q really seemed to have it all. After eating at  Payne’s and Spooney’s, this was like being upgraded to Disneyworld after spending a week at a fun park run out of someones front yard. Even the name conjured magnificence. Who was Bob Gibson, and just how big was he?

The greatness continued inside. Next to the counter were dozens of trophies, some taller than I was and covered in brass pigs. Decades of recognition for the best sauce, the best ribs and the best chicken surrounded us. We were taken to our table, covered in various bottles of award winning sauce – in all different colours, from dark brown, to less brown, a reddy brown and… white? I had never seen a white bbq sauce before. It was an Alabama miracle, and one that is supposedly incredible with chicken. We hadn’t come across chicken on the menu at any of the BBQ spots we’d visited either, so we ordered a chicken plate, which came with slaw, beans, potato salad and a crunchy pickle, creating a nice visual symmetry with the drumstick, almost a peace sign on my plate. Has anybody started a ‘peaceful bbq plate’ tumblr?

How did it taste? The chicken was awesome. The skin was smoky and salty, the dark meat nice and juicy. As I expected it would be, the breast was unfortunately pretty dry. Some meats just aren’t made for slow cooking. The white bbq sauce was a knockout though, ensuring I ate even the driest parts of the chicken, just to enjoy more of the creamy vinegar sauce. We bought a bottle to take home, which joined some 80 other bottles of sauce in a suitcase that I didn’t declare at customs upon returning to Sydney.

We also ordered a pulled pork sandwich, which was disappointing but far from terrible. Certainly not worthy of the gigantic trophies we saw in the entrance anyway. As we left I wondered if they’d notice a missing trophy or two – they would look really nice in Spooney’s front yard.

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Big Bob Gibson’s Bar-B-Q

1715 6th Ave SE, Decatur, Alabama +1 256-350-6969

Next up: Ribs in Atlanta!

Stay tuned for the rest of the smokey meat eating tour of America with Levins right here.

Part 1,  read it here: When Levins did Austin, Texas
Part 2, read it here: When Levins did Lockhart, Texas
Part 3, read it here: When Levins did Spooney’s Bar-B-Que, Mississipi
Part 4, read it here: When Levins did Memphis Tennessee



Orginally posted on You Only Live Once.

I first visited Memphis with my family in 1997. I was 12 and had spent the prior week exploring every part of Disneyworld, so I was immediately disappointed by the lack of Splash Mountains in Memphis, instead trying to get myself excited about visiting Elvis’s house and the Titanic Exhibition inside The Pyramid. It was a dire time for my young mind, and if I had a time machine, I would go back to 1997, find my old self and tell him to chill the heck out, because it was during this visit to Memphis that I would first experience something that I would fall in love with and try to recreate from that day forward – pulled pork.

I wrote about this experience in my book that came out last year, and I’m going to quote myself talking about myself eating BBQ for the first time:

“We spent a week in Memphis, Tennessee, living with family friends Caroline and Tom Starck at their home in Germantown. One night, after a long day spent mourning the King at Gracelands, Tom took Dad and I to a BBQ joint called The Germantown Commissary.

At 12 years old, BBQ to me was the sound of thin beef sausages sizzling until they were burnt black on a cheap gas grill, covered in tomato sauce and wrapped in a slice of wonder white bread, eaten quickly as you watched steaks approach somewhere between ‘well done’ and ‘really well done’ while a big piece of beef roasting away in the rusty old Weber fought fiercely for the title of ‘the most well done’.

My idea of BBQ food at that point was pretty simple and although I still enjoyed it, I wondered why we were about to seek out some burnt snags in Memphis, and wondered even more why Tom was so excited to take us there.
Of course, in Memphis, BBQ is all about huge pieces of meat, cooked for as long as possible at as low heat as possible, for as many people as possible. Whole pork shoulders join massive pieces of beef brisket and Flintstonian ribs in a smoke filled paradise, dripping with sweet and spicy sauce. Heaven on a plate, with a side of beans.

So we get to this spot and the most American lady I’d ever met greets us immediately with a loud ‘what’ll you boys have?’ Instead of ordering the most overcooked steaks Memphis has to offer, he says two words that I’ve never heard together before: ‘pulled pork’.

Ten minutes later we were in Tom’s car, which smelt considerably better than it did before we put three bags full of pulled pork sandwiches inside of it. When we got back to his house Tom spread out the contents of the bags across his dining table and we all took a seat.

Tom showed us how you put together a pulled pork sandwich – first tearing apart a soft white roll, he piled on a big wad of the pork, which was softer than the roll. On top of the pork he spooned on some BBQ sauce, then added some deep brown, sticky BBQ beans and topped the whole thing off with some crunchy green slaw. He put one together for each of us and we ate them in silence.

I was a well behaved 12 year old, but after my first bite I had never wanted to scream HOLY FUCKING SHITBALLS more in my life. I did want seconds though so I kept my mouth shut.

We visited a lot more of America after that dinner but nothing stayed with me more than that meal. Not even when our flight got cancelled and we were put up at The Hilton for a night with a fifty dollar meal voucher each! Eating that pulled pork sandwich is the first memory I have of really loving food, and Dad and I would try to recreate it at least once a year using Dad’s Weber back home.”

Riveting stuff, right? Tell that to my editor, who whittled all this down into three paragraphs and took out all the colourful language like ‘Flintstonian‘ and “holy fucking shitballs‘. At the time I was mad but now I thank her for providing me with the opportunity to type ‘tell that to my editor“.

I hadn’t been back to Memphis since 1997. In the 16 years since, I’ve slow-cooked some thousand pork shoulders and even opened a restaurant that serves pulled pork. I was anxious to head back to the place that kicked off my barbecue obsession, but after a day spent inside Elvis’s House (two visits in two decades! Long live the King!), we find ourselves lining up outside theGermantown Commissary.

Germantown Commissary is much bigger than I remember, and every seat is taken. After a short wait we take our seats and I order the exact same thing I ordered 16 years ago – a pulled pork sandwich with a side of beans.

I didn’t start these posts to write about food I didn’t like so I’ll keep it quick. Our meal wasn’t great. The pork was dry and the sandwich was bland. Maybe it was an off night for the Commissary? Maybe my expectations were too high? Maybe it was as good as the sandwich I had in 1997 and I’ve just eaten better barbecue since then? These questions ate at my brain while I sadly ate my sandwich.

I considered throwing my hands up in despair, shouting that everything I thought I knew was a lie and spending the rest of my life living in the sewer, breeding rats.

Maybe I should feel good about myself – that the pork I was cooking in Australia was better than the pork that had inspired me to cook pork in the first place! I knew one thing for certain – there are a lot of other BBQ joints in Memphis. So we left Germantown Commissary and went to Payne’s BBQ.

Payne’s BBQ is an old family run restaurant, and the exact kind of BBQ joint you should seek out as you travel through The States. It’s not glamourous at all from the outside, and on the inside even less so. An open space with a few tables and chairs to sit at, a counter to order from and a tiny kitchen serving the best pork sandwiches in the city.

As I’ve mentioned in previous BBQ Belt posts, BBQ is different all over America. Especially when in comes to pork. The spices you cook it in, the wood you smoke it with, the cuts of meat you use. Right down to the way you serve it. Most popular is pulled pork – where you take your big chunk of perfectly cooked pork shoulder and pull it apart into soft and smoky pieces – but Payne’s BBQ specialises in chopped pork – chopping the pork into small pieces and serving it on a sandwich. This method makes for a huge difference in texture, you get soft and crunchy pieces of pork on your sandwich, which is served on a soft, warm white roll. There’s your choice of BBQ sauce, made to three levels of heat. I order hot, Bianca orders mild. Both come with a big dollop of incredibly yellow mustard slaw. It’s the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen.

It’s much easier to describe how something looks than how something tastes. Looking at the photo you get a pretty good idea of how fantastic this sandwich tasted. Just know that it tasted ten times better than that, and that this is the meal I think about returning to more than anything else I ate all trip. Maybe I’ll come back 16 years from now and it’ll be disappointing, and I’ll finally make that move to the sewer.

 Next stop: Chicken in Alabama and Ribs in Atlanta!

Stay tuned for the rest of the smokey meat eating tour of America with Levins right here.

If you missed Part 1, see it here: When Levins did Austin, Texas
If you missed Part 2, see it here: When Levins did Lockhart, Texas
If you missed Part 3, see it here: When Levins did Spooney’s Bar-B-Que, Mississipi 



Originally posted on You Only Live Once.

Lockhart is a small town some 40 minutes south of Austin, Texas. While its population barely scrapes above 10,000, it actually contains three of the most famous BBQ joints in Texas, and was even proclaimed The Barbecue Capital of Texas by the Texas Legislature. So that’s why my wife, sister and I found ourselves haulin’ ass down Highway 183 on a Tuesday evening.

We had first heard of Lockhart while watching a short lived TV series we became addicted to –Food Wars, a show which, for each episode, would travel to a different part of America and pitted two rival restaurants who served the same cuisine against each other, resulting in a blind taste test to decide who served better food. In the Lockhart episode, they pit the two most famous of Lockhart’s BBQ joints, Kreuz Market and Smitty’s Market, against each other to decide who served the better Texas BBQ. This rivalry was far more intense than the other episodes of Food Wars because it involved the falling out of a brother and sister, who used to run Kreuz Market together. They parted ways in 1999, with the brother keeping the name and moving Kreuz Market to a new, bigger location; while the sister renamed the 100 year old Kreuz site to Smitty’s Market and the siblings have been in a smokey barbecue war ever since.

Kruez Market619 N Colorado St Lockhart, TX +1 512-398-2361
Kreuz Market came home with the glory in that Food Wars episode, with their brisket and sausage declared more delicious by the local judges. It’s the first BBQ joint you go past on your way into Lockhart. It’s huge – the carpark could fit well over 100 cars. Inside is like a BBQ museum, as you walk past hundred year old kitchen artifacts from Kreuz’ history on your way to the counter. The BBQ pit – where all the meat is smoked on low heat for hours and hours – is on display for all to see. You order your meat, they pull a huge smouldering piece of animal from the pit, slice some off for you, weigh it and plonk it onto some brown paper. You take your tray of meat to the next room, add some slices of bread, saltine crackers and a pickle and take your seat in the dining hall. As we entered there was a sign saying “Vegetarians Enter Here”, which leads directly into the dining hall, excluding the less carnivorous minded from the bloodthirsty horror of the pit.

The stars of Kreuz’s meaty lineup are their pork ribs. The brisket is pretty good, and the sausage is fantastic, fatty and peppery, but those ribs are smoked to perfection, looking as good as they taste with a nice red ring around the meat and the amazing balance of chew versus fall off the bone tenderness. Good stuff. Here’s as good a place as any to profess my love for saltine crackers as well, which should be served on the side of every meal, even if your meal is just a packet of saltines. Kreuz Market gets two thumbs up!

Smitty’s208 S Commerce St, Lockhart, TX +1 (512) 398-9344 
Because of their rivalry, for many years it was always about Kreuz and Smitty’s in Lockhart. However in recent years, Smitty’s Market has received bad reviews from BBQ judges all over Texas – with the 113 year old restaurant not even making the cut in Texas Monthly’s Top 50! So when we realised that Smitty’s Market closes early and we wouldn’t be able to eat there, we weren’t too upset – it was enough just to head over to the site and have a gander at the outside of Smitty’s Market though, marvelling at their smokestack and impressive display of wood – ready to fuel the week’s barbecue.

Blacks215 N Main St, Lockhart, TX +1 512-398-2712
Around the corner from Smitty’s is the underdog, Black’s BBQ, a comparatively small and unassuming bar and bbq joint. This place is famous for their beef brisket, which is all that we order – one pound for each of us – with a pickle and a cornbread muffin on the side. Black’s is the only place we’ve been to so far in Texas that seems to take pride in their sauce, offering a wide selection of home made BBQ sauces, some sweet, others spicy.

Their brisket is glorious. The fatty side is fall apart tender and the lean side isn’t dry at all. What’s wild about Black’s is the way they cook – cooking their meat for 8 hours, then foiling it up, refrigerating it overnight and cooking it for a further 8 hours before serving it the next day. This method is unique, and the staff are probably grateful for the less intense hours!

We leave Lockhart happy and full of meat. It could be argued that if you only have a few days in Austin there’s more than enough incredible barbecue joints to check out before wandering off to any neighbouring towns, but the rich history of BBQ in Lockhart is definitely worth a visit.

Next up: Mississippi!

Stay tuned for the rest of the smokey meat eating tour of America with Levins right here.

If you missed it, see part 1 when Levins did Austin, Texas


Originally posted at You Only Live Once.

Earlier this year my wife Bianca and I embarked on the Honeymoon of our dreams, driving through the Southern states of America, eating as much food as we could. We found out that Bianca was pregnant just before we left Australia, so luckily Bianca was eating for two – while I ate for at least five.

Throughout our trip we ate a tonne of Tex Mex, Cajun, soul food, all things grilled, fried and most importantly: smoked. For it was our desire for Barbecue that took us to Texas, then to Mississippi, Memphis, and North Carolina, to sample their finest slow smoked meats. Australia views itself as a BBQ nation, simply because we know how to burn a dozen Coles sausages and wrap them in saucy bread. But Barbecue in the States is so much more advanced, with every state we visited holding tightly to what their interpretation of BBQ is, never backing down from the belief that their way is the absolute best, with the assured cockiness usually reserved for only the richest of rappers.

I’ll be writing about our smoky adventures for the next few weeks, starting in Texas and making my way north. This is not so much a guide to best BBQ that America has to offer – I’d have to spend years eating my way through the South to claim any authority on the subject, and what a horrible experience that would be. Consider this a sampler plate – a beginners introduction to some incredible places to eat in the South. Please tie a bib around your neck and we’ll begin.

Austin, Texas

We fly into Austin from Phoenix – where it had been a dry and murderous 46 degrees celcius. Austin is good 8 degrees cooler. Maybe we should’ve packed thermal underwear. Staring at us from a stand at the airport is something that would become somewhat of a bible during our time in Texas – the latest issue of Texas Monthly, which boasts ‘The 50 Best BBQ Joints In The World‘ on the front cover. Inside is a hilarious editorial which claims that Texas style BBQ is the only BBQ worth a damn in America, therefore the 50 best BBQ joints in Texas are the best BBQ joints in THE WORLD. The balls on this magazine! Following the editorial is a tight list of Texas’s finest ‘cue, put together by a secret society of greasy reviewers – and at the top of this list is Franklin Barbecue.

Franklin BBQ900 E 11th St, Austin, TX +1 512-653-1187

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It’s 8:30 in the morning and we are dropping my sister Emily off to get a spot in what is soon to be a ginormous line out the front of Franklin Barbecue in Austin. She runs out of the car, secures a place about ten people from the front of the line, and we drive off to get tacos for breakfast. When we return with a bag of Veracruz All Natural at 9am, there’s about 50 people behind Emily and two hours to go before Franklin opens it’s doors. The sun scorches everyone in line and we consider paying five bucks from the evil vendors renting out chairs.

The line is about 250 people deep by the time Franklin opens at 11am. The people at the end of the line may not even get any food as Franklin closes as soon as the meat runs out! Thankfully we’re the 4th group served, and since we left our restraint in Sydney, we order too much of evey single item on the menu, and a t-shirt. The friendly staff pile the glorious meat onto brown paper and tuck the tiny serves of slaw, beans and potato salad on the side, cowering beneath the huge serves of beef brisket, ribs, pulled pork, sausage and turkey. We get a few bottles of my favourite new drink as well – Topo Chico Mineral Water, and a cold mug of the beer brewed specially for Franklin.

The meat here is cooked to perfection. The staff start cooking at 2am each morning and every hour of smoke is evident in the beautiful smoke lines in the meat – especially the ribs. The beef brisket, the piece of meat that all Texans use to judge good ‘cue is out of this world tender, fatty and juicy. All the meat at Franklin is all kinds of adjectives that people use when they write about food on the internet. Some of the adjectives are in capitals, some of them are even bold and underlined, it’s that good.

One of the defining factors of Texas BBQ is that the meat is the star. Only the meat though. Texans rarely take pride in their sauce like other states do, and they only ingredients in the rub the apply to the meat is salt and pepper. In this hilariously condescending article from Texas Monthly, ‘Why Beef Brisket Is The Apex Of Smoked Meat, the writer bemoans any other meat besides beef, saying that “anybody with half a brain a cook pork” that’s “hacked to pieces and slathered with sauce”, slaw and a bun. Here’s the thing though – I love pork, I love sauce and slaw, and more than anything, I love vinegar with my BBQ. So while this meat is without a doubt perfectly cooked, and as good as Texas BBQ gets, I realise that Texas BBQ isn’t my kind of BBQ. Thankfully this is just the beginning of our BBQ pilgrimage, and there are so many more kinds of BBQ to be eaten.

These adventures will continue each week on You Only Live Once!


Originally posted on You Only Live Once

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 MicheleVia 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 Pellonevia 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 BrandiSalita 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 MatteoVia 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 MattoziVia 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.