best place to eat pizza is Naples. Unfortunately, like Rio, Naples is
a beautiful, culture rich city which unfortunately can be dangerous. Robert
Camuto of The Washington Post updates us finding pizza in Napoli.
All we wanted to do was step out for a little pizza in Naples on a Saturday
night -- a notion that could have been as simple as a leisurely walk down
the street from our hotel. Except for two things.
First, there is no such thing as a leisurely walk in this capital of southern
Italian anarchy. Second, on our first night in Naples we wanted more than
just an average pizza. Our destination was the Antica Pizzeria Da Michele,
a place known for turning out some of the best pizza in town and, by extension,
"Yes, it is the best pizza in Naples," affirmed Pasquale, the
helpful young man at the reception desk of our hotel.
"But," he said, giving us a long serious look, "do not
bring a lot of money; do not wear a watch or jewelry; leave your valuables
in the room; take a cab there and a cab directly back."
Of course, we were prepared for Naples, one of Italy's most crime-ridden
cities, which this year alone has weathered such scandals as mountains
of uncollected trash and dioxin-tainted mozzarella. (The trash has been
cleaned up, and Italian authorities moved quickly to remove the bad mozzarella
from the market.) Still, Pasquale's warning just a couple of hours after
our arrival took us aback.
"One more thing," Pasquale warned. "Do not pay any more
than 10 euros for the cab. Ten euros maximum."
In fact, the cab to Da Michele ended up costing 15. The polite young driver
seemed to be taking us on a scenic tour while complaining in a mix of
Italian and English that Naples's bad reputation was the fault of the
sensationalist media and malevolent northerners. When we arrived in the
drab neighborhood in front of Da Michele, he explained he was tacking
on a two-euro charge (more than twice what is customary, we later learned)
for coming to pick us up at our hotel.
After the inflated taxi fare, we faced a 40-minute wait for a table,
though these were small inconveniences for truly great pizza. Run by the
fifth generation of pizzamakers of the Condurro family, Da Michele is
as simple as a pizzeria gets. The storefront, with high ceilings and marble-topped
tables, is lighted as bright as a hospital. Niched in the back wall, a
bust of Saint Antonio Abate surveys the squad of three men forming an
assembly line: One kneads the dough by hand, the next layers on tomatoes
and cheese, and the third uses a long wooden paddle to lay the pizza in
a wood-burning oven for no more than a minute.
This is pizza stripped to its fundamentals, without the toppings considered
superfluous by purists. In a town that seems to have few rules, there
are standards when it comes to local food in general and Neapolitan pizza
in particular. Da Michele's menu contains two items: pizza margherita
(cheese, crushed tomatoes and basil) and pizza marinara (tomatoes, oregano
and garlic). It should be noted that the cheese used at Da Michele is,
technically, not mozzarella (which is made from water buffalo milk), but
fior di latte, a cow's-milk cheese preferred by some master pizzamakers
for its slightly drier consistency.
The prices are cheap ($7 for a 14-inch pizza), and the only drinks available
are Coca-Cola, orange soda and beer, served in plastic cups.
The crowd spoke the Neapolitan dialect, from families with little kids
to a few businessmen in dark suits. What came to the table was pizza that
was thin-crusted and (true to Neapolitan style) slightly wet, with fresh
white soft cheese and sweet tomatoes. It was simple and delicious, and
it went down smoothly, as if melting before it hit the stomach. Neapolitans,
you quickly realize, will put up with a lot. But they won't put up with
- "See Naples . . . And Eat, Food Is the Main Dish on a Tour of
Naples and the Amalfi Coast" by Robert V. Camuto
The Washington Post Sunday, July 13, 2008; P01
- Da Michele http://www.damichele.net/