May 10, 2012

Napoli Pizza

If there is one dish Italy is known for, its pizza and if there is one city that is known for pizza, its Naples. The mecca of all pizza, it is the origin of the first margherita pizza named after Queen Margherita in 1889. It is where that lady from Eat, Pray, Love journeyed to all the way from Rome to sample the best pizza in the world and it is where Julia Roberts then diligently traveled to recreate the scenes from the white tiled walls of  the famous Da Michele. Go to any pizzeria you set your eyes on in Naples regardless of where it is or what it looks like and you will not be disappointed. Of course, with our time limited in Naples, I wasn't going to settle for just any typical pizzeria. We sampled two amazing yet surprisingly different places, both of which are considered some of the finest pizzerias that Naples has to offer.

Night #1: Dinner at Sorbillo
top left: mushroom, prosciutto and ricotta cheese
top right: olives, red peppers and sun dried tomatoes
bottom left: red pepper flakes, sausage and onions
bottom right: margherita
We arrived in Naples around 10:00pm and immediately set out to find a pizzeria that was still open. Lucky for us, we managed to catch Sorbillo right before they closed. The interior is modest and reminds you of any old corner shop in the suburbs of Brooklyn. Wine was served to us in plastic cups and came from a mini fridge at the front of the restaurant. Despite my initial reservations which would normally have me bolting in the opposite direction, we stayed because it came as a recommendation from a local Neapolitan.  The pizza came from a wood burning oven and the dough was handmade to chewy perfection. The menu featured pizzas ranging from 6-9 euros (that's all it costs for some of the best pizza in the world?) and offered a wide variety of toppings, some with tomato sauce and others without. Sure the pictures don't look all that impressive (we were quite hungry) but it was hands down, the best pizza I had ever eaten in my life. The goodness came from the simplicity of the creation. Surprisingly, the focal point of the dish was the dough as all of the toppings were sprinkled on quite modestly. When was the last time I had a pizza where I could still see huge spreads of tomato sauce? How about never? Is that how a proper pizza is supposed to be? Unlike the canned tomato concoctions I was used to, the tomato sauce was fresh, semi-sweet and refreshing. The toppings rounded the dish out nicely rather than overpowering the other ingredients. Can you tell that I'm a little obsessed? Alright so that was the first night.

Night #2: Dinner at Da Michele
+ Pizza Marinara
+ Italian beer
+ The Creed of Da Michele
Not shown: Pizza Margherita
There are two things you can order at Da Michele, pizza margherita or pizza marinara. I never knew there was a difference between the two. For beverages, they offered water and beer. Talk about simplicity. The restaurant has a bunch of closely packed flimsy wooden tables and chairs and as soon as you enter, you see the huge oven in the back where the magical creations come from. According to the restaurant owners, if you start adding toppings to the pizzas, the pizza loses its authentic taste. Thus the only ingredients used are pizza dough, tomato sauce, a splash of oil and mozzarella cheese. From what I could discern, the margherita pizza featured more cheese while the marinara pizza was dominated by tomato sauce and oregano. So simple yet so absurdly fantastic. So maybe topping-less pizzas aren't for everyone. I myself would never pick a margherita pizza over one covered in a medley of mushrooms and sausages, but if it were this particular margherita pizza, that would be a much closer call. So two pizzerias both claiming the title of the best pizza I have ever had: one with toppings and one without :)

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