Though some, like Da Michele, flourish simply by making traditional pizzas, and making them really well, others experiment with new oven techniques, flour mixes, and toppings. The doyen of these ‘pizzaioli 2.0’ is Enzo Coccia of La Notizia. Bringing science to bear on Naples’ most popular dish, he’s the Ferran Adrià of local pizza purveyors, and has even written a book on the subject full of complicated chemical formulas.
One of the pleasures of exploring Naples’ best pizzerias is the fact that the search will take you to parts of the city few tourists ever see. These might include La Sanità, with its crumbling 18th century palazzos and vibrant street life, or lofty Materdei, where the pizzaiola played by Sophia Loren plied her trade in Vittorio De Sica’s L’oro di Napoli, or the old Forcella quartiere, famous today for its mural of the city’s patron saint, San Gennaro, by local street artist Jorich.
We’ve chosen five of our favourite Neapolitan pizzerias – including one that specializes in the city’s favourite street food, pizza fritta, or fried pizza. Pizzerias have their ups and downs, and we probably would have come up with a different list even five years ago – so if you don’t see one of your favourites below, it’s either because we have different tastes or because you need a refresher visit. The job of researching Neapolitan pizzerias is a tough one, we’ll admit – but someone’s got to do it…
Concettina ai Tre Santi
Talented young pizzaiolo Ciro Oliva is the culinary king of Rione Sanità, a dense warren of crumbling Baroque palazzos and poor tenements that was once a no-go area for tourists (and not a few Neapolitans). Don’t miss the frezzella – a pizza volcano studded with mozzarella, tuna, Cilento olives, San Marzano tomatoes and basil. Book at the bistrot-like corner annexe for the mindblowing tasting menu that takes the local tradition to gourmet heights (caviar, anyone?) Scoring a table here can be tougher than getting into a first night at La Scala. Come armed with patience, even if you have a reservation. Closed Sunday evening.
Via Arena della Sanità 7bis, Napoli. Tel +39 081 290 037, www.pizzeriaoliva.it
If you had to pin Da Michele down to an artistic genre, it would be Minimalism. Featured in the film Eat, Pray Love, this backstreet legend only does two pizzas: marinara (tomato, garlic, oregano) and margherita (fior di latte cheese, tomato, basil). Neapolitans and increasing numbers of visitors queue around the block (they don’t take bookings) to sample this lesson in the excellence of simple things. Closed Sunday.
Via Cesare Sersale 1, Napoli. Tel +39 081 553 9204, http://damichele.net
If regular pizza has spread the world over, the fried version – pizza fritta – remains a mostly Neapolitan passion. This classic street food, which at its best is light as air and not oily at all, has been enjoying something of a revival in recent years, with pizzaioli from Gino Sorbillo to Ciro Oliva opening their own pizza fritta offshoots alongside newcomers like Isabella De Cham. But the benchmark remains this historic place just south of Napoli Centrale station, which has been in the Piccirillo family since 1945.
The classic pizza fritta is filled, like a calzone – don’t miss the version with escarole, pine nuts, sultanas and smoky provola cheese. The battilocchio is a half-size version, made for eating on the hoof, while the montanara resembles a regular pizza – except the dough base is fried. They have another hole-in-the-wall outlet by the Villa Comunale park. Closed Sunday.
Via Giulio Cesare Capaccio 27, Napoli. Tel +39 081 281 057, Facebook: lamasardona.
Further down, a more contemporary locale at number 94 is where Coccia lets his creative demons loose in toppings like lemon, stracciata cheese, tomatoes, basil and liquorice powder. Evenings only; closed Monday.
Via Michelangelo da Caravaggio 53, Napoli. Tel +39 081 714 2155, www.pizzarialanotizia.com
The doughy disc is deep-fried for a few seconds before being consigned to the oven. The result is a pizza that’s soft inside but deliciously croccante on the surface.
Via Materdei 27-28, Napoli. Tel +39 081 557 3682, www.pizzeriestarita.it
Photos © Roberto Salomone (except Masardona, supplied by establishment)
Le Sirenuse Newsletter
Stay up to date
Sign up to our newsletter for regular updates on Amalfi Coast stories, events, recipes and glorious sunsets