Thursday, September 9, 2010
Naples, Italy: Da Michele, the Birthplace of the Perfect Pizza
I had heard a lot of warnings about walking around in Naples' shady neighborhoods but was motivated by one thing and one thing only -- to get our hands on the alleged best pizza on earth at L'Antica Pizzeria Da Michele.
So we braved the rough stradas of Naples, home of the pizza, about a mile's distance from the train station, and found our holy grail, or rather, holy dough.
The storefront was nondescript and unassuming, without so much of a line with throngs of people waiting hours to quench their hankering for the perfect pie.
I loved the simplicity of the place -- spare and clean. It wasn't free of tourists but it didn't have the traits of a tourists' trap so it was fine. Plus, I was, after all, a tourist too.
I also liked the simple menu : Pizza Margherita or Pizza Marinara, with the option of extra mozzarella cheese. You can wash it down with some beer, soda or water.
Not to belabor the point about simplicity but this Pizza Margherita was indeed simplicity at its best. Tomato, mozzarella, olive oil and basil. That thin crust was probably the best darn crust I've bitten into in my life. It was crunchy and soft at the same time, charred just enough to give it smokiness. I guess it's true what they say about the ingredients mattering the most. The water in Italy was incredibly good. I'm sure the other ingredients for the dough and dairies used in the cheeses, etc. are also excellent.
The Marinara wasn't too shabby either, consisting of tomato, garlic, oregano and olive oil. A great option for the lactose-intolerant...I just loved how light the pizzas tasted. No huge lumps of melted cheese and crazy toppings a-la-CPK. I respect one's right to add whatever one wants on a pizza but it's definitely worth trying in its purest form.
There's a reason this place has been in business since 1870 and its Neapolitan pizzas are so famous worldwide. I spotted a celeb shot with Julia Roberts on the wall. I think she muttered something about a "no-carb-left-behind" diet in her latest film that I won't be seeing.
But I digress. If you ever make it to this side of Italy, this place is an absolute must. The walk over wasn't too bad. Just make sure you do it during daylight.
On your way back, you can stop by one of many bakeries lining the roads and satisfy your sweet tooth with zeppole, a traditional Neapolitan pastry that had custard inside. It was worth trying once but not to die for.
Did I mention the pizzas were a steal at five euros for a large pie?
It's a shame that one has to pay an arm and a leg at places like Pizzeria Mozza that serve similar pies and yet not quite the same in any case.