Mister M and I recently returned from Puglia, a region in Italy, with hearts filled with warmth from southern Italian hospitality and bellies full of the beloved Apuglian cuisine my Italian family was raised on.
Towards the end of our trip we headed for a quick stay in Rome before flying home. But not before stopping in Naples for the best pizza that has ever passed my lips. For me, it was the best bite of 2013.
Carlo, our driver, and Mister M became fast friends over the many miles we traveled throughout the region, chatting for hours about International Basketball and the NBA. Instead of stopping in the Amalfi coast on our way up to Rome as scheduled, Carlo suggested a detour. Carlo is Neapolitan and he grew up a few blocks from L’ Antica Pizzeria da Michele, which he touted as the best pizza in the world. Neapolitans take their pizza seriously, so when he spoke, we listened.
Da Michele is hardly a secret—in fact, the unnamed pizzeria Julia Roberts visited on a road trip to Naples in the movie “Eat, Pray, Love” was filmed at da Michele. But because of its off the beaten path location, it’s relatively unknown, so I didn’t let a little mainstream Hollywood attention detract from my anticipation of the pie.
Naples is a town of a different breed and we waited while Carlo tipped the business owner across the street to watch the car, a practice that is commonplace in Naples. Then we joined the growing crowd outside waiting for a table for lunch.
There were 20 parties ahead of us, but within 30 minutes, the three us were seated in the green and white tiled-room, grazing the very short menu. There are only three choices you need to make at da Michele: margarita or marinara pizza, cheese or double cheese, and beer or soda. And for only five to seven Euro! We quickly placed our order. It had been a long day, and we were all hangry (so hungry we were getting angry).
Da Michele is family-owned pizzeria that runs like a well-EVOO’d machine, and has been since 1870. Watching the pizza ovens kept us distracted while we waited for our pies. People are pumped into the restaurant and four men run the wood-burning oven—the key to great Napolitan pizza.
We were surprised when a stranger was seated at the remaining seat at our table 20 minutes after we sat down. True confession: I was thankful for the language barrier when my pie arrived while he still waited for his, because I didn’t feel obligated to share. Rick Steeves would be unimpressed with my interpersonal skills.
But enough about the unique atmosphere, let’s get to the main event. Plate-sized Neapolitan pizza is best eaten with a fork and knife, I found, so that was my plan of attack. Da Michele’s crust had a satisfying tug to it, and a slight char from the oven, leaving a subtle, almost chicory flavor to the crust. The drizzle of olive oil contrasted with the fresh tomato sauce and creamy mozzarella, with cloud-like air pockets in the crust offering the only respite from our total domination of the pies placed in front of us.
It’s one of those food memories I will always cherish.
Checkout more snaps from our recent trip to Puglia and Rome on Instagram.
L’ Antica Pizzeria da Michele, Via Cesare Sersale, 1/3, 80139 Napoli, (T) +39 081.5539204