In Naples, a Passion for Pizza

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Everyone seems to have their own idea of the perfect pizza. It could be a crackly thin-crust, a dangerously deep Chicago-style, or a hammy Hawaiian. Of course, those who advocate these greasy innovations have probably never been to Naples, where perfecting pizza is a local passion.

Ranging from the size of a 12-inch record to that of a Hummer wheel, Neapolitan pizza is pretty different from anything you might find elsewhere in Italy, or anything called “pizza” cooked up around the world these days.

An association of Neapolitan pizza chefs has recently standardized the ingredients and methods that have to be used to make pizza certified doc (denominazione d’origine controllata) or stg (specialità tradizionale garantita). The dough for the genuine Neapolitan pizza has to use the right kind of durum wheat flour and be left to rise for at least six hours. The toppings should use only buffalo-milk mozzarella or fior di latte cheese and local sammarzano tomatoes. The Neapolitan pizza must be made in a traditional wood-burning oven, and so on.

There are hundreds of restaurants in Naples that specialize in pizza. As befits the original fast food, pizzerie tend to be fairly simple places, with limited menus and sometimes brusque service. Here are a few of our favorites.

Da Michele
You have to love a place that has, for more than 130 years, offered only two types of pizza — marinara and margherita — and a small selection of drinks, and still manages to attract long lines. The prices have something to do with it, but the pizza itself has no rivals, and even those waiting in line are good-humored; the boisterous, joyous atmosphere wafts out with the smell of yeast and wood smoke onto the street. No credit cards. Closed Sun. and last two weeks in August. Via C. Sersale 1/3.

Lombardi
Lombardi is one of the city’s most highly regarded old-style pizzerias. Simple decor and slightly cramped tables are more than compensated for by the excellent pizzas, including the Bassolino (named after Naples’s popular former mayor), with buffalo-milk mozzarella and fresh tomatoes. The location is handy for a quick pizza before or after a visit to the Archaeological Museum. AE, DC, MC, V. Closed Mon. Via Foria 12, near Museo.

Sorbillo
Don’t be put off by the lines — the locals know the wait is worth it. Take their advice and order a basic Neapolitan pizza (try the unique pizza al pesto or the stunningly simple marinara — just tomato and oregano). They’re cooked to perfection by the third generation of pizza makers who run the place. Don’t expect tablecloths: here you have the joy of eating on traditional white-marble tabletops. AE, DC, MC, V. Closed Sun. (except Dec.) and two weeks in August. Via dei Tribunali 32, Spaccanapoli.

Marino
This famous pizzeria offers up its delights in a cool white-and-blue room. Try the house specialty, the Anastasia, with cherry tomatoes and lots of premium mozzarella. Recent extensions to the sidewalk and partial pedestrianization of Via Santa Lucia make this a pleasant outdoor venue in summer. AE, V. Closed Mon. and August. Via Santa Lucia 118/120.

Chris Rose

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