Pizza in Naples ☆☆

Making a pizza alla salsiccia, Pizza in Naples, Naples, Italy (Photo courtesy of the pizzeria)
Making a pizza alla salsiccia, Pizzeria Trianon da Ciro, Naples

The best pizzerias in Naples, the history of pizza, and more pizza, pizza, pizza

Naples holds a hallowed place in culinary history as the inventors of mankind's most perfect dish: pizza. 

(Back when I was a kid, before the whole "food pyramid" theory ruined my argument, I tried to convince my mother that pepperoni pizza was the ultimate food since it covered all four major food groups: grain, dairy, fruit/veg, and meat. My efforts were unsuccessful.)

The "fact" that Naples (or perhaps some village in nearby Campania) invented the pizza might not actually be true —like most items of divine inspiration, the origins of pizza are lost to the mists of time and conjectures of historians—however, I wouldn't go around Naples saying that.

Every Campanian pizzaiolo worth his or her apron—and many others around the world— wears their membership in tne Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana as a badge of honor, and proudly labels their restaurant as promising la vera pizza napoletana—"true neapolitan pizza."

The city has a bit stronger claim to having come up with the simple combination of toppings that we would eventually become what we call a "plain pizza."

A common pizza misconception

That's not mozzarella melted on top of your pizza—at least it shouldn't be.

It's fior di latte—very similar to mozzarella, but made with cow's milk (rather than mozzarella's buffalo milk) and a bit tougher.

Delicate mozzarella doesn't hold up well to heat and doesn't melt properly, so it is not usually used on pizzas—unless it it added after cooking, along with fresh tomatoes.

Most waiters and menus have given up on teaching foreigners this distinction, however, and just call it "mozzarella" for simplicity's sake.

In 1889, in honor of a visit by the queen of the newly-created country called "Italy," a Neapolitan pizza chef at Pizzeria Brandi decided to honor her highness by creating a new pizza in the tricolor of the Italian flag: red tomato sauce, white mozzarella (er, see box on the right), and green basil leaves.

He called his wildly popular new concoction pizza Margherita, which is a pun in Italian, since that was both the Queen's name and the word for "daisy"—which the pizza, with its corona of yellow crust, vaguely resembles.

At any rate, Naples certainly did perfect the pizza.

The best pizza in Naples

OK, calling this section "The best pizza in Naples" was just to get your attention. Everyone—certainly every Neapolitan—has their own favorite pizza parlor in Naples, and everyone has a famous one or two that they will dismiss as overrated.

In Naples, the subject of "best pizza" is hotly debated and intensely argued. It is a subject that has riven families and caused generation feuds across clans. There are camps and factions filled with fans who are as fiercely devoted to their favorite pizzeria as they are to their home soccer team.

Taste is, of course, relative, so this is merely a sampling of some of my own favorite pizzerie in Naples. (One of the best weeks ever in my job was the week I spent in Naples taste-testing the pizza at more than a dozen pizzerie as I researched a guidebook.)

My advice? Try these places. Ask around for other recommendations. Perform your own taste-test challenge and find your own favored pizzerie. You need to try at least four to get a proper baseline determination. Then tell me about and we can argue over whose is best—over a nice pizza dinner, of course.

  • Will it be Pizzeria Brandi, the place that claims to have invented the classic sauce-cheese-basil pizza Margherita in 1889?
  • How about Pizzeria Port'Alba, a bustling pizza joint on a pedestrian street that gets my nod for best margherita?
  • Maybe no-nonsense, bare-bones Pizzeria Trianon da Ciro, a place packed with mostly locals, will be your call.

Try those. Ask around for advice on others (and there are many others). You be the judge...

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