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Q. Some friends and I are heading over to Italy soon on a “PizzaQuest”. I understand that your family is from Napoli (Naples) and that is where to find the best pizza? Also, are there any “do’s and don’ts in the pizzerias? Can you please give us a pizza tutorial?
A. Things happen to you in Napoli. Maybe it’s Vesuvio (Mt. Vesuvius) looming over you or maybe it’s the Southern Italian sun, but blood seems to run a bit hotter there. People are passionate and loud and fiercely proud to be Napoletani (Neapolitans). They’re always waving their arms and talking over each other…but they’re not arguing, just talking about everyday life in this chaotic city. In Napoli, “street life” is an openair stage play and very, very dramatic!!!
If there is one thing that the Napoletani are most proud of it is their PIZZA, a word known all over the world, from New York City to Los Angeles, from Paris to Tokyo. It is a word used to describe many products; deepdish, cracker thin, stuffed crust, etc. The word in fact is a slang Neapolitan pronunciation of the word “pita.” The history of pizza possibly can be traced back to the flat bread baked in Pompeii 2,000 years ago. It is true, however, that it reached near perfection only when Columbus brought the tomato back to Italy from the New World.
Modern pizza is attributed to the baker Raphael Esposito of Napoli, who in 1889 created a pizza especially for the visit of Italian King Umberto and Queen Margherita. The pizza, named “Pizza Margherita”, was very patriotic and resembled the Italian flag with its colors of red (tomatoes), white (mozzarella), and green (basil). As for taste, in Napoli they have the best tasting water to make the dough, which springs up from limitless natural springs. The local San Marzano tomatoes are simply the best. The fresh mozzarella cheese from nearby Campania is simply the best, as is the Southern Italian basil, which under the summer sun takes on a mint like quality. Who has the best tasting pizza: simple question—simple answer: Napoli!!!
While you can find great pizza all over Napoli, here is a short list of very special pizzerie to search out:
Pizzeria Di Matteo: Via dei Tribunali, 94 Tel: 081.45.52.62 It is famous because President Clinton stopped to eat here.
La Bersagliera: Borgo Marinari, 10/11 Tel: 081.76.46.01.6 The restaurant is in one of the most beautiful locations in Naples, behind the Castel dell’Ovo.
Mimì alla Ferrovia: Via Alfonso d’Aragona, 21 Tel: 081.55.38.52.5 Among the most famous pizzerie in all of in Napoli
Calamaro: Via Campi Flegrei, 30/a, Bagnoli Tel: 081.57.04.38.7 Famous pizzeria in Bagnoli which won the 1989 prize for the best pizzeria in Europe.
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PÈPE TALK: Pizza do’s and don’ts: Generally speaking, eating in a pizzeria is very casual and everyone is friendly. But don’t expect great service either. First of all, try to order in Italian…at least try. Keep your order simple and try not to rearrange the menu with crazy toppings. The pizza will come to the table unsliced, and don’t ask them to slice it for you. Italians eat their pizza with a fork and knife, not with their hands.
When in Napoli, do as the Napoletani do…capisce!!!
Rich Pèpe brings to this column his expertise in the Italian food, wine and travel industry. Pèpe is the creator of Pèppoli at Pebble Beach, Little Napoli in CarmelbytheSea, PÈPE TALK Cooking, Wine & Lifestyle Classes and PÈPE WINERY.
Questions regarding Italian food, wine and travel can be addressed to:
Rich Pèpe at email@example.com or fax to 831 595 PEPE (7373)