There are few things as precious to Italians as church and food. And few foods as precious to them as pizza. Each region claims to have the best pizza, and every tourist wants to taste it. Most won’t argue that pizza originated in Naples, but many disagree over which regional style deserves to be ranked numero uno.
Just as Chicago’s deep dish a regularly pitted against a New York street slice (check out The Daily Meal's list of 101 Best Pizzas in America for 2014 to see which pizzas make the cut), Italian cities have their pizza rivalries. Rome, Naples, Milan, and others have longstanding pizza rivalries of their own. Ligurian pizza forgoes tomatoes, but it’s loaded with anchovies and sardines. Roman pizza is thin and crispy, kind of like a flatbread; but that doesn’t mean every pizzeria in town conforms to that style. Rome’s Pizzarium, for example, serves theirs with a crust that’s thick and chewy. Perhaps the most famous Italian pizza, though, is the Neapolitan style. According to the rules proposed by the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana, whose mission is to promote and protect the “true Neapolitan pizza” both in Italy and around the world, the genuine Neapolitan pizza dough consists of type 0 or 00 wheat flour, natural Neapolitan yeast or brewer's yeast, salt, and water.
Italian food writer Orietta Boncompagni Ludovisi has had her book, Le Migliori Pizzerie d'Italia (The Best Pizzerias in Italy) republished more than five times since its first release in 1996. Ludovisi touches on the traditional Neapolitan-pizza locales like Pizzeria Brandi, where the Margherita pizza was created, as well as more experimental choices like La Notizia in Naples.
Italian Vogue named Pizzeria La Notizia one of the best representations of true Napoletana tradition, despite the fact that nothing at this pizzeria conforms to Neapolitan pizza rules. Here pizzaiolo (or pizza maker) and experimental chef Enzo Coccia plays with yeast and wood to create crusts that puff up higher, taste sweeter, and cook in less than a minute and a half. His mix of beech and oak creates a wood-burning oven that can burn at more than 800 degrees. Sure, you can opt for a regular old pie, but the crowds are flocking to Coccia’s La Notizia for his curious creations like potato pizza with Tahitian vanilla.
To arrive at this list of Italy’s best pizzas, we took into account all of the elements that make the pizza and restaurant special. Some pizza makers swear by a certain shape for optimal taste. Others insist on only mozzarella di bufala. Does specific wood burned at a certain temperature produce a special flavor? Enzo Coccia would say so, as would the pizzaiolo at Da Remo in Rome, which made our list for the best 15 pizza places in Italy. Ultimately, we considered creativity, popularity among locals and tourists alike, location, atmosphere, regional representation, and, most importantly, taste.
Here are our top picks for Italy’s best pizza places. If there is a pizzeria you feel we’ve missed or one you believe shouldn’t be on the list, talk to us on Twitter @TheDailyMeal.
15. Pizzarium, Rome
Gabriele Bonci is one of Rome's most famed pizzaioli, and the Roman-style pizza he serves at Pizzarium is the reason why. The slow-leavened dough is made with a sour dough starter, and the result is a crust thicker than the Romans are used to. Bonci’s rectangular cuts and a rotating range of unusual toppings like fennel, rabbit, and raisins, are other elements you won’t find in other regions.
Via della Meloria 43, Rome
14. Pizzeria Frida, Palermo
Tourists in Palermo invariably make their way to Frida Pizzeria at some point in their trip. If it’s on your must-try list, get there early and smile politely when you’re told how long you’ll be waiting. Named after Mexican surrealist painter Frida Kahlo, this pizzeria believes each pie should be a work of art. Guests can choose between four kinds of pizza—each with numerous options: Classiche, or thin and crispy pizza; bufaline, made with buffalo mozzarella; vulcanotti, which features a thicker crust; and the Frida’s specialty, the Quattri (dale cornice ripiene), which is a square pizza with crust framing sauce, cheese and toppings sitting like a perfect painting.
Piazza Sant’Onofrio, 37, Palermo
Fabiana Santana is a special contributor to The Daily Meal. You can follow her on Twitter @fabistuffed