I’ve documented the pizzerias I visited in Naples in 2009 and 2011. Here’s a rundown of spots I hit in November 2015. This was a very short trip, but the pizzerias we hit were definitely significant with regard to their impact and resonance on Neapolitan pizza culture.
Pizzeria Oliva da Concettina ai Tre Santi
Via Arena della Sanità, 7 Bis
80137 Napoli, Italy
The space is wide, with a wood-burning oven welcoming you at the entrance. We sat at a long table against the wall and ate some of the best pizza I’ve had in Naples. The crust is light and airy with perfectly balanced tomato and cheese. The best thing I ate here was a fried calzone, gently filled (not stuffed) with mozzarella and bits of ham. It was a dream. The star of the show is 22 year old Ciro Oliva, whose dedication is as clear as his excitement for the food he’s making. This place had everything I wanted in a Neapolitan pizza experience.
Piazza Sannazzaro, 201/B
The word kalo translates to “good dough,” and that’s exactly what this place is all about. Located in the Mergellina district, 50 Kalo is helmed by third generation pizzaiolo Ciro Salvo. His crust is so light and airy, an effect achieved by high hydration and low protein flour. The only problems occur when you have too much topping weight on the pie, which is why I preferred this pizza marinara over everything else I ate here.
Pizzeria da Michele
Via Cesare Sersale, 1/3
On my first trip to Naples in 2009, this was my absolute favorite pizza. The pizza marinara was sublime, with a flavor profile so clear and easy to read that I wondered how anybody could ever eat anything else. My second visit, in 2011, delivered a decent pizza, but not as transcendent as it had been two years prior. The trend continued with this visit, which is why I’m posting a photo of our crew outside the pizzeria rather than the pizza itself. I just didn’t take any photos because it was so doubleplusungood. Totally over cheesed, totally undercooked, totally upsetting. Eat, Pray, Love (the book, but more so the movie) drew billions of people to this already popular pizzeria and I imagine that is what led to the downfall of their product. Neapolitans still consider this “the temple of pizza,” complete with scripture lining the walls (poetry about pizza) and a monastic simplicity to the space. I hope there will one day be a second coming, but as of this recent visit I will have to consider myself an apostate.
Pizzeria De’ Figliole
Via Giudecca Vecchia, 39
With no website and very few English language hits on Google, you’re going to have to work a little harder to find this place. They specialize in fried pizza, which isn’t the carnival treat you might assume. This is more like a fried calzone, with two doughs crimped together to form a protective cocoon for the cheese, meat, and vegetables inside. A quick dip into hot oil initiates a metamorphosis that culminates in a pouch of deliciousness best eaten while in transit since there’s no room to sit in this tiny cubbyhole. Figliole is very close to Pizzeria da Michele, so try to combine the two for one mega meal.
Pepe in Grani
Vicolo San Giovanni Battista, 3
81013 Caiazzo CE, Italy
You’re going to have to drive for this one but it’s totally worth it. Just head north of Naples, passed Casserta to the tiny town of Caiazzo. Here you’ll find Frano Pepe, who has become a pizza demigod thanks in no small part to his dedication to 100% handmade dough. Pepe uses a madia, a wooden box with angled walls. They’re constantly making dough at this place and the delicious pizza is proof. Please pardon my lack of good photos but for some reason all my shots were out of focus. The picture above is a slice of pizza a libretto, or pizza like a book. It’s eaten folded and wrapped with paper. Below you’ll see a blurry shot of one of the best things I ate on the entire trip. This is a fried calzone, minimally filled with some cheese and meat. This pizzeria is beautiful and the food is excellent. This is a necessary pilgrimage for any serious pizza enthusiast. Bonus points if you stay overnight in their newly renovated third floor, which has several rooms for guests. Wake up, eat pizza, eat more pizza, eat more pizza, sleep, repeat.