Pendino is the area either side of Corso Umberto before it gets to Piazza Garibaldi. Forcella takes its name from the fork-shaped crossroads of Via Forcella and Via Colletta where they meet at Piazza Calenda.
As you try to walk through the crossroads without being run over you can easily miss a circular balustrade in the road, in front of the Trianon theatre, which surrounds some ancient stones.
These are the ‘Cippo a Forcella’; tufo blocks that formed part of the original Greek walls. (A cippus is a small low pillar used in ancient Romans and Greeks as a landmark.) When Neapolitans want to say something is very old they use the expression “Sta’ cosa s’arricorda o’ Cipp’ a Furcella” (‘this thing remembers the Cippo a Forcella’).
Just around the corner in Piazetta Forcella on Via Egiziaca a Forcella is the Fontana Della Scapigliata which has a couple of funny features.
Nearby are two of the best pizzerias in Naples:
Da Michele (Elementary A), Via Pietro Colleta
Coming from Piazza Garibaldi take the 7th or 8th right (it doesn’t matter which) off Corso Umberto. You’ll see Ristorante Matozzi on the corner as you look up the side street. Da Michele is just to the left. You’ll see the sign and a crowd outside.
This is the most famous pizzeria in Naples, the home of pizza.
It’s in every guidebook so heaps of tourists come here but so do lots of locals as well. The first time I came there were thirty people standing outside in the rain waiting which is quite normal for this place. If there’s just one or two of you though, you should get in fairly quickly, just give your name to the waiter in charge of the queue.
You’ll probably be seated at one of the long trestles with a group of strangers so it’s a great place to meet the locals and discuss football or what makes a great pizza (quality ingredients, not too many toppings and a thin crust, cooked so it’s singed at the edges but with a runny centre).
They only sell two kinds, Margherita (tomatoes, mozzarella, basil) and Marinara (tomatoes, oregano and garlic, not seafood unlike pasta) in two sizes. The only drinks are water, beer and cola. Michele is a triumph of simplicity.
Every Neapolitan I’ve ever spoken to thinks that Michele makes the best pizza in town so they’d be shocked to know that they use soya oil rather than olive oil (because it has a lower burning point).
Either way, Michele certainly doesn’t conform to the strictures of La Vera Pizza Napoletana and you won’t see the association’s sign outside.
Besides the queue, the thing that annoys me and stops me from coming here is that the waiters demand a tip from you as you’re leaving when they’ve done very little to deserve it, and this in a country where tipping isn’t part of the culture.
Michele is definitely an experience I’d recommend everybody has at least once but generally I think it’s better to go over the road to this next place. The pizzas are just as good.
Pizzeria Trianon da Ciro (Elementary A), 44/45 Via Pietro Colleta
Opposite Da Michele and near the theatre of the same name, they’re open 11 to 3.30 and 9 till 11, including Sunday evening.
If you can’t get seated at Michele go over the road to Trianon which with three floors is much larger and has no queues. It’s slightly posher and more expensive but in terms of flavour I actually prefer the pizza here to Da Michele. However, local wisdom has it as the second best.
They sell fifteen varieties of Margherita and several other kinds too. The star is the Margherita DOC with real mozzarella and San Marzano cherry tomatoes, but personally I go for the Margherita di Bufala which has tomato sauce instead of just fresh tomatoes.
A basic Margherita (with Fior di Latte; imitation mozzarella made with cow’s milk) costs €4 and a 500ml Birra Nastro is €3.50 and there’s a 15% service charge, but at least they don’t hassle you for it.
Just over the road from Trianon at 41/43 Via Pietro Colleta, is the Gelateria Al Polo Nord, a handy place for dessert. The choices are bewildering so I listened to the baying kids and went for a dollop each of the Kinder and Stracciatella. Always listen to the children…
For more discussion on Neapolitan pizza, see my dedicated pizza post.
Photos from March 2011