Archive for Da Michele

Naples – Pendino – pizzas in Forcella

Posted in Campania, Forcella, Italy, Naples, Pendino with tags , , , , on January 19, 2016 by gannet39

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.

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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.

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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.

Got a plaque so must be good

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.

Queue at Michele's

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).

Michele interior

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.

Madonna e mangiare

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.

Trianon

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

Naples – Home of the real Pizza?

Posted in Campania, Naples with tags , , , , , , , on June 23, 2011 by gannet39

Funny how certain flavour experiences stick in your memory. One of the few memories I retain from my first visit to Naples (in 1984 when I was an 18-year-old student) is the pizzette (see glossary below) I bought from a street vendor. All he did was pour a small ladle of tomato sauce onto a tiny pizza base and he changed my life forever! It was so simple but the taste was absolutely incredible. I don’t know whether it was because I was really hungry, or eating outside, or the tomatoes were so good, or all three, but it has lodged itself in my memory forever.

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It was a flavour epiphany that led to me getting a full time job as a pizza chef for the duration of my degree. However, the stuff we had to churn out actually put me off pizza for many years and I couldn’t touch it until I went back to Naples fifteen years later. I’m still pretty funny about them now, they have to be relatively thin, simple Margheritas or I don’t want to know. Don’t even think of ordering me a deep-pan, or any extra toppings.

Oven

As you’d imagine, the Neapolitans are pretty funny about pizza as well, to the extent that some leading pizzaioli formed the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana which has specific regulations about what makes a real Neapolitan pizza (double zero flour, San Marzano tomatoes, wood-fired oven etc). You will see this sign outside member pizzerias all over Campania.

The real thing

The thing is, the sign doesn’t necessarily mean they serve the best pizzas, although they’ll still be very good as they meet specific standards. None of my favourite Neapolitan pizzerias are members of the association and each one seems to have their own way of doing things. The most famous, Da Michele uses soya oil!

Ultimately then which one is ‘best’ is just a matter of personal taste. Below are my personal favourites, and reasons why I like them (USP = Unique Selling Point). Please click on their names to go to my more detailed reviews.

My top six pizzerias in Naples, in no particular order:

Sorbillo USPs: bigger pizzas than AVPN regulations, nice ambience
Trianon da Ciro USPs: no queue, fifteen varieties of Margherita!
Starita a Materdei USPs: friendly, good place for a Montanara
Da Michele USPs: cheap, only Margheritas and Marinaras are sold
Lombardi USPs: a fluffier lighter base, nice staff
Pellone USPs: 300g rather than 250g pizzas, good for Pizza Fritta

Another eight that are worth a visit to compare:

Di Matteo USP: very cheap
Il Pizzaiolo del Presidente USP: very cheap
I Decumani USP: good for frittura
Giuliano USP: good for a pizzette
Brandi USP: historic inventor of the Margherita
Vesi USP: an outdoor terrace
Dell’ Angelo USP: stuffed cornicione
Gorizia USP: posh, good service

You’ll find them all, and all the other places I’ve written about, on this Google map.

Who can say who invented pizza? It’s an amalgam of many ingredients, but the base, the tomato sauce and cheese seem to be key.

The origins of the base are lost in the mists of time, for example there is evidence of flatbread with added ingredients existing in the Neolithic period. However no one can doubt that Naples has a strong claim. The Greeks used to eat flatbread with toppings of garlic, onions and herbs, and Naples was founded by the Greeks.

The tomato arrived from the Americas in the late seventeenth century to begin a long Neapolitan love affair. The story goes that San Marzano tomatoes were a present from the King of Peru to the King of Naples and were first planted in the Campanian village of the same name. They quickly found favour with Neapolitans but, because tomatoes are a member of the nightshade family, they weren’t eaten for a long time by other Europeans who believed them to be poisonous.

Tomato heaven

Another key ingredient is mozzarella cheese. When Brandi chef Raffaele Esposito supposedly (BS according to some) first made the Pizza Margherita for Queen Margherita in 1889 it is said he used red tomatoes, white mozzarella and green basil to represent the colours of the Italian flag. Esposito claimed he was the first person to add cheese but other local pizzaiolos contend the combination existed in Naples before him.

Whatever the truth is, the Margherita is now the de facto meal of choice for school children and most adults all over Italy. Pizza in general is also now the most international food of all with a myriad of regional variations, most best avoided. When I lived in Japan I remember ordering a potato and mayonnaise deep pan from a takeaway just to see that such a thing existed! It’s enough to put you off them for life and I think many people have had a love hate relationship with them, me included. But after years of experience of both the extremes, I think I can honestly say, the best pizzas in life are the simple ones!

Queue

Some pizza terminology defined:

Calzone = stuffed, folded in half and baked
Cornicione = the edge or rim of a pizza
Montanara = a pizza which is deep-fried, topped with sauce and smoked mozzarella and finished in the oven
Pizza al metro = pizza by the meter i.e. sold in rectangular slices
Pizza a portafoglio (or ‘a libretto’) to fold into quarters like a wallet (or a booklet)
Pizza Bianca = plain pizza base without tomato (as opposed to Pizza Rossa)
Pizza Dolce = a sweet pizza topped with candied fruit, nuts and other sweet things
Pizza Fritta = stuffed, folded in half and deep-fried
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Pizzaiolo = a male pizza chef, also Pizzaioulo
Pizzaiola = a female pizza chef, or a sauce featuring olive oil, garlic, tomatoes and oregano
Pizza Margherita = tomato sauce or fresh cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, basil
Pizza Marinara = tomato sauce, garlic and oregano (nb when pasta is ‘a la marinara’ it’s with seafood)
Pizza Napolitana = no oil used in the dough, generally a thicker, softer more charred crust than Romana, one set method of making
Pizza Romana = oil used in the dough, generally a thinner, crunchier crust than Napolitana, different varieties of dough exist
Pizza Rustica = not a pizza at all but a savoury tart (pizza means pie)

Pizza Siciliana = thicker, spongier, the origin of the deep pan
Pizzette = a small pizza

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