Having finished our day ruminating over the ruins of ancient Pompeii, Mrs. Pie and I timed our connecting train back to Rome leaving enough time for a quick pizza in its birthplace of Naples. Arriving at the train station there, all would have been just fine had we remembered to bring along our list of recommended pizza places. Recalling that they were in close proximity to the station, we figured we’d try our luck in asking for help.
From our short time in Rome, we were generally aware of how difficult it could be to get help from locals. In addition to the language issue, there also seems to be a general indifference among some Italians to help Americans. After a few failed attempts at finding “the best pizza in Naples,” on the verge of declaring failure, I made one final effort asking two policemen on duty outside the train station.
“Mi scusi, best pizza in Napoli?” I asked. Like they were singing an Italian opera, in unison, they enthusiastically replied “Pizza Michele!” Mrs. Pie adeptly translated this to “Mike’s Pizza.” Now how cool is that! The best pizza joint in Naples (full name L’ Antica Pizzeria da Michele) was named after me.
We then followed through on their simple directions to just head straight down the road for ten minutes. They did fail to mention an eventual right-hand turn down a small side street. Fortunately, after feeling that we had walked far enough, two follow-up requests for directions eventually got us there.
Passing through the narrow side street, we came upon a small circle and there it was: an old storefront amongst a few other pizza places in some very old buildings. Excitedly I greeted one of the worker’s at the front door proudly proclaiming that I too was named “Michele.” Stepping inside, it was instantly obvious that this place was all about one thing: pizza!
The menu on the wall was simple with only two pizza choices: Margherita (with cheese) and Marinara (with no cheese). The only other question to answer is what size (normal, medium or large). Four drink selections (beer, water, coke or orange soda) rounded out the menu.
There was a big wood-burning brick oven in the rear of the main dining room. Two other adjoining rooms looked like they arrived later in the restaurant’s tenure. This place was a pizza factory pumping out pies non-stop to a bustling crowd. And the coolest thing was that Micehle, the original pizza master, started this place back in 1870!
We ordered the normal Margherita which they served uncut. It wound up being six small slices for us to share. No surprise, it was of course in the city’s namesake Neapolitan style. While not the Snob’s favorite, in a place as historic and inviting as this, I could care less.
Our pie was delivered in no time flat and looked beautiful although it was imperfectly round. The sparse blotchy cheese and a lone basil leaf sat atop the tomato sauce and olive oil. It was cooked so expertly that it was not soupy in the middle like these pies often turn out. The crust, puffed out the edges, was spotted with some enticing black charred spots on top. Ripping it up into slices to fold, I felt that I stood out as possibly the only one in the room not using their knife and fork.
Both Mrs. Pie and I were totally taken by the wonderfully delicious crust. Salty for sure, it had a brilliant taste that made this pie disappear in record time. The paper-thin crust was soft and chewy made with a truly world class flour.
There is no doubt in my mind that Michele is the #1 pizza place to visit if you are ever in Italy. This was an exciting day for the Pizza Snob. The quality of their pizza and its legendary history make this one of the most special pizza places in the world! Michele without a doubt sets the standard for a Neapolitan pie. It was simply perfect and could not have been made any better.
PIZZA SNOB RATING ***** Sets the Standard
L’ Antica Pizzeria da Michele
Via Cesare Sersale, 1/3
80139 Napoli, ITALY