Thanks to my Naples-born uncle Dino Paladino, I fell in love with italian food. It's because of his amazing pasta dishes he served me at Sortino's in Vancouver's Little Italy that I am here in Italy now, writing about food and drink.
My travels throughout Italy have taken me to some truly amazing cities for eating and drinking. I've had speck and canaderli in the Dolomites with Davide, great fontina cheese in Cervinia with Margherita, rich alpine food in Courmayeur, truffles and Barolo in the Langhe hills with Sharon, cheese and Barbera in Monferrato with Zio Toby, cocktails from another planet in Torino with Noemi, cicchetti in Venice with Mi Li, amarone in Verona, casoncelli in Bergamo with Silvia, brut spumante in Franciacorta with polimi friends, bistecca alla fiorentina with Katya in Florence, honey and brunello in Montalcino with Toney, pici and pecorino in Siena before the Inter won their last scudetto, porceddu and culurgiones in Sardegna, tartare with Agnese in Milano, cacio e pepe in Rome with Veronica and carbonara with Michela in Tivoli, sciacchetrà with Annalisa in cinque terre, focaccia di Recco, pasta al pesto in Genova with Vero, parmigiano reggiano and gnocco fritto in Parma with Fisso Paolo and Flavio, papardelle alla Bolognese in Bologna, and piadine with Julie in Rimini.
But never, have I had the chance to try the greatest expression of food where it was born: Pizza Margherita from Naples. SInce arriving to Italy 8 years ago, my goal has always been to visit Naples to try the greatest food in the world. I am happy to report that I have finally realized the dream. Here is my diary of 24 hours in Naples.
Thanks to Prof. Pietro Ferraro for inviting me to CNR Napoli to present my research. I arrived by plane from Linate and made it to beautiful Pozzuoli by noon. After a quick lab tour, we grabbed a nice seafood lunch at the nearby trattoria. At the institute I met three lovely women: Melania, Oriella and Romina. Melania told me right away that she would be my tour of Naples - I insisted it would be exactly the opposite. I had done my research on Naples. This was my dream after all. The goal: 3 pizzerie from a select list of Di Matteo, Starita, 50 Kalò, Sorbillo, Pellone, Da Michele, Dal Presidente. By the time we arrived to the Central train station, it was already 830pm, 90 minutes behind my carefully planned schedule for the pizza and drinking tour of Naples. It would have to settle for 2 pizzerie. :(
9 pm to 10 pm: The first stop was Da Michele, the "temple of pizza". Da Michele is probably and most famous pizzeria in Naples and conveniently located 5 minutes from the station. Given that it was Wednesday, the lineup was short: we waited only 15 minutes for our table. Normally the lineup is over an hour. There are only two options at Da Michele, margherita or marinara. I opted for the margherita with extra mozzarella. I can see why Sorbillo Milano pizzaiolo Gennaro Rapido likes it so much as Da Michele's style is similar to his. The crust had perfect consistency and the mozzarella and tomato sauce were delicious. After devouring my margherita, I even managed to eat a quarter of Melania's. Despite the fact that her pizza had cooled to room temperature by now, it was still delicious!
1030pm - 1130pm: Next up was the mecca of pizza, Via dei Tribunali. Here we have Sorbillo, Dal Presidente, Zia Esterina Antica Pizza Fritta and of course Di Matteo, which was my next stop. By now, our group had withered down to 3 - myself, Melania and my friend Anghel. We climbed the narrow and steep stairs at Di Matteo and sat down to enjoy the best pizzas of the night: a margherita with bufala and a revisited margherita with sliced tomatoes and bufala. Di Matteo and Da Michele are very comparable overall but I slightly prefered the taste of the crust at Di Matteo. After eating 1/4 of Anghel's pizza, my count was at 2 1/2 pizzas. Sadly, it was nearly midnight and I needed to catch an early morning train for Naples the next day. It was time to move on to the drinking phase of the evening.
Our destination was Alex Frezza's brand new speakeasy L'Antiquario, thanks to a strong recommendation from Memfi and friends. On the way, we stopped in for a Napoli-style coffee at the Professore. Good but too sweet for my taste. Onwards.
midnight-330 am: L'Antiquario is a beautiful speakeasy that first opened its doors in November 2015. However, I was a bit anxious as we walked over as nobody picked up the phone at the bar (a continuous busy signal). Was it closed? Was there another secret number to access the speakasy? I discovered on their facebook page that a live band was playing that night. Perhaps it was super busy and they didn't hear the phone. I even asked Flavio of MAG to help me in case I had problems at the door. Thankfully there were no issues. The bar is still new, and nobody goes out on Wednesday in Naples. We took the table right in front of the gorgeous bar and began our drinking adventure. Alex Frezza, dressed in an elegant pharmacist's outfit, was a great guide to our evening of imbibing. The highlights for me were the well-executed Remember the Maine, La Risposta, and La Risposta alla Risposta. For those lucky few, there could even be a surprise at the end of the night. My evening at L'Antiquario was one of my best drinking experiences in Italy, up there with 1930, MAG, Casa Mia, Smile Tree and Jerry Thomas.
Next morning: Obviously I missed my early morning train. But I was in no hurry to make it to Rome, where I had a poster talk that afternoon. This gave me time to try the best sfogliatelle in Naples at Attanasio. Thanks to Oriella for the great advice. I hope to be back soon, so we can enjoy more pizza, cocktails and sfogliatelle!