Eating Italy: 10 Days Of Pizza
March 3 2011
Heading to Italy? I bet you're looking forward to all the foodie fun – the pizza, the pasta, the gelato, the people (please don't eat the people). Italy will excite all your senses, especially when it comes to pizza time; the smell, look, texture, and the way your waiter will place it before you with wine and an unintelligible line in that oh-so-sexy language. Because that was me all over, covered in cheese.
I ventured to Naples, Rome, Florence and Venice to seek out the best pizza in Italy. You're welcome. And here are my (somewhat surprising) findings. Buon appetito!
Naples is the dish's traditional home, with a typical pizza napoletana being served thick and soft. The Associazine Vera Pizza Napoletana (the official association that promotes the culture of pizza napoletana) even has rules about what classifies the real deal, and has rules about the type of oven that can be used, the wood that stokes said oven, what comprises the dough and everything in between.
Pizza in Rome tends to be thinner with crispier edges, while Florence features both styles.
Venice is all about the atmosphere, so when it comes to food look for a candle-lit restaurants over a rockstar slice. But don't fret, gentle reader, good pizza can be found most anywhere in Italy ... if you know where to look.
Naples, day 1
The history of the famous L'Antica Pizzaria Da Michele goes back to 1870, and their pizza is very popular – pizza margarita and pizza marinara are your two choices (though you can also order a baked calzone). This place is the temple of pizza, but today it's a little over-run with tourists (especially since it was featured in Eat, Pray, Love). Grab a seat in the pizzeria if you can, but more than likely you'll find yourself standing shoulder-to-shoulder with tradesmen and office workers, backpackers and celebs, kids (of the little variety) and kids (of the big kind) still out from the night before. The atmos is half the fun.
Best for: damn good pizza
Naples, day 2
The beauty of Pizzeria Sorbillo is that many people don't know the joint has two locations on the same street. If you find yourself lining up, ask about the other spot. The couple that opened the pizzeria have 21 children (all pizza makers) and each pizza is dedicated to one of their kids. It's kind of quirky, kind of cute, but all sorts of scrumptious.
Best for: quirky menu history
Naples, day 3
Trianon da Ciro (Via Pietro Colletta 42/44/46) offers a huge choice of pizzas and is spread over three floors, with seating for 450. The blue and yellow walls, marble-slab tables and the sheer amount of people present make this place quite a spectacle. You can watch your pizza being made from your table, or sit on the top floor for a nice view out over the city of Naples.
Best for: people watching
Rome, day 4
Located a short distance from the Pantheon, Pummorala Drink (Via D. Maddalena 16/19), is a restaurant with mixed reviews — your best bet is to skip the menu's pomp and circumstance order just order a pizza, watch the crowds stroll past and sink a glass of vino.
Best for: vegetarian pizza
Rome, day 5
The pizza at Dar Poeta is marvellous thanks to the texture and taste of the dough. I'm told it's made from a blend of flour types that's meant to be easier to digest, and there are plenty of toppings to choose from. It's worth saving space for a ricotta and Nutella-filled calzone if you have any inkling of a sweet tooth.
Best for: tasty dough
Rome, day 6
Pizza al taglio is a "fast food" form of pizza often found near metro stops. The pizzas are long and narrow and have a slightly thicker crust. Our stop is at Pizzarium (Via della Meloria 43), not far from Metro Cipro. They've got a range of unusual topping variations like bacon and Provola cheese, pumpkin cream, sausage with blood orange and artichokes and Gorgonzola.
Best for: a quick lunch on the go
Florence, day 7
"We are not a pizzeria. We do homemade Italian meals. We only do one pizza – classic margarita" reads the sign out front of the charming and simply named Panino (Via delle Terme 7 Rosso). Margarita it is, however there's one more catch; slices come in only one size – "gigante" – designed for a family of four.
Francesca is the cook, her husband Gianni the baker. Their few tables are always full and the big slab of pizza that's due to arrive at yours will be cooked to perfection. They also stock wine, fresh meats, breads and cheeses.
Best for: when you're really, really hungry
Florence, day 8
The owner of (6 Via del Palchetti) is the first woman to have won a prize in a national pizza competition, so be sure to try Pizza Fantasia (the 2002 winner). It features porcini, truffles, nuts, gorgonzola and talgeggio cheeses and more.
The pizza here is thick and soft, and delicious wholemeal and cornflour bases are available. Thanks to the owner's dad who hushes rowdy customers and rushes people out once they have eaten, it's a fun place to people watch.
Best for: tasty toppings
Venice, day 9
We eat at Ristorante Riva Del Vin (Rialto Riva Del Vin 756) after being enticed by the river view — diners can sit right by the water and watch gondola after gondola slide past. They do pastas and salads, but that's not what we're here for. Our pizza's stand-out is the sauce, but the atmosphere's the real star here. Italians eat late so if you want to sit by the water get here before 8pm.
Best for: location, location, location
Venice, day 10
900 Jazz Club is a fun find; once inside you're transported into another world of red, amber and gold, dark wood and antique furniture, and musical instruments. And the ceiling? It's covered in bras ... bras of every size and colour, from lovely lace to sweaty sports, hang down from above. I'm told the rule is that if you donate your bra, you get a shirt in return. I don't ask any more questions and just eat my pizza (which, by the way, is pretty good).
Best for: unique interior design