Pizza is the quintessential dish of Naples, but people don’t often mention that the pizza in Naples tastes very different from elsewhere. It’s not just because of the stunning view of Vesuvius. Pizza napoletana is unique because of its traditional method of preparation and unmistakable taste, which have earned it a place on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Table of Contents
The secret to preparing perfect neapolitan pizza
In Naples, I can eat pizza daily without feeling weighed down: the authentic Neapolitan pizza is very light. All credit goes to the dough, leavened for at least eight hours and rolled out by hand. The handling of the dough is also essential to create the characteristic one or two centimetres-high cornicione because it moves the air from the centre of the dough towards the outside.
ORGANISE YOUR TRIP TO NAPLES
Get the Naples Pass to save money. The card gives you access to attractions like the underground city tour and the Catacombs of San Gennaro, and unlimited public transport during its validity.
To stay connected in Italy, remember to buy an Airalo eSim online, with data and phone coverage for your trip to Naples.
The Neapolitan pizza is always thin with a high, soft rim, and each pizzeria has its own style that makes it unique. Authentic Neapolitan pizza is an artisanal product, and the pizzaiolo can use only ingredients from Campania and cooks pizza in a wood-fired oven for one minute to a maximum of one and a half minutes without burning.
Neapolitan street food: pizza a portafoglio and pizza fritta
Authentic Neapolitan pizza is known for its unique characteristics that make it easy to fold without breaking. For this reason it is a popular street food. This type of folded pizza is know as pizza a portafoglio or pizza a libretto. The most commonly served varieties are pizza margherita and pizza marinara.
These pizzas are rolled out to a slightly smaller diameter and served folded in four, wrapped in greaseproof paper. The challenge in eating folded pizza is avoiding hot tomato and mozzarella sauce dripping onto it.
Another popular variety of pizza in Naples is fried pizza, know as pizza fritta. It is a calzone, made by sealing pizza dough with a filling of tomato and mozzarella, then deep-frying it until golden brown.
The authentic Neapolitan pizza: margherita and marinara
There are only two types of authentic Neapolitan pizza: pizza margherita and pizza marinara. The pizza margherita is topped with tomato, mozzarella and basil. The colours of its ingredients are the same as the Italian tricolour. That’s why it is considered the Italian pizza par excellence.
The origin of the name of pizza margherita is associated with various popular legends. The most famous one says that it is named after Queen Margherita, who visited Naples in 1889. In another popular story, the name derives from the mozzarella cheese placed on the tomato sauce like the petals of a margherita flower.
The pizza marinara, without mozzarella and topped with tomato, garlic, oregano and oil, is Naples’s second most popular pizza. Despite its name, it does not contain any products of marine origin. Its name derives from its being the staple food in the diet of sailors for a long time. The pizza marinara was a poor yet tasty dish made from ingredients that were easy to store during long sea voyages.
Why the authentic Neapolitan pizza is a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
Once you have tasted authentic Neapolitan pizza, there is no going back to any other type of pizza. The flavour and lightness of Neapolitan pizzas are genuinely unique. For this reason, the ‘Art of Neapolitan Pizzaiuolo’ has been recognised as a UNESCO Intangible Heritage. Authentic Neapolitan pizza is a tradition passed down from generation to generation, giving the city of Naples a unique sense of identity.
Neapolitan pizza is made in four phases, which include preparing the dough and baking it in a wood-fired oven. The baker rotates the pizza during the baking process. Every year, the Association of Neapolitan Pizzaiuoli organises courses that teach the art’s history, instruments, and techniques, ensuring its viability.
In Naples, pizzaiuoli obtain technical know-how by attending specific academies. Alternatively, apprentices can learn the art in their family homes. However, knowledge and skills are primarily transmitted in the bottega. There, young apprentices observe masters at work, learning all the essential phases and elements of the craft.
The best pizzerias in Naples where to taste authentic Neapolitan pizza
Naples has many pizzerias, ranging from those specialising in street food and only serving pizza a portafoglio to restaurants. Pizza prices in Naples are pretty affordable, although the more famous restaurants are almost twice as expensive as the family-run pizzerias.
The list below includes only those pizzerias with a restaurant room where you can sit and enjoy lunch or dinner. It is virtually impossible to choose and list all the pizzerias that specialise in pizza a la carte. You can just wander around the city centre to find various options.
Every year, rankings of the best Neapolitan pizzerias are released, generating controversy over which is the best pizza. Every Neapolitan has their preferences and can recommend one pizzeria over another. Below are some historic pizzeria addresses, perfect for starting your gastronomic tour of Naples.
La Figlia del Presidente
La Figlia del Presidente is a family-run pizzeria, famous because Bill Clinton chose it during a trip to Naples. The name comes from Mr Ernesto Cacialli, known as ‘the President’ because he was president of the association of pizzaiuoli Associazione Margherita Regina. Today, it is run by his daughter Maria. The pizzas are delicious and cheap.
La Figlia del Presidente
Via del Grande Archivio, 24
Antica Pizzeria da Michele
The Antica Pizzeria da Michele is a historic pizzeria that has appeared in many films, including Eat Pray Love with Julia Roberts. Its main characteristic is that it only prepares the two recognised types of Neapolitan pizza: margherita and marinara.
Antica Pizzeria da Michele
Via Cesare Sersale, 1
Gino Sorbillo is the most famous pizzeria in Naples, although it has been dropped from many rankings in recent years. The pizzeria is located in the historical centre of Naples, and the queue at the entrance is often very long, even at the secondary locations. Still, it is worth the wait because the pizza is delicious and prepared with exclusively local ingredients according to tradition.
Via dei Tribunali, 32
Pizzeria Starita, founded in 1901, is one of the ten oldest pizzerias in Naples. Today, it has several locations in Italy and worldwide, but it is still family-run. The menu also includes antipasti and desserts such as angioletti, made with pizza dough.
Via Materdei, 27/28
Concettina ai Tre Santi
The pizzeria Concettina ai Tre Santi is one of the most famous pizzerias in the Rione Sanità, and its popularity has contributed to the district’s redevelopment over the years. Born from the fried pizzas baked in a typical Neapolitan low-rise flat by the great-grandmother of the current owner Ciro Oliva, today Concettina ai Tre Santi has reached the third and fourth family generations between tradition and innovation.
Concettina ai Tre Santi
Via Arena della Sanità, 7 Bis
Where to stay in Naples
Naples boasts numerous accommodations, from hotels to seaside flats. With my frequent visits to Naples, I can suggest several options. For an authentic experience in the historic center, consider The Idyll Boutique Apartment in the Spanish Quarter. This charming flat features parquet floors and a fully equipped kitchen, conveniently close to major attractions. Alternatively, the upscale Relais Della Porta, situated on Via Toledo, places you a short distance from landmarks like the San Carlo Theatre. Last but not least, the Santa Chiara Boutique Hotel, located near the Dante metro stop, offers a continental or Italian breakfast to start your day.
Neapolitan pizza is so delicious and light that you can eat it daily without getting tired. It’s worth visiting Naples just to taste the authentic Neapolitan pizza. If you agree, let me know in the comments, and share your favourite Neapolitan pizzerias.