Naples is known as the birthplace of pizza and for that one and only reason, we decided to make the two-and-a-half-hour drive from Roma to Napoli in search of the world’s best pizza. Truth be told, if we had more hours in Naples, we most likely would have gone on a pizza tasting adventure but with less than a day to drive around, explore the city and find the world’s best pizza… seems we had a lot to do! To be fair, we came to Naples with one particular pizzeria in mind – L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele. The famed pizzeria from one of my favorite travel movies: Eat Pray Love.
I’ve read the book and watched the movie a good few times and yes, while we’ve all been on our Eat Pray Love journeys in some way, shape or form; being able to experience some of the special moments from one of my all-time favorite travel books (and movies) was a dream come true! Really, it’s in the littlest things that you find the most pleasure, happiness and magic. For us, it was finding L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele.
“He gave me the name of a Pizzeria in Naples (“Da Michele”) that I had to try, because he informed me, it sold the best pizza in Naples. I found this a wildly exciting prospect, given that the best pizza in Italy is from Naples and the best pizza in the world is from Italy, which means that pizzeria must offer… I’m almost too superstitious to say it… the best pizza in the world?”
“Please go to this pizzeria order the margherita pizza with double mozzarella. If you do not eat this pizza when you are in Naples, please lie to me later and tell me that you did.
About L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele
The origin of L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele goes all the way back to 1870 when the Condurro family began their long tradition of pizza making somewhere in the center of Naples. It was actually Michele Condurro, the son of Salvatore, who is said to have perfected the family’s art of pizza making. he had learned the art of preparing and kneading pizza dough from the famous masters in Torre Annunziata.
Michele went on to open his first pizzeria in 1906 before moving locations in 1930 to Via Cesare Sersale; which is where it still currently remains after all these years. For this reason, it is often described as the “sacred temple of pizza”.
Since then, there have been five generations of master pizza makers which have carried on the work of Michele Condurro to an art. They’ve done this by keeping the art of pizza making perfected and respecting tradition and instruction, in which there are only two types of Neapolitan Pizza: Marinara and Margherita.
Where is L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele located?
L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele is located on a side street just off the Corso Umberto in one of Napoli’s busiest central districts. It is about a 10 – 15-minute walk from Piazza Garibaldi train station. Alternatively, get off at the Porta Nolano Metro stop (lines 3 and 4) and walk 5 to 10-minutes toward the restaurant. The address is:
L’ Antica Pizzeria da Michele, Via Cesare Sersale, 1 – 3, 80139 Naples, Italy
Pizzeria da Michele is a small place with only two rooms and one nonstop oven. It’s about a fifteen-minute walk from the train station in the rain, don’t even worry about it, just go. You need to get there fairly early in the day because sometimes they run out of dough, which will break your heart. By 1 p.m., the streets outside the pizzeria have become jammed with Neapolitans trying to get into the place, shoving for access like they’re trying to get space on a lifeboat.
What to do when you arrive at L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele
There’s an actual process that you’ll need to follow if you want to order, or even book a table inside. First, you will need to approach a staff member who will be standing at the door to the pizzeria and get a ticket with a number on it. The number will be written in English but will be called in Italian so you’ll need to be able to recognize the sound. Be sure to either, ask the staff member how to pronounce your number or alternatively ask one of the many people in line beside you. Numbers are only issued at certain times of the day and wait times can be anywhere from 30 minutes… right up to two hours and over during lunch and dinner times.
Once your number has been called, you’ll be shown to the bustling dining hall and your table which is often right up next to another table or, in some instances, if you’re just two people; you may be sharing a table of four with another couple. Don’t be alarmed by the lack of personal space – this in Italy is a norm in most restaurants.
The menu is simple: Margherita or Marinara:
Margherita: topped with tomatoes, fior di latte cheese (a regional cow’s milk variety similar to buffalo mozzarella), fresh basil, and a drizzling of soybean oil.
Marinara: only tomatoes, garlic, and oregano (a good choice for vegans).
There’s not a menu. They have only two varieties of pizza here — regular and extra cheese. None of this new age southern California olives-and-sun-dried-tomato wannabe pizza twaddle. The dough, it takes me half my meal to figure out, tastes more like Indian nan than like any pizza dough I ever tired. It’s soft and chewy and yielding, but incredibly thin. I always thought we only had two choices in our lives when it came to pizza crust — thin and crispy, or thick and doughy. How was I to have known there could be a crust in this world that was thin and doughy? Holy of holies! Thin, doughy, strong, gummy, yummy, chewy, salty pizza paradise. On top, there is a sweet tomato sauce that foams up all bubbly and creamy when it melts the fresh buffalo mozzarella, and the one sprig of basil in the middle of the whole deal somehow infuses the entire pizza with herbal radiance, much the same way one shimmering movie star in the middle of a party brings a contact high of glamour to everyone around her. It’s technically impossible to eat this thing, of course. You try to take a bite off your slice and the gummy crust folds, and the hot cheese runs away like topsoil in a landslide, makes a mess of you and your surroundings, but just deal with it.
Is it really the best pizza in the world?
After waiting for close to two hours… you’re sure to be starved. And if you’ve flown half way across the world, rented a car and drove to find the best pizza in Napoli…. You can be sure that your expectations are going to be pretty high. The pizza at Da Michele is not like any pizza I’ve ever tasted before – I’m used to either a thin crispy base or a softer thick base…. But here the base was thin, doughy soft and malleable – almost like a freshly baked charred naan that had been cooked in a wood-fired oven. The pizza is served with a warm mix of tomatoes and melted fior di latte cheese and soybean oil drizzled over the top. It’s very different to what any regular pizza lover would expect… from regular pizza bases to olive oil and buffalo mozzarella but… their unique age-old recipe leaves a distinct taste in your mouth that, at first, leaves with this underlying craving for a second and third bite…. And then days later leaves you literally dreaming for another pizza. Now that I am back home, I still have random dreams about the soft malleable pizza based from da Michele…. Which inevitably leads me to think that, maybe, in someway it really was the best pizza in the world.
So Sofie and I have come to Pizzeria da Michele, and these pies we have just ordered — one for each of us — are making us lose our minds. I love my pizza so much, in fact, that I have come to believe in my delirium that my pizza might actually love me, in return. I am having a relationship with this pizza, almost an affair. Meanwhile, Sofie is practically in tears over hers, she’s having a metaphysical crisis about it, she’s begging me, “Why do they even bother trying to make pizza in Stockholm? Why did we even bother eating food at all in Stockholm?