Saturday, November 3, 2012

Di Matteo

So where was I? Ah yes, having just left Roma, I found myself dozing in and out of consciousness on a train bound for arguably the most important pizza-related city in the world.

(courtesy of Italy Link)

Napoli. Well-regarded as being founded between 2000-1000 BCE, Naples isn't just one of the oldest cities in Italy, it's one of the oldest in the world. Situated just north of Mount Vesuvius, the volcano has bestowed its ashy soil upon the city providing an excellent resource for pizza making for centuries. From oven bricks and floors to locally-sourced San Marzano tomatoes, Naples (and pizza) would never have been what it is today without that lava-spewing giant and its Vesuvian ash.

(courtesy of EU Infrastructure)

Unfortunately the city has seen better (...and worse) days. Widely understood as being predominantly under mafia control and with an unemployment rate between 20-30%, it's understandable why Napoli isn't on every Italian tourist's must-see list. Unless of course you're a pizza nerd.

Shortly after checking the majority of my luggage at the train station, I set out in search of the famed "Via Tribunali," the alleyway in which a large number of pizzerias reside. Not before long I ended up at stop numero uno: Antica Pizzeria de Friggitoria- Di Matteo. Highly regarded by close friends and pizzaphiles, I couldn't wait to scarf my first authentic Neapolitan pie.

Immediately upon walking in I was met by a handful of dudes just chilling, and this beautiful oven. With my oversized camera in hand and clearly Americanized attempt at Italian, I explained I had come from NY to try their pizza, which yielded the coldest of gazes from everyone in the kitchen. I think the oven gave me a warmer welcome.

I quickly grabbed a coke and a table in the adjacent 'dining room' (read: 2 tables in a dark hallway) and ordered myself what would be the first Margherita of four in the next 3 hours. Seemingly without any effort or time elapsed, there she was:

Aaaaaaaand we're off with a bang! Gorgeous pie, out of the oven and onto my table in under 90 seconds. Could have used a little more basil but I'm not picky (or am I?)

I find few things more beautiful than the way oil, tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella interact on a well-balanced Neapolitan pie. Pizza was cooked perfectly with just the right finishing on top and a well-charred undercrust.

In traditional fashion, the pizza is served uncut and you are given a fork and knife to dissect it yourself. I intentionally skipped my much-coveted breakfast to make room for all the pies I was planning for lunch, so needless to say this beaut only lasted a few minutes before vanishing completely.

Still perturbed by the cold welcoming I receive, I slinked out of the joint just before a crowd of like-minded lunchers filtered in- but not before getting a quick shot of their bench:

With my tail between my legs and stomach just getting underway, I continued down the claustrophobic Via Tribunali in search of more 'za...

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