Pizza in Naples

Neapolitan pizza inspires passion–both in city natives, ex-pats, transplants, and visitors.  Aficionados outside Italy devote countless hours attempting to replicate the chewy, delicate crust:  using high-temperature wood-fired ovens, importing 00 flour, and even growing their own tomatoes.  American pizza purists like Chris Bianco of Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix turn away more guests than are served, commanding premium prices (how about $10 for a single pizza marinara?)  Even the beaurecrats of the European Union are on the bandwagon–the EU recently granted the vera pizza neapolitana protected status (DOC), meaning Naples’ pizza makers have exclusive right to the appellation, provided the pizzas in question are made using buffalo-milk mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes, and Italian flour in the crust.

All of the international attention devoted to Neapolitan pizza belies the reality of pizza in Naples itself:  still an inexpensive street food, even at the oldest and most traditional pizzeries.  Along the oldest streets in the city, at classic pizza joints like di Matteo, Gino Sorbillo, or Presidente, the pizza is impeccable, made to order, and dirt cheap.  Sit at a table at Sorbillo(pictured), founded in 1935, and a pizza margherita in the colors of the Italian flag costs all of 3 euros (about $4.90).

For less than five bucks, the pizza emerges in minutes beautifully charred from a wood oven, sporting a puffed edge.  The buffalo milk mozzarella pools atop a bright, fresh-tasting marinara, flecked here and there with fresh basil.  The pizzas at Sorbillo overflow the plates—it’s almost impossible not to tear off the edges and begin eating just as soon as the waitress sets it in front of you.

Or, stroll down the street to di Matteo and buy a pizza al forno to munch while walking along.  This grand treat, folded into quarters and handed over swathed in a paper wrapper entirely inadequate to the task of containing such deliciousness, sets you back 1 euro (~$1.40):  easily the best euro you’ll ever spend.

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