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The stars of pizza

I had no idea when I wrote about the original Naples pizza last week in Rude Food that

a) the column would generate such a huge response and b) that so many of you would write in to complain that I had not recommended the best pizza places in Naples.


Frankly, I consciously avoided including recommendations in the article on the very reasonable grounds that hardly anybody who reads a food column in an Indian publication cares about individual restaurants in Naples. Or that we would need recommendations for a city that few of us will go to.


   But since so many of you seem to regard that as a gap in the column, here’s is a list. These are the best places for pizza as well as some of the most famous and iconic. I feel slightly better about doing such an obscure list because many of the chefs and restaurants listed here either have branches in other cities which you are more likely to go to even if you never travel to Naples. Plus, as Naples pizza is now beginning to become a big thing globally you will hear more about these places and their chefs in the coming years.


L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele


Founded in 1870s, it is one of the city’s oldest pizzerias. It serves just two varieties (marinara and margherita) and is packed out with tourists. It takes no bookings. You get a ticket giving your place in the queue and they call you when they are ready for you.


   It sprang to international fame after it was featured in the movie Eat, Pray, Love starring Julia Roberts. It has since entered into a global expansion and, fittingly, a branch has opened in Hollywood.


Gino Sorbillo


One of Italy’s most famous pizza chefs, Sorbillo has turned his fame into an industry. His reputation rests on the pizzas at his historic restaurant in Naples.


   But he now runs pizza restaurants everywhere: In Milan, Turin, Rome and Tokyo. I have no idea how good his other restaurants are but the one in Naples is worth a visit. He also runs a branch on the seaside promenade in Naples, which is a good choice if you want an inexpensive meal with a great view.


50 Kalo


The newest restaurant on this list, it is run by Ciro Salvo who has a family background in the pizza trade but is famous for doing new style pizzas. He is a favourite with American critics, has opened in London and is regarded by many as the new face of the pizza business.


   I have not been and have heard mixed reports but if you are travelling to London, you will of course, see his well-reviewed restaurant there and I guess there will soon be more international branches.


Antonio Starita


One of the big names in the pizza business, famous for his margherita pizza, Starita has opened in other Italian cities and even in Bangkok. I imagine more branches are on their way.


   No Indian I have met knows as much about pizza as the restaurateur Varun Tuli whose life is a constant search for the best food and especially the best pizza.


"The Franco Pepe brand is at its strongest now and new restaurants run by him should pop up all over the world."

   Varun has strong views but pulls them off because he is so knowledgeable. In his reckoning, Starita in Naples does make the best margherita pizza in the city. (He concedes that Gino Sorbillo makes a better marinara).


   I never question Varun’s judgement on pizza so I am happy to pass on the recommendations but be warned: Varun is not as impressed by the Staritas in Bangkok and Milan.


Pepe In Grani


Franco Pepe is the pizza chef of the moment, according to the world’s press (but not necessarily the citizens of Naples). Franco’s restaurant is not in Naples. You have to drive for an hour-and-a-half to get there. But such is his global fame that hundreds of people make the journey. For many tourists it becomes a day-trip and a pilgrimage of sorts.


   I have never thought it worth my while to spend a full day of my vacation chasing a pizza so I can’t tell you how good the pizzas are. But don’t worry. You will end up eating one somewhere. The Franco Pepe brand is at its strongest now and new restaurants run by him should pop up all over the world.


   Next month, he will open on the island of Capri at the Jumeirah Grand Hotel Capri. And with the Jumeirah connection, I imagine that Franco’s brand will travel the world to the chain’s other properties.


La Notizia


In 2010, La Notizia became the first pizza place to ever make it to the Michelin Guide. (It did not get a star, but it was recommended). At that stage, Enzo Coccia, the high profile owner of the restaurant declared: “Pizza has gone from being a dirty street whore to la principessa glamour.”


   Fourteen years later, the restaurant is still in the Guide and Italians complain that if Michelin can give stars to street food stalls in Bangkok and Singapore, then why shouldn’t a pizza place also get a star?


   I guess it will happen soon. And more Naples pizzerias will open branches in other cities and countries.


Palazzo Petrucci Pizzeria


The Palazzo Petrucci is a fancy Michelin starred restaurant in Naples. It does not serve pizza, but it does run a pizzeria in the centre of the old town. The Petrucci Pizzeria does not feature in many of the articles. Americans write about pizza in Rome, but it is listed in the Michelin guide. The day I went, my wife and I were the only non-Italians there and the pizzas were excellent. But Varun Tuli sent me a photo of a pizza he ate there, and it was clearly under-cooked. So, I can only recommend it with caution.


Pizzeria Fratelli Salvo


A very local pizzeria. We went for Sunday lunch and found a place among the happy Italian families, the only Indians in the restaurant. The standard pizzas were good, but I was very taken with the specials which used local ingredients like Calabrian sausage and artisanal cheese to great advantage. They already have a couple of branches and I imagine that within the decade they will open in a city near you.




Yes, this is a parochial list, given that so many of you will never go to Naples. But remember these names. They are the stars of pizza and none of them is content with just running restaurants in Naples. Nearly all of them will open pizza restaurants around the world and you will get a chance to see if their pizzas live up to the hype.



Posted On: 28 May 2024 07:00 PM
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