New Haven may be the pizza capital of the United States, but Napoli is the pizza capital of the world. Nowhere else are there so many pizzeria's run by such passionate people as in this Southern Italian city. Though Napoli has been famous for all the wrong reasons in the past, the Neapolitan Pizza was invented here and went on to conquer the world.
Eating a freshly made Margherita pizza in Naples is on the bucket list of most intrepid travellers and foodies, and had been high on my wishlist for over a decade. I finally made the trip in October 2021 before returning for a month long stint in January 2022. During that time I visited over 20 pizzeria's, spoke to numerous pizzaiolos, asked their recommendations, tasted their food, and basically survived on a carb-only diet for 5 weeks.
Between researching heavily before I came, asking a multitude of friends who had been, watching youtube video's of strangers scarfing down pizza's and getting recommendations from bar staff or waiters at other restaurants I went to, I started to compile a rather lengthy list. I also realised that everyone had a different favourite spot, but a few of the same names cropped up more than once.
Below is a comprehensive list of the places I ate at, with a score out of ten. Longer, more in-depth reviews can be found in the "Review" page of my blog.
First off, this is only my opinion and everyone likes and looks for different things when eating. Some consider portion size over taste, others factor in price as a heavy vote-swayer. For me it all comes down to flavour in the end. I like my pizza thin, well done, not too saucy, not too cheesy with a light crust but a noticeable chew.
It astounded me when trying so many in a short space of time how minute details play such a role. A great tasting crust can be spoiled by a tart sauce, and likewise a fantastic rich tomato sauce can be smeared on a rather insipid dough. To get the balance right and cook them consistently is the keys to the kingdom.
All in all the quality was exceptional, and even the places lower on a scale are probably better than most pizza's outside of Naples.
P.s. The take-away pizza's were eaten immediately right outside, they did not travel and get soggy. During covid times you cannot always get a table at a restaurant.
From The Profane To The Sacred:
Port Alba - (t h r e e / t e n)
You know that saying "Old is Gold", well not in the case of the oldest pizzeria in town. This was a bonafide mess. Closer to a pizza-soup than actual pizza and just utterly uninspired and bland.
Trianon - (F o u r / T e N)
If you like your pizza's like an oiled up sunbather, then go here.
Piscopo - (F o u r / t e n)
Overly doughy and altogether boring.
La Centenaria - (f i V E / t e n)
The weight of the box betrayed the pizza before I even tasted it. Super thick, heavy dough, minimal air-pockets, decent flavours on the tomato sauce but that smokey "provola" flavour mixed in with the mozzarella. Not my favourite style at all.
This achingly charming haunt will fill your soul with as much good vibes and nostalgia as it can handle. However, on the flip side, the pizza was underdone for my liking and had a raw texture rather than a well proofed and baked chew. The sauce and cheese was also rather bland.
It was not a great pizza by any standards, but the atmosphere is intoxicating.
Gino e toto sorbillo - (s i x / t e n)
The throngs of people lining up to eat at this spot every day do so predominantly due to their guide books lying to them. This is NOT the best pizza in Napoli and I don't give a flying fuck who thinks it is.
Pizzeria Vesi - (s i x / t e n)
I have my suspicions that Vesi sneaks in some provola amongst their mozzarella because this pizza had a bit of a smokey/funky taste to it. Rather unexciting pizza overall, could have been cooked longer and the tangy sauce didn't really elevate it.
Pizzeria dell' Angelo - (S e v e n / T e N)
Parts of the dough were cooked well and other parts were underdone. The sauce was rather average and this is probably best overlooked on the path to pizza redemption.
Lombardi 1892 - (S E V E N / T E N)
This is as run-of-the-mill as you'll find in Naples. Nothing was amazing, nothing was terrible.
50 kalo - (s e v e n / t e n)
As far as locations go it's lovely to sit out on the huge terrace and watch life go by. Pizza-wise this was on point with flavours but the dough had a strange pancake texture/taste to it that left my mind trying to decifer what I was eating. It was good, don't get me wrong, but it somehow didn't taste like pizza dough i'm used to (maybe he puts sugar or honey in it).
Giuliano - (S E V E N / T E N)
Brazenly salty pizza. Flavourfull but overly saline and suffering the same pancake texture I'm not a fan of.
Olio & Pomodoro - (s e v e n / t e n)
Mr Heavy-handed on the tomato sauce. Straight in the middle kinda pizza.
Donna Sofia - (S E V E N / T E N)
All the ingredients are here to deliver a solid, solid pizza. However, the devil is in the details and the sauce was the super pureed type that has a strange texture and the dough was fine but not fabulous.
Dal Presidente - (S e v e n / T e n)
Another victim of the soft pancake-style dough, not a personal fave as you may have gathered. Good flavours but not my go-to.
Pizzeria Oliva - (s e v e n / t e n)
As a family member of the majestic Concettina ai Tre Santi clan, you'd expect this pizza to be mindblowing. Well, it was very good, but it doesn't live up to it's nearby extended bloodline. Decent crust, fairly standard sauce and cheese makes this a good pizza but worth walking the 200m and 30 minute wait time for the O.G.
da michele - (s e v e n / t e n)
Possibly the most famous pizzeria in Naples, and definitely not a bad choice if you only have a day to kill. However, for me the pizza was too wet with way too much sauce and oil making it instantly soggy. All the flavours were on point, but the execution was not to my liking.
400 gradi - (s e v e n / t E N)
Overly tangy sauce and far too much of it, dough a bit on the heavy side rather than the airy fluff, however, it definitely sits around the mid-table of the Naples pizza trophy cabinet.
Brandi - (E i g h t / T e n)
Claiming to have invented the Margherita Pizza is a bold statement in Naples, but at least they deliver a very acceptable version, all things considered.
La taverna di Totò - (e i g h t / T e n)
Smack bang between two behemoths of the Rione Sanita pizza ragers, this popular local pizzeria offers a quick, tasty pizza. Think less sophistication, more raw talent.
Imperatore 1906 - (e i g h t / t e n)
Favourite of many local foodies and pizza addicts, this snazzy joint cooks their pizzas well and even. My only gripe if I am to maintain my normal levels of pedantics is that the sauce is rather tart and slightly bitter.
Taverna Luciana - (E I G H T / t e N)
Delivering bucket loads of pizza to all the nearest local shops, this eatery/pizzeria churns out a pretty spot on Neapolitan pie packed with flavour.
di matteo - (e i g h t / t e n)
Almost everyone I asked in Napoli suggested Di Matteo as their favourite spot and I can see why. The small local place is unpretentious and cheap. As for the pizza, the dough was excellent and had a wonderful texture. The only down-side here was the tomato sauce (like Imperatore 1906) had a bitter, astringent flavour running through it.
Pellone - (E i g h t / T e N)
Dripping with charm, and pizza's the size of small motor vehicles, makes this a popular spot for lunch amongst the locals. Top shelf pizza at bottom shelf prices.
antico Borgo Ai vergini - (e i g h t / t e n)
Tucked away in a small corner far from the maddening crowds, this neighborhood pizza spot is a stones throw from Concettina ai Tre Santi, and whilst they don't match them for taste, they definitely are not far off.
starita - (e i g h t / T E N)
Another place the locals raved about, and with good reason. This is almost as perfect as you can hope to find for a pizza. The dough was excellent, the right chew, the right cook, the tomato sauce and cheese were sublime. It could honestly have been one of the best pizza's in the world if I hadn't stumbled upon the next few.
Palazzo Petrucci - (E I G.H T / T E N)
The Michelin Men have bestowed lavish praise on this up-scale pizzeria, but there wasn't a hint of snobbery to be found. Don't let the rather clean, sterile interiors fool you, the kitchen belts out superb pizzas. Perfect dough, good sauce + cheese and lots of fresh basil.
A' Quartrian' Pizzeria - (e i g h t / T e n)
One of the most enthusiastic pizza chef's I have ever met, and he lives up to the hype. Achingly thin crust, not too much sauce, perfect pillowy dough but not too heavy. Dynamite pizza in the Quartieri Spagnoli alleyways.
antica pizzeria del borgo - (E I G H T / t e n)
Tucked in a tiny corner near Universita Metro station is this family run pizzeria. It came highly recommended by TanzenVsPizza, and I glady battled the rain based on his word. The pizza here is not your typical light, fluffy, heavily risen Neapolitan style, but the crust is fantastically flavourful and the tomato sauce is probably the best I ate in Naples. This is one of those "If you had to choose one place to go back to" it would be my go-to.
AL 22 - (E I G H T / T E N)
I stayed awake for months in coiled terror deciding whether to place this above or below Antica del Borgo. In the end this is a Neapolitan Pizza list, and Al 22 treads the line closer to the textbook pizza you'd expect. Everything is monstrously good here, but for me the dough was a touch on the thick side.
concettina ai tre santi - (E I G H T / t e n)
Barely a 10 minute walk from Starita we decided to head here directly afterwards so we could really judge them based on flavours that were fresh in memory. Hope was at a low point walking upto the store and ordering, mostly because the pizza at Starita had been THAT GOOD. However, as the waiter summoned the plates and we took the first bite of this divine sacrifice, tears flooded into the eye sockets and forced me to believe in the divine.
Everything was almost perfect.
The supreme being:
da attilio - (N I N E / t e n)
Not to be outdone, Da Attilio was sampled on a lone day wandering around the Quartieri Spagnoli after a tip off by a waitress. I stood in line, ordered my pizza, smiled at the elderly chef, walked around the corner and broke into worship. This pizza, along with Concettina ai tre Santi is unbeatable. If there ever is a person anywhere on earth who can convince me that pizza can be better than this, I challenge you to fly me out and let me try it.
Deciding between this place and Concettina came down to the simple question: "If you could only return to one of them which would it be?". Da Attilio!
Reading up on the place later at my hotel I discovered that Da Attilio won the best pizzeria of 2021 voted by 50 of the best pizzaiolos in the world. The man in the photo holding the award was the very man who cooked my pizza earlier that day. Sometimes life is just goddamn perfect.
These recommendations are just personal opinions based on my palate, things change, chefs get fired or replaced, places open-close, relocate, so take it all with a pinch of MSG and discover your own gems too. But please do try a few of these, they have been researched exhaustively.
"Sadness is tempered by umami, grief by the motion of slurping, hope restored in the ladling of glistening, fatty broth"
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