400 gradi - napoli, italy
Rating: 7 / 10
One again my luck was out. I had trudged through 2 kilometers of intense rain to reach the fabled door to Pizza Fritta da Fernanda, but it was closed. Fifth time I tried. An old lady hung her head out the window of the house next door and motioned that she was sick and wouldn't open in the near future. I flipped on google maps, saved places, Napoli, and lo and behold 400 Gradi was two hundred meters away.
In my attempts to try as many pizzeria's as possible in my five week stay, this had definitely been on the list, but had not been in my plans today. However, eager to see what all the fuss was about I ran over, walking in to find a boisterous Napolitano smoking a cigarette and motioning me with his free hand. His gruff voice betrayed his habits, but I listened and ordered via a woman who appeared from the kitchen.
I ventured in to ask if I could photograph the oven, which I was allowed to do from behind the chain cordoning off the holy of holies. Returning to my chair the rain flooded the streets creating a cascade running down to Via Toledo. Napoli is a ghost-town in the rain. Why? Because the multitude of scooters that perfume the air with petrol and the sounds of chugging mosquito's lay dormant waiting for the shower to pass. This shower, however, was a stayer.
My pizza arrived steaming hot from the woodfire oven, intoxicating me with expectations. I allowed it to cool only such that it wouldn't burn a hole in my mouth, took my token photos, tried the crust first, then knife and fork at the ready, began to cut out mouth-sized portions and ate.
As is the case with so many pizza's in Naples, they are almost all great. Some are slightly under average and a skeleton few achieve almost God-like stature. This pizza was on the heavier side, something I noticed immediately when I lifted it to do the undercarriage shot. There was also a bit too much sauce for my liking, again, something very typical of many Neopolitan places, therefore not a sleight on the restaurant more a personal preference.
Ultimately the pizza ate heavy, and I struggled to get more than half way through it before I began to groan. I can see this being a place many of my friends would love since some of them want a more substantial meal for their Euro and consider portion size more sacred than taste (Yes, I do associate with heathens).
For my money, 400 Gradi is a solid accompaniment to the landscape of Quartieri Spagnoli, but knowing full well that 2 blocks one direction and 5 blocks the other lie two of my all-time favourite pizza restaurants (A''Quartrian & Da Attilio), I fear I will never be back unless I am once again caught in a downpour and forced to take shelter.
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.
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"Tastes are subjective, so take everything with a pinch of salty tears"