L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele: a (brief) pizza lover’s tour of Napoli

Now the feasting of Christmas is over and the accompanying fasting is soon to begin, I find myself reclined in the same gluttonous comfort that has debilitated me before. Such a feeling transports me from Christmas time in my Southwestern home back to my Italian travels from summers before. Where today roasted turkey sits firmly in my stomach, previously, it was Neapolitan pizza that sent me into this loll.

Naples, as im sure you are aware, is well renowned for its expertise in pizza. Thinking myself somewhat of a connoisseur, I was determined to do my research and sample the top pizzerias within the city according to the various forum websites out there. Little did I know what lay in store for me.

Of course, I hadn’t come to Naples simply because of my love of pizza. I’m also a current Classics student and so the rich variety of history and artwork throughout the city was vastly appealing. It just happened to work out fantastically well that next to the majority of these landmarks stood a highly-rated pizzeria just waiting to be sampled. When in Rome…well, Naples.

The first of these I came across was en route to one of these famous tourist attractions. Pizzeria Aiello, positioned right next to the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli (the Naples National Archaeological Museum to the non-Italian speaker), gave me a slice of what to be expected from the city- pardon the pun.

Small eateries such as this are by no means a rarity in Naples. As well as Aiello, I stumbled across a few that were of the more innovative sort- Pizzeria Giuliano in particular stands out due to its English inspired pizza, aptly named ‘Pub’, that was topped off with the adventurous sausages and chips. It may sound a little odd but trust me, it’s worth a try. Alongside this they also offered an equally adventurous Italian counterpart by creating their ‘Lasagne’ pizza. Two types of pizza that shouldn’t really work and yet somehow Giuliano managed to pull it off.

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The busy dinner service at da Michele. Photo: Flickr. yashima. 22/06/11

Though I had tried what seemed like an endless amount of pizzerias in a very limited amount of time, there is one that will always stay with me. ‘L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele’ was quite simply, outstanding. Much like the other pizzerias, da Michele is sandwiched between bustling streets littered with landmarks and shops alike. It’s been in this prominent little location on the Via Cesare Sersale since 1930 and it’s not hard to see why. All I had to do was walk ten minutes in pretty much a straight line towards the city centre from the Garibaldi train station and there it was. Every review I had read showered it with praise, making me think that it’s reputation and central position meant it was going to be busy. Very busy. By the time I’d turned up for my first taste it was packed out the door with punters. The only thing i could do was wait…and wait…and wait.

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My order number at da Michele.

They had a very down to earth system when it came to the queue. A simple green slip of paper with a number on it reminiscent of a raffle ticket acted as our reservation guarantee. Mine was ‘72’ and because I didn’t know the first number they had served when I arrived, I wasn’t exactly filled with confidence. When I was finally called to a table, I was absolutely buzzing. 

It seemed to be the sheer simplicity of the place that was its greatest attraction to me. Much like another hidden gem of mine, the Pho Binh restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City, I was greeted with only two options upon the menu, Pizza Marinara or Pizza Margherita, with the option of doubling the amount of Margherita used. This could be rephrased in an English sense as ‘no cheese, cheese, or lots of cheese?’. The recipe and method has little changed since the restaurants beginning, but why ruin a winning formula? As there were four of us dining we decided to ask for a combination of the three, ordering a Marinara, two Margheritas and a double Margherita.

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The Margherita at da Michele. Photo: Flickr. Sami Keinänen. 1/11/07

We could see directly from our table the kneading and flipping of the dough and the crafting of the pizzas before they were placed in the clay oven. A matter of minutes later and we were in play. It’s hard to describe exactly how good these pizzas were. Exceptional? Superb? Fantastic? I suppose any one of these will do.

We took a very brief break from our devouring of these pizzas to look up and see that on the wall was a face we all recognised. Julia Roberts, who famously ate here in the travel memoir turned film Eat Pray Love, looked down upon the diners from a photo upon the wall commemorating this. It seemed we were in good company when it came to appreciating the pizza here.

The whole experience- authentic diner and pizza combined- more than justified the number of awards upon the sticker filled door we passed on our way into the pizzeria. Having that many consecutive TripAdvisor awards is no coincidence. da Michele is a place that I will always look to return to whenever I’m back in Naples. It’s a pizza lovers paradise that i cannot recommend enough. 

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