Thursday, October 21, 2010

da Michele

Don't you love when chance brings something amazing. Today in the late morning, I ventured out to find a bike shop to pump up my tires to a high pressure (hand-held pumps don't suffice) and I ended up biking around the old-town of Naples. As I took a little break, I looked up, and lo and behold... da Michele! and there was no line. It was noon. The stars had aligned.
Again, the place was mundane looking... no large signage, bright lights, or anything informing you that this was one of the best pizzerias in the world... although there was an advertisement for Eat, Pray, Love outside on a 8X11 piece of paper.

pizzicletta meets da Michele
I took a quick photo of my bike parked outside, locked it to itself, and set it next to the door (think PnT would like that one?). There was a seat just at the exit of the restaurant so it was easy for me to keep an eye on the bike (it wasn't locked to a pole or anything, just the front wheel). In fact, the guys working the floor at the restaurant looked out for it too.

Ordering was easy... either margherita, marinara, or also margherita with extra cheese. I chose the margherita and a aqcua gassata. For the next 15 minutes, I enjoyed watching the pizzaioli work their magic. There were about 4 guys back there. One forming dough into disks, one topping, and two working the peels. They were very efficient, never getting in each others way, and making jokes along the way. Looked like fun.

My pie arrived and I immediately shifted my focus. Again, the pie was about 14" in diameter... not perfectly round, but round for the most part. It had a nice leopard-spot char around the cornicione, dabbles of mozz, and a couple basil leaves. I think most of the folks who have had my pizza would want more cheese and basil. I'd like to say I am a traditionalist, and I believe I am very much a diehard traditionalist when it comes to dough, but perhaps my toppings are not as simple as true Neapolitans. Recall, they only serve TWO, that's right, TWO kinds of pizza here. So, basically, all da Michele's food costs are for 1) flour, 2) salt, 3) tomato, 4) mozzarella, 5) basil and 6) olive oil. I think anyone in the restaurant business would appreciate the beauty of this simplicity. BTW, I forgot to mention that da Michele has been open since 1870 with the same menu and that they believe in using "no junk" in the "sacred temple of pizza." Recall folks, they are talking about pizza here, although it may sound like a commitment to a higher calling (which I suppose it is).
Now back to the pizza. As per usual in this part of the world, it was served uncut and with a knife and fork. I had the couple seating with me take a photo, and then dug in (I think I remembered to say "grazie" I'm not sure... pardon my manners, I was focused). The crust was so tender that the standard butter knife I was given felt like a ginsu cutting through hot butter. The flavor and texture of the crust was also excellent. I love when you eat char but it doesn't taste burnt because the leopard-print spots are so miniscually thin that you just get a bit of the burnt flavor. That's always a goal of mine and when you can say it looks burnt but tastes amazing it kind-of blows people away. da Michele had that type of char. Va bene!
The cheese stood out more so than other mozz I've had, very creamy and with more flavor... no rubbery feel at all. As I've described good neapolitan pizza before, this one was like "fresh ingredients on good bread." The flavor of the cheese, tomato (not nearly as sweet as last night), and olive oil was so good and fresh, it seemed to just melt in my mouth.
and the total for this fabulous meal... € 4.5. Never have I found a better place to be on a budget and a quest for good food.
Its hard to believe, but I think I'll be going to Pizzeria Sorbillo tonight. The rumor is that that da Michele and Sorbillo duel it out for the best pies in Naples... and therefore, probably some of the best pizza in the world. Gotta say I feel like a king having both in one day.
And just for fun, here is the quote out of Eat, Pray, Love about da Michele:
So Sofie and I have come to Pizzeria da Michele, and these pies we have just ordered — one for each of us — are making us lose our minds. I love my pizza so much, in fact, that I have come to believe in my delirium that my pizza might actually love me, in return. I am having a relationship with this pizza, almost an affair. Meanwhile, Sofie is practically in tears over hers, she's having a metaphysical crisis about it, she's begging me, "Why do they even bother trying to make pizza in Stockholm? Why did we even bother eating food at all in Stockholm?"


  1. Caleb, we're LOVING your posts!! Kinda envious too!

  2. Love this post Caleb! and the reference to E,P,L!!!

  3. Making me want a pie from Pizzacleta now...

  4. I really like this post. I was at Keste's in NY on Saturday. I wonder how da Michele compares to Keste's. I also make many kinds of pizzas and try to learn what I can about pizza making. You really have a nice blog. :)