Naples: Da Michele Pizzeria and Scaturchio Pasticceria – food as art
“Ca se rispetta ‘a regola facenno ‘a vera pizza, chella ch’è nata a Napule quase cent’anne fa. Chesta ricetta antica se chiama Margarita, ca quanno è fatta a arte po ghì nant’ a nu re. Perciò, nun ‘e cercate sti pizze complicate ca fanno male ‘a sacca e ‘o stomaco patì”
Set in a frame on the wall of the most famous and busiest pizzeria in Napoli, Antica Pizzeria da Michele or, as it is more commonly known, Da Michele, are the last few verses of this nursery rhyme entitled “‘A Margarita”, in the local Neapolitan dialect. It is an ode to margherita pizza done the old-fashioned way and reflects the pizzeria’s views on the importance of following tradition in making Naples’ signature dish.
The Condurro family founded Da Michele Pizzeria in 1870, and are still running it today. They are proud of the locale’s 150 years of history. The founder, Michele Condurro, learned the secrets of making great pizza in his small town of Torre Annunziata, perfecting the recipe. The secret is in the rising of the dough: it must be soft, elastic, puffy, and bounce back when prodded with a finger. He also learned how to cook the pizza properly, in a wood-fired stove with a bit of black smoke to add color to the crust. In the true Neapolitan tradition, and as noted in the nursery rhyme ‘A Margarita, there are no stuffed or trendy pizzas here. In fact, you can only choose between two types, margherita or marinara, in three different sizes: small, medium and large. The ingredients are simple: flour, tomato, mozzarella, basil, oregano, garlic, olive oil and salt.
Da Michele is a landmark for locals and a required stop for tourists. In fact, it is so busy that, at both lunch and dinner, there is a long queue of customers spilling out onto Via Cesare Sersale, which is in the city center, only a few hundred meters from the train station. The restaurant is small and rustic. There are no individual tables, but instead long slabs of marble serve as communal tables for the customers, who eat together, elbow to elbow. It is so crowded that diners must take a number in order to be served.
This historic pizzeria, a standard-bearer of Neapolitan cuisine, has grown famous far beyond national borders, having received glowing reviews from magazines and newspapers across the globe, from Le Monde to the New York Times. It is practically a shrine and one of the most famous symbols of the Made in Italy brand, not only for the pizza itself but also for the unique ambiance. In fact, it is not unusual to see locals correct inexperienced tourists who eat with a knife and fork. Here, you must eat the pizza with your hands only, folding it in half, chomping the rubbery mozzarella and getting tomato sauce all over your chin.
However, Neapolitan cuisine extends far beyond classic pizza, and includes an extensive and elaborate tradition of sweets and desserts, with two examples standing out: sfogliatella and babà. There is no better place to try them than Scaturchio Pasticceria, in Piazza San Domenico, at the intersection of Via Spaccanapoli. It is an historic sweet shop, opened in this location in 1905 by Giovanni Scaturchio, a native of Calabria. The original shop has expanded over time, and the kitchens moved to a larger space in the 1970s, but the shop in the center of Naples remains the retail site and offers a fanciful and extravagant selection, based on local traditions.
Babà is prepared in various ways. The classic method, in which it is soaked in a syrup made of white rum, or with custard, whipped cream, strawberries or other fruit. Babà can be eaten at any time, as it goes well with any occasion and taste and always hits the spot. Sfogliatella, a shortcrust pastry filled with semolina, ricotta cheese and candied fruits, must be served hot and covered with confectioners’ sugar, and it too must be eaten with your hands, so you can lick every last delicious crumb from your fingers, and should be accompanied by ‘na tazzulella ‘e cafè, a nice cup of coffee.Antica Pizzeria da Michele Via Cesare Sersale, 1-3, Naples +39 081 553 9204 Pasticceria Giovanni Scaturchio Piazza San Domenico Maggiore, 19, Naples +39 081 551 7031