8 of the best pizzerias in Naples

Daniel Young
Michał Kubalczyk / Unsplash

The rustic look and ethereal texture of Neapolitan pizza is partly a function of its being cooked in a 900°F (482°C) wood-fired oven. The crust chars and blisters before the interior crumb has dried out and crisped. But the dough itself is built to be elastic and the crust baked from it pliable, reflecting pizza’s humble origins as a Naples street food. To be eaten on the go pizza had to be soft enough to be folded twice a portafoglio (like a wallet), gathering and protecting its tomato sauce in the folds.

“I was born selling pizzas on the banco [street counter],” says maestro pizzaiolo Enzo Coccia of Pizzaria La Notizia in Naples. “It has to be soft and light. There is no other way.”

In no particular order, here are eight of Naples' best.

50 KALÒ

The excitement and glamor permeating 50 Kalò reflects the freshly elevated status of pizza in Naples. A message taped to the banco (bench), as the baker’s work counter is known, tells its own story: ingredienti: acqua, farina, lievito, sale (ingredients: water, flour, yeast, salt). In an obscure dialect, “50” means “dough” and “kalò” means “good.” When he’s not pressed into posing for selfies, pizzaiolo Ciro Salvo can be seen at the banco, stretching the dough and pushing its invisible bubbles outward. He leaves the business of dressing and cooking pizzas to colleagues.

Originals like the Pizza dell’Alleanza, with mozzarella, Cipolla di Montoro (a sweet, fragrant onion), Lardo di Colonnata (cured fatback from Tuscan pigs), and Conciato Romano cheese, show off 50 Kalò’s sophistication and sourcing but, as Salvo concedes, they can dominate the dough. To best appreciate his incomparably light crust with deep pockets of air around the cornicione (rim or “cornice”), he recommends the simpler Margherita or Marinara.

Pizza at 50 Kalo (Luciano Furia)

What to order: Calzone; Margherita; Marinara; ’Nduja di Spilinga; Pizza dell’Alleanza; Pizza Fritta

Find it: Piazza Sannazaro 201B Mergellina, Naples Campania 80122 , Italy. Open 7 days a week. Credit cards accepted but not AMEX. Call on +39 08119204667 or visit 50kalo.it

PIZZARIA LA NOTIZIA, 53

Revered at home and around the world for his scholarly command of Neapolitan pizza, maestro pizzaiolo Enzo Coccia was trained on the streets of Naples. He worked at his family’s pizza stand near the central train station and retains the glee of a boy clasping a folded, paper-wrapped, hot pizza. He can lecture on dough hydration or rhapsodize over the stretchy, stringy mozzarella clinging to a pizza as a slice of it is pulled away. It is this delicious paradox that makes Pizzaria La Notizia remarkable: you can order an inventive pizza with stunning ingredients and know the recipe was conceived by a learned pizzaiolo or choose a classic Margherita and appreciate it was designed for, and by, a kid. The one Coccia constant is the peerless dough. A second location is at Via Caravaggio 94.

What to order: Ciropedia; Del Contadino; Margherita DOP; Marinara; Napoletana

Find it: Via Michelangelo da Caravaggio 53A Mergellina, Naples Campania 80126, Italy. Closed Monday. Credit cards accepted but not AMEX. Call +39 0817142155 or visit pizzarialanotizia.com

L’ANTICA PIZZERIA DA MICHELE

Da Michele is part pizza temple and part pizza time-machine. Free-form pizzas with more black spots than a Dalmatian are perfect in their rustic imperfection. The smells and sounds can transport you back to 1870, the year Salvatore Condurro received his license to make pizza, or to 1906, the year his son Michele opened the family’s first pizzeria.

The Da Michele mystique rests on the resolve of the succeeding generations of Condurros to limit their selection of food to two classic pizzas, the Marinara and the Margherita. They don’t count the Margherita Doppio Mozzarella, which has repercussions: this double-cheese Margherita arouses envy in those who only learn of its existence by spotting one on a nearby table.

Margherita at Da Michele (Daniel Young)

What to order: Margherita; Marinara

Find it: Via Cesare Sersale 1–3 Forcella , Naples Campania 80139 , Italy. Open seven days. Credit cards not accepted. Call +39 0815539204 or visit damichele.net

PIZZERIA GINO SORBILLO

When the city is Naples, the district is Spaccanapoli, the street is Via dei Tribunali, and the pizzeria and the pizzaiolo share the name Gino Sorbillo, you’ve hit the epicenter of the Neapolitan pizza earthquake shaking the world. Those invariably waiting outside for their first Sorbillo pizza may be in for a few surprises: first, when Sorbillo is in the kitchen he is not grinning, as he always seems to be on Italian television or Facebook. He works with intensity, speed, and purpose. Second, this is a paper-cup establishment with low prices, its fame notwithstanding. Lastly, the beautifully balanced Margherita ceases to be the customary red, white, and green: when the red sea of tomato commingles with the clustered white dots of molten mozzarella a pink perfection is achieved.

Pizza at the ready at Gino Sorbillo (Luciano Furia)

What to order: Bufalina; Margherita; Margherita Gialla; Marinara; Napoletana; ’Nduja

Find it: Via dei Tribunali 32 San Lorenzo, Naples Campania 80138, Italy. Open 7 days a week. Credit cards accepted. Call on +39 081446643 or visit sorbillo.it .

DA ATTILIO

The old-school warmth of this pizzeria is preserved by Maria Francesca Mariniello, the daughter-in-law of the Attilio Bachetti who opened it and the mother of the Attilio Bachetti who runs it now. Every inch of wall space is covered with celebrity photos, press clippings, and napkin doodles preserved in picture frames. The homespun authenticity hasn’t made Da Attilio famous but it does keep it on the shortlists of some very respected pizza people. The airy crusts Attilio Bachetti the younger tailors to each pizza are superbly thin and digestible, none more so than the one supporting the pizza cosacca, a cross between a Marinara and a Margherita with mozzarella out and grated cheese in. The sun-shaped Carnevale pizza, the eight points around its cornicione filled with ricotta, is a Da Attilio trademark and a Naples landmark.

Feel the heat at Da Attilio (Luciano Furia)

What to order: Broccoli Raab and Sausage; Carnevale; Endive; Sole nel Piatto

Find it: Via Pignasecca 17 Pignasecca, Naples Campania 80134, Italy. Closed Sunday. Credit cards accepted but not AMEX. Call +39 0815520479 or visit facebook.com/pizzeriadaattilio/

PIZZERIA FRATELLI SALVO

To serve truly great Neapolitan pizza to 200 people at a time brothers Francesco and Salvatore Salvo procure the best information and ingredients available. When the third-generation pizzaioli are not analyzing how flour, yeast, temperature, and maybe 20 other variables affect the dough, they’re nurturing lasting relationships with the best suppliers. But sometimes folklore does play a role, too.

According to legend, the cosacca pizza (cossack’s pizza) was created some 180 years ago to honor the visit of Tsar Nicholas I to the Kingdom of Naples. At Pizzeria Salvo, the exquisitely simple cosacca is distinguished by the nobility of Corbarì cherry tomatoes from I Sapori di Corbara, Pecorino cheese from the Cooperativa Agricola Pecorino Bagnolese, and organic extra virgin olive oil from Colline Salernitane delle San Salvatore.

Simple is best at Fratelli Salvo (Luciano Furia)

What to order: Cosacca; Margherita del Vesuvio; Marinara; Montanara Classica; Montanara alla Genovese; ’Nduja and Verzin Cheese; Papacelle e Conciato; Ripieno Fritto

Find it: Largo Arso 10–16 San Giorgio a Cremano, Naples Campania 80046, Italy. Closed Sunday. Credit cards accepted. Call on +39 081275306 or visit salvopizzaioli.it

STARITA

The legend of Starita will be forever linked with two idols: Sophia Loren, who portrayed a pizzaiola selling fried pizza in the 1954 film classic The Gold of Naples, and Antonio Starita, the third-generation pizzaiolo venerated by the many he’s mentored, inspired, or fed. Don Antonio’s signature pizza is the Montanara Starita, a street food classic made by deep-frying a small disk of dough, topping it with tomato, smoked scamorza cheese, Pecorino Romano cheese, and fresh basil and finishing it off in the oven. His Porta a Porta, a rectangular pizza pouch stuffed with ricotta cheese, broccoli raab, cherry tomatoes, and mozzarella di bufala, is baked both on the Via Materdei, a Naples street long synonymous with Loren and Starita, and at Don Antonio by Starita, the New York outpost he opened with protégé Roberto Caporuscio.

What to order: Angioletti; Diavola; Margherita; Marinara; Montanara

Find it: Via Materdei 27–28 Materdei, Naples Campania 80136, Italy. Closed Sunday morning. Credit cards accepted. Call on +39 0815441485 or visit pizzeriestarita.it

PIZZERIA DI MATTEO

At Di Matteo, on the Via dei Tribunali in the old historic center of Naples, the dining rooms are upstairs but the action is on the street. Pizza fritta (fried pizza) and pizza a portafoglia (folded “wallet” style) are sold from the takeout counter, befitting a pizzeria that doubles as a friggatoria (fried-food shop). The baked pizzas are prepared in rapid succession by the two pizzaioli who shape them and a third who works the turquoise-tiled, wood-fired oven. The fried pizzas are often assembled by Salvatore Di Matteo himself. He seals cheese, tomato, ham, and other fillings between two flattened rounds of pizza dough and lowers the package into a vat of hot oil. Out comes pizza fritta ripieno (fried stuffed pizza)—a fluffy, delicately crisp saucer of golden goodness.

The queues at Di Matteo (Luciano Furia)

What to order: Bufalina DOP; Pizza Fritta

Find it: Via dei Tribunali 94 San Lorenzo , Naples Campania 80139 , Italy. Open 7 days a week. Credit cards accepted. Call on +39 081455262 or pizzeriadimatteo.com

Where to Eat Pizza by Daniel Young is published by Phaidon at £16.95. Buy it here