I don’t know what I was expecting in Naples, but Naples wasn’t it. The city is vibrant and teeming with people. Everyone has a small dog, and day and night, you see families strolling the streets together, window shopping (or just plain ole shopping), eating, drinking, and having that all important coffee. There are hills in Naples — steep ones! And it’s a city on the sea! And looming in the distance, there’s a VOLCANO! But most importantly, there is pizza and lots and lots of it. Excellent, excellent pizza, created carefully and with love by pizzaiolos who are often not the first person in their generation to knead the dough and make the sauce. I sort of fell in love — with the pizza AND Naples. And uh, the handsome pizzaiolos.
How did I find myself in Naples? I knew that Daniel Young, the former food critic of the New York Daily News, runs an occasional pizza tour to Naples. I also vaguely knew that he had written a book about pizza called, simply, Where to Eat Pizza. (I know now that this book is the BIBLE of pizza and both Daniel and his book are revered in pizza circles everywhere.) During a brief respite from work, I saw that Daniel had a few spaces free on an upcoming tour and before you know it, I had booked a place and my flight and I was GOING. Done!
I met up with the Daniel and the rest of the group at the Grand Hotel Parker’s, a grande dame of a hotel, towering on a hill above Naples and with a lovely terrace overlooking the sea. The hotel is set to be renovated soon, but I hope they don’t change the marble floors in the public spaces or the crystal chandeliers in the hotel rooms because hotels like this don’t exist anymore.
We taxied over to our first stop, La Notizia, run by the intensely intense Enzo Coccia, who talked us through the history of pizza and Naples, fed us what felt like 20 pizzas, and then put us to work kneading dough. Kneading dough is not easy, trust me. It requires a tremendous amount of upper body strength and forearm power. Let’s just say I quickly decided that I enjoy eating pizza more than making it myself, but it gave me a new appreciation for pizzaiolos everywhere.
I liked the vibe at La Notizia. It felt like a neighborhood restaurant that would be happy to see you, whenever you walked through the door. This was confirmed by one of our taxi drivers, who explained that he often makes a special trip to La Notizia, just to eat the pizza.
Later that evening, once we had digested a bit, we headed over to 50 Kalo, a pizza joint with a more modern interior design scheme — it was almost as if they were trying to say “This is not a pizza joint.” Even though it is. Here we tried the standard Naples pizza configurations and then a few more creative options. (50 Kalo probably served us the most creative options of our tour, but this may have been more about how they treated our group than the menus at any of the places.)
The restaurant was empty when we entered at 7 pm but there was a queue out the door by the time we left — a queue of all generations, a testament to the popularity of pizza AND 50 Kalo. 50 Kalo’s owner and pizzaiolo, the movie star handsome Ciro Salvo is, well, movie star handsome and a third generation pizzaiolo. Let’s just say that he can make me pizza anytime.
I probably ate more pizza this day than I have in the past three year combined — always watching the carbs, my friends — but I didn’t feel that heavy fullness that I get from a New York pizza or (certainly) a Chicago pizza. Pizza in Naples is lighter and airier. The goal seems to be “How can we make this crust as thin as possible, but still hold all this cheese and sauce?” This is the type of goal that we all should have! I have since been applying this mentality to my personal and professional life…a la…”How can I make as much money as possible, but work as little as possible?” I’ll keep you posted on how that’s going.
I slipped into bed that evening completely sated and completely copacetic with Naples and pizza and life in general. There really is no better way to spend a day than by eating pizza ALL DAY. You should try it some time. It’s good for you.
Stay tuned for even more pizza on Day 2, along with some other tips on Naples restaurants and things to do and see.