Two people, my colleague and the Napoli owner of the Italian restaurant in Barcelona, said you MUST eat pizza at the oldest pizza shop in Naples, L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele. I had to go to experience a real Napoli pizza in all its glory. With the assistance of Google Maps, I eventually found the pizza shop after two prior failed attempts. The shop is somewhat hidden on the street save for the groups of people standing outside waiting for their number to be called. The masses are what made me look and see the small shop sign.
After my Bike Napoli tour, I earned the pizza! I was hungry and tired and this was my last day in Naples so I had to have this pizza (you see the buildup don’t you, the anticipation and the expectation). The pizza shop’s website says that “the historic pizzeria has often been described by experts and journalists as “the Sacred Temple of Pizza””. Hmmm…
My Pizza Resume
Let me preface this before I tell you more that I used to work for Pizza Hut (not quite the fancy pizza I know) in college and an Italian restaurant – I’ve made dough, stretched dough, made pizzas, strombolis and a host of combinations. I’ve cooked pizzas and tested dough for the right consistency. I think I have a bit of insight into pizza. I’ve also been fortunate in New York and Philadelphia to have amazing pizzas from coal ovens, brick ovens, regular ovens, etc. The U.S. pizza production is pretty good but how would true Italian pizza be? Surely the Italian version must be spectacular?
Skipping the Line Outside of L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele
As I queried the crowd as to where to put my name in they pointed to the older man at the cash register. I approached him and said “uno” expecting to get my number to wait in the line (currently forty minutes) and he yelled at a waiter and pointed to an empty seat and with that I was seated to the ire of all the folks looking in from outside. I was facing them trying not to meet their eyes. Now this empty seat was at a table with other people – the most common form of sharing. I lucked out that this threesome (recent college grads) was from Southern California.
The Pizza Experience at L’Antica da Michele
There are no menus, just a few framed printouts on the wall with your food and drink options. There are two choices for pizza – Margherita (with cheese) or Marinara (without cheese). Drinks are bottled water, Coke or Beer – it’s that simple. The prices are simple too with the Margherita only €4. Don’t whip out your Visa just yet as this is a cash only place.
My table mate’s pizzas were delivered while I was waiting to order (in true Italian fashion the waiters eventually get to you despite all those waiting to turn the tables over). They ordered a Marinara and two Margheritas with extra cheese. The pizzas looked amazing especially having spent three hours on a bike and an hour walking to find this place. They each said “Amazing” so I was optimistic about my order.
My Margherita Pizza
My pizza came and looked a bit different that theirs as I didn’t order extra cheese. I sliced my pie in half and then with my fork and knife sectioned out a piece to bite into. I wasn’t thrilled. The buildup to this amazing experience left me with a case of “it’s ok”. The crust was good, the middle a bit soggy and undercooked and I wanted to love it, I wanted to say it was worth the added time and frustration to find it, but for me it wasn’t. That doesn’t mean I didn’t keep trying to find the enjoyment of the experience as I looked around at tables full of people enjoying their pizzas, their conversations and watching (or filming) the pizza ovens and waiters.
Should You Go to L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele?
I’m not a food blogger who has tried it all but my friends 2 Food Trippers have (read their Naples Pizza Guide), I’m just one person who didn’t rank it the #1 pizza of my lifetime (sadly I’ve eaten too much pizza in my lifetime). The experience of waiting with other folks, seeing the old oven and the preparation of the pizzas as well as the excitement of it all adds to the experience. It’s like the Philly cheesesteak debate “Pat or Geno’s”, I say “go to Jim’s on South Street” but people usually try at least one of the shops to say they did and then go elsewhere to compare. That’s what I did in Naples at L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele.