[FOOD STORY] Let's go to Napoli: Exploring History and Food

Photo Copyright © 2012 Mauro Clerici

Photo Copyright © 2012 Mauro Clerici

After an hour on the “Frecciarossa” (Italy’s express train), I was already savoring what would come next. The world famous Neapolitan pizza. I stepped out of the train on a Saturday morning in the middle of October to find a sort of beautiful chaos ruling the southern city of Naples. There were pedestrians challenging the cars and walking among them. Vehicles taking the traffic signals (if there were any) for granted; resulting in a disarray of cars, vespas, and taxis going in all (and unclear) directions. This was a day trip. a discovery trip, I wanted to rediscover pizza. 

A few days earlier I was in Rome and I had called my friend Tiziana to ask her if she would meet me in Naples for some pizza. Tiziana lives in Salerno (to the south of Naples), and there was no better friend to guide me through the not-so-orderly south of Italy. She very clearly told me to stay in "Napoli Centrale" (Napoli’s train station) and wait for her before even thinking of exploring on my own. Titi (as I call her), was among the many voices to tell me that Naples would be too chaotic for me to venture out on my own. Don't get me wrong, I loved the chaos, the anarchy; it was exhilarating and full of life. Who wants calm and order all the time? Not me - if I want that sort of treatment I will go to a spa. I mean, after all, this was an investigation in the name of pizza; which is basically the meaning of life. What better sort of food is worth getting lost over?

Photo Copyright © 2012 Mauro Clerici

Photo Copyright © 2012 Mauro Clerici

We zigzag the neapolitan streets, passing what seemed like an endless amount of leather shoe stores. We walk through small cobblestone alleyways that showcase other Naples delicacies, like the babá and the sfogliatella. I want to try it all; but I keep my eye on the price - just as I keep an empty stomach to prepare it for a feast. As I mentioned, like any self-respecting pizza lover should know: Naples is the birthplace of pizza. Naturally I had to pay this place a visit and try its pizza. Titi and I reach the Lungomare, the seafront promenade in the bay of Naples. A beautiful sight of Mount Vesuvius and the mediterranean sea. Along the Lungomare there is an alluring amount of restaurants and bars to enjoy an aperitivo, or a pizza, while enjoying the light sea breeze. We almost sit down for our meal, but we opt to go a bit deeper, a bit more local.

Photo Copyright © 2012 Mauro Clerici

Photo Copyright © 2012 Mauro Clerici

We find a small ristorante in the heart of Naples. A place called "Sorbillo” very much known to the native Neapolitan. This is the kind of place filled with locals and bustling with provincial vibes. A restaurant which mostly serves pizza. We are lucky that particular day because we don’t have to wait long to be seated. We are lead upstairs while we ogle the other costumers’ pizzas. We can’t wait, so the story goes... we both order the original pizza Margherita. A pizza originally made for royalty; for Queen Margherita de Savoy after her visit to the city in the 19th century. Let us take in the fact that the emblematic pizza Margharita was made for royalty; and before the pizza acquired its fame, it used to be a dish for the poor. This only goes to show the revolution of history and of food. How a dish can transform cultures and societies; and I don't even think its an overstatement.

Image Credit: Sorbillo Pizzeria by Elizabeth Otaola

Image Credit: Sorbillo Pizzeria by Elizabeth Otaola

The pizza Margherita (my favorite btw), is topped with San Marzano tomatoes which naturally grow in the volcanic plains south of Mount Vesuvio, with Mozzarella di Bufala di Campania which is made by the milk of water buffalos strictly raised in Lazio or Campania. The flour used in its purest form is what Italians refer to as "00." I can honestly say it is the best pizza I have ever tried; and I didn't even feel heavy afterwards… which is a first for eating a whole pizza.

Photo Copyright © 2012 Mauro Clerici

Photo Copyright © 2012 Mauro Clerici

Neapolitan pizza has to adhere to guidelines of authenticity! So you can imagine the purity and delight. The pizza is a success. Of course, the supposed "anarchy" of the city does not put a damper on my trip, nor should it. It gives a city character, life, oh and you will likely get a good story out of it. Trust me on this.

Elizabeth Otaola - A Venezuelan-born and a food addict, her interest in cuisine and nourishment goes hand in hand with her passion for cultures and traveling. Her biggest dream is exploring the world one restaurant at a time while learning about food and the effects it has on our lives. Elizabeth's personal blog is found at www.mynyclimbo.com