Monday, April 2, 2012

Perfect Pizza in Buzzing Naples Italy

The bustling southern Italian city of Naples may at first seem chaotic, but visitors quickly fall  under the spell of this underappreciated gem and its rich artistic heritage. Naples is quintessential  Mediterranean Italy, and as a region it’s famous for its delicious tomatoes and outstanding  mozzarella cheese, so it’s not surprising that it’s also the undisputed “home of the pizza.”    A sprawling city of dramatic contrasts,  Naples displays its regal past in the shape  of impressive castles and magnificent  palaces erected by Spanish and Bourbon  rulers from the 16th to the 19th centuries. But the city is  best known for a more ancient event – the eruption of  Vesuvius in AD 79. Still visible across the waters of the  Bay of Naples, the volcano submerged the neighboring  Roman city of Pompeii in yards of ash and debris,  wiping out its entire population.

Amazingly, the narrow streets of the historic heart  of modern-day Naples still correspond to an ancient  Greek-Roman grid. In this maze, life spills out into  the public domain – people call to each other from  windows, scooters zoom along doing their best to dodge  pedestrians, and minuscule shops, neighborhood  churches, and cafés juggle for precious space. Just as  in centuries past, a lot of eating takes place outside,  with food bought from open-air stands and glassfronted  kiosks displaying tempting wares. The vast  array of “fast” street food includes sweet and savory  treats, from sugary doughnuts and crispy chunks of  potato to fried arancini rice balls stuffed with minced  meat. There’s even fried wrap-over pizza, though this  oil-drenched snack is not to everyone’s liking.
 Originally fare for the poor, pizza has long been the  flagship of Italian cuisine across the world. There are  countless fanciful international toppings, but the most  famous pizza of all is the classic Margherita. Invented  by Neapolitan chef Raffaello Esposito in 1889 to honor  a visiting Italian queen and the recently unified nation,  it features the colors of the nation’s flag: white (cheese),  red (locally grown San Marzano tomatoes), and green  (basil). Today, pizza marinara is a close favorite, its  anchovies jostling for attention among black olives,  garlic, and sometimes capers.  
Without a doubt, the best place to enjoy a pizza is  at one of the numerous family-run pizzerias in Naples,  which fill the air with an irresistible fragrance of  sizzling mozzarella and fresh San Marzano tomatoes  bubbling under a drizzle of Campania olive oil and a  sprinkling of native oregano. Whatever the topping,  there is complete agreement on how the pizza is to be  consumed – immediately and on the spot.
 What Else to Eat    

Naples is also famous for its rich cakes  and heavenly desserts, and the city has a  mouthwatering choice of pasticceria, where  freshly baked sweet delights are showcased  in glass-topped counters. Sfogliatelle are  shell-shaped, layered pastries flavored with  vanilla and filled with a mixture of delicate ricotta  cheese and morsels of candied orange. The  epitome of sugar heaven is a babà al rhum, a  mushroom-shaped sponge cake drenched in  rum syrup and smothered in whipped cream.  Probably introduced to Naples by the French  cooks at court, it was created by an 18th-century  Polish king, who named it after Ali Baba and the  Forty Thieves, stories about whom he adored.  Another special treat is a slice of pastiera  napoletana, a celebratory Easter pie baked with  ricotta cheese, candied citrus fruits, and spices.    
The Best Places to Eat Pizza   
 Antica Pizzeria Da Michele  
  The bare marble table tops and stark tiled walls  don’t put off the constant stream of diners who  flock to this highly popular and long-standing  Neapolitan establishment. Neither do the long  lines. Everyone knows it’s well worth the wait,  and there’s a mouthwatering aroma to keep  you company in the street. When your number  is called, you’re given a table amid jovial  groups of families and friends. The choice  of liquid refreshment is limited to soft drinks,  water, or beer, all served in plastic cups. And  ordering your meal doesn’t take long either,  as it’s a simple choice between just two pizzas:  the Marinara or the Margherita. Both are spread  with passato (puréed) San Marzano tomatoes  from the nearby Sarno Valley and topped with a  fresh, smooth fior di latte cow’s milk mozzarella  from Agerola on the Amalfi coast. The huge, soft  pizzas are served steaming straight from the  oven, for delicious, immediate consumption.  Via Cesare Sersale, Naples; open 10 AM–11 PM  Mon–Sat;    
Also in Naples    
Antica Pizzeria de Borgo Orefici (+39 81 552  0996; moderate) is a simple, family-run  establishment tucked away down a narrow  street that was once the heart of the goldsmiths’  district. It has many faithful diners and the place  can get busy. Toppings are generous and pizzas  include miseria e nobiltà: a catch-all pizza that’s  half marinara and half Margherita.    
Also in Italy   
 Muro Frari (;  moderate) at San Polo 2604 in Venice is a  modern restaurant offering gourmet pizzas with  all manner of treats, such as porcini mushrooms,  fresh buffalo mozzarella, and smoked swordfish  and tuna. Don’t miss the delicious apéritifs with  seasonal fresh fruit and sparkling Prosecco,  which can be enjoyed outside in summer.
 Around the World  
  Long lines form outside Grimaldi’s Pizzeria  (; inexpensive) at the  foot of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York.  Regulars rub shoulders with celebrities among  the trademark red-and-white check tablecloths.  It’s the coal-brick oven here that gives the  pizzas their sought-after crisp crust and smoky  flavor. A long list of toppings allows you to  invent your very own pizza with your favorite  flavors. In the UK, Santoré (www.; inexpensive) in  London serves outstandingly good, authentic  Neapolitan pizzas in lively Exmouth Market.  

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