I used to be one of the few people in the world who loathed pizza. Whatever pizza I tried, the taste just didn’t attract me and only caused a stomach ache. I learned to hate oregano since early age because I associated it with the stench of a pizzeria, and that shit was always sprinkled everywhere. But then came the day when I tried the Neapolitan pizza for the first time, and with the angles singing hallelujah upon entering a whole new world, Pizza Margherita became one of my favourite things to eat in Naples.
This weekend we visited one of the most popular pizzerias in Naples. Sorbillo is located at the Historic centre of Naples, centro storico, an area dominated by densely built old flats, churches, Roman ruins and tons of history. The narrow streets are filled with noisy locals and lost tourists, small boutiques, booths for handicrafts, cafés and restaurants. The very first pizza was born on this area in the 18th century.
The competition between pizzerias is so high in Naples that a pizza never costs more than a few euros, no matter where you go. Therefore Pizza Margherita was a mere 3,30€ even at this award-winning restaurant which has been visited by many celebrities, politicians and other famous people over the years.
There is always a queue outside Sorbillo, and probably due to the unpredictable, always running late -kind of nature of Italian people, they don’t take reservations by phone. Instead, you’ve got to go there in person, make a reservation at the door and wait for your name to be called from the speakers! This wait varies from 15 minutes to 1,5 hours. We had a lovely pouring rain keeping us company while waiting outside the restaurant, but our feelings turned into joy when we were called in and the steaming hot pizzas were slammed on the table within 4 minutes after our order!
A real pizzeria focuses on delicious food and effectiveness, not on customer service. Plastic cups and basic napkins will do, and the cutlery is tossed on the table upon arrival. One should never have wine with a pizza; the right way to go is beer or soft drinks. Small bottle on the table is an old Italian soft drink called Chin8 Neri. So retro!
Sorbillo has 2 floors and offers an authentic Italian experience with noisy customers and traditional Italian music playing on the background.
To understand why pizza excels in Naples and is so different everywhere else, we must go back on the ingredients list and in the history of pizza. Neapolitan pizza is ridiculously good because of the sweet tomato sauce they use, genuine Mozzarella di Bufala and the good quality of dough ingredients. Everything is local made and often organic. Pizza Margherita doesn’t contain much else than what I just listed above – one of the secrets of making a good pizza is keeping it simple. Asking a pizza with pineapple or pepperoni (which is actually American for something that resembles a salami) in a Neapolitan restaurant will only guarantee a contemptuous glance from the pizza master, pizzaiolo.
What comes to the history: due to the much divided nature of Italy as a country until recent decades, many traditions often remained local and so did the mastery of pizza making; pizza was not much known outside Naples until the 1940s.
It took its first steps outside Naples at the beginning of the 20th century, when some poor Italian workers immigrated to the US, bringing the Italian way of cooking with them. Only that their cooking represented the poor mans kitchen, la cucina povera – the high quality of ingredients so crucial for the real Neapolitan cuisine was therefore left behind when pizza spread in the US.
The funny thing is that instead of spreading to the other regions straight from Naples, pizza took a world tour and arrived to other Italian cities only after invading the US! In fact, pizzerias were not a common sight in Rome until the 1970s. Something to think about next time you are ordering food in an Italian restaurant! My advice is to always stick to the local cuisine and you won’t be disappointed.
I hope this post gave everyone a little bit of inspiration to travel to Naples and try the best pizza in the world.
Sorbillo pizzeria address: Via dei Tribunali, 38 – 80134 Napoli Italy