Da Michele Pizzeria In Naples: Is This Really The World’s Best Pizza?

da michele pizzeria in naplesThere are tens, if not hundreds of thousands of pizzerias in the world. Trying to crown one place the best in the world is an absurd task and a fool’s errand. There are an infinite number of varieties and once you start evaluating toppings and specialty pizzas it’s impossible to make a direct comparison between one pizza and the next. But if you just consider classic Neapolitan style pizza without toppings, you can probably narrow the world’s best pizzerias down to the low hundreds.

One place that almost always makes it onto world’s best short lists is Da Michele, a family run pizzeria that’s been serving up Neapolitan pies since 1870, right after Italy became a unified country. Last week I was on a cruise that stopped in Naples for just half a day. My wife wanted to take an excursion to Pompeii but I wanted pizza.

I read that Julia Roberts ate at Da Michele in “Eat, Pray, Love” and concluded that Da Michele was probably a tourist trap. I normally avoid such places but I wanted to see if the hype was justified.

My wife took our 2-year-old to Pompeii and my 4-year-old and I turned up at Da Michele just as they opened at 10.30 a.m. on a Sunday morning. At midday, the place can be a zoo, but in the morning it’s very quiet. It’s an ordinary looking place and the moment I saw an old man who later introduced himself as Luigi Condurro, (see photo above) dressed in a shirt, tie and white jacket, stoking the wood fired oven, I knew the place wasn’t a tourist trap.
Luigi is one of Michele’s four sons who preside over the place. They serve two types of pizza – margherita or Bianca, with no toppings. Normal size pizzas are 4 euros, and a large is just 5. A big bottle of water goes for 2 euros. This is a place that could be charging much more but isn’t.

da michele pizzaWe start with a large margherita and it looks amazing coming out of the oven, but it doesn’t appear to look different than other wood fired margheritas I’ve had in the U.S. and other parts of Italy. After taking a few photos of this round little work of art on our table, we sliced it up and dove in.

After my first bite, I had to stifle a laugh. Why was I so quick to assume that this place was overrated? The look on my face as I ate this remarkable pie must have been one of shear bliss. I couldn’t stop smiling. I’ve never taken ecstasy but both Leo and I were sort of overcome with happiness as we savored the perfect blend of crust, sauce and Buffalo mozzarella.

“This pizza is outrageous!” my son said, and he was right. It was ridiculously good. The sauce was sweet and a bit tangy, just right. My son normally tosses crusts, but in this case, he devoured every delicious bite. And the cheese was so good that when a clump of it oozed off of my son’s first slice and onto the floor, he wanted to scoop it up and eat it – and I almost let him. We downed our large margherita and decided to order a regular size Bianca. It was almost as good and we finished every last morsel until we were in a very happy little food coma.

How do I evaluate this pie against some of my favorite places in the U.S. like Joe & Pat’s in Staten Island and Frank Pepe’s in New Haven? It’s difficult to say without tasting them side-by-side, and even harder because I usually get clams or sausage on my pie at those places. But there’s something about having a pizza prepared by Luigi in the birthplace of pizza that makes this place special.

But what made the experience even better was the bill. The large margherita was 5 euros, the normal Bianca was 4 and our large bottle of water was 2, for a grand total of 11 euros. An individual size pizza in trendy places on the east cost can go for more than that alone. In the U.S. these days, Neapolitan style pizza is trendy and you pay accordingly, but in Naples, it’s an everyday food, no different than bread or water.

Da Michele could have very easily turn itself into a tourist trap, catering to foreigners, but instead, it’s still a neighborhood place, where people stop in to pick up pizzas for a song. I don’t know if it or anyplace else can be called the best in the world, but if you consider both price and quality, this place may take the prize.

Sustainable cities to watch in 2012

sustainable citiesThink of sustainability, and San Francisco is probably the first city to come to mind. But a new crop of green urban centers is emerging, and they’re not where you might think.

Leon Kaye, editor of GreenGoPost.com, recently published a list of his picks for emerging sustainable cities to watch in 2012. Some spots were to be expected, like Detroit, with its preponderance of urban renewal projects, and Accra, which recently topped Siemens’ and Economist Intelligence Unit’s index of Africa’s greenest cities.

But there were also a few wild cards. Mexico City made the list for its 10-point Climate Action Program, which aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 7 million metric tones between 2008 and 2012. The plan included massive improvements to the public transportation system, including the construction of Latin America’s largest rail system and investments in green roofing, water conservation, and waste management.

Also on the list was Naples, Italy, whose trash crisis has made headlines since 2008. Once city residents started realizing that the government wasn’t going to take action, they started taking matters into their own hands. Through grassroots activist movements, like guerrilla gardening and flash mobs, Neapolitans are slowly beautifying their city, and this year will host the UN’s World Urban Forum.

The other cities on Kaye’s watch list were Adelaide, Australia; Belgrade, Serbia; Brasilia, Brazil; Doha, Qatar; San Jose, California; and Seoul, Korea.

[Flickr image of Mexico City via Alfredo Gayou]

Photo of the Day- Deserted Pompeii

Photo of the day

Pompeii is possibly the most famous excavation in the world, drawing 15,000 people every day, almost as many as lived there before the horrifying eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79 A.D. Naples, Italy is the place to be if you want to see the ruins of Pompeii, one of the best examples of a Roman town. It was the fourth stop on Gadling’s tour of the Mediterranean last month where we see 8 different places in 9 days, each for just one day

Flickr user Eric Bloemers (EricBloemersPhotography) added this photo to the Gadling group pool on Flickr. Do you have some photos from your travels that you would like to share? Upload it to the Gadling group pool on Flickr. If we like it we might just select it to be a future Photo of the Day.

A day in Naples, Italy

Naples, ItalyNaples, Italy is the place to be if you want to see the ruins of Pompeii, one of the best examples of a Roman town. It’s the fourth stop on our tour of the Mediterranean where we see 8 different places in 9 days, each for just one day. Of all the places we would visit, delivered by Carnival Cruise Line’s new Carnival Magic, this was one I actually knew something about and visiting would complete a dream that started in eight grade.

Pompeii is possibly the most famous excavation in the world, drawing 15,000 people every day, almost as many as lived there before the horrifying eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79 A.D. It was a topic covered long and hard in my 8th grade Social Studies class teacher, Mr. Hoobing, years ago to the point that it had a permanent place on any bucket list I might have floating around someplace.

The drill in 8th grade was to hand-draw exact replicas of famous archaeological sites as a method of reinforcing information about them…or so I figured out years later. The point was well-taken though; these sites had huge historical significance and told of a time long ago that while vastly different as far as technology goes, was fueled by some of the very same human emotions that rule today.


The 45-minute bus ride from Carnival Miracle through Naples and on to Pompeii came with a running commentary by a tour guide who got most of the facts right. Never mind that he erred 100 years either side of when the big event occurred from time to time; his conclusions were accurate: the site offers a rare glimpse into what Roman life was like back then.

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If you are an armchair fan of archeology, this place takes you back to a time when prostitution was legal, rich citizens ruled and perhaps gave insight to the fall of the Roman empire and all it stood for. If you are not a fan, this is not the place to visit but if you’re in the area anyway, you probably should. There is a lot to be learned here about life long ago that can have some answers to the world of today. Maybe. If you want it to. If you go to Pompeii and find yourself thinking “Oh great, more old stuff”, you are in the wrong place.

Naples offers a bunch of great cafes, shops, and other sites to see as well as some of the best Italian food in the world. It would be a shame to be in the area and miss this one. Off a cruise ship there are a bunch of excursions one can take. Count on them all to be crowded/clogged with people. After hundreds of years, these attractions are still a huge draw to travelers from all over the world.

I think Mr Hoobing would be happy I went. I’m happy I paid attention in 8th grade.

Photos: Lisa Owen

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Photo of the day (8.5.10)

This photo by narinnr from Kagoshima, Japan (the Naples of the East, says Wikipedia) captures a Ferris wheel built atop a shopping center next to the train station. How fun is that? Imagine if you could kill time between trains at Penn Station riding high above New York?! I’m partial to the Gravitron when choosing an amusement ride, although spinning around against centrifugal force is probably not so fun before a long train ride.

Even more interesting are the statues in front of the Ferris wheel, part of the Satuma students’ monument, dedicated to 19 Japanese students smuggled into Britain in 1865 to learn Western technology. Imagine being the first in your country to study abroad and being responsible for the start of the industrial revolution. Kinda makes a semester abroad in Prague drinking as much beer as humanly possible seem a little weak.

Do you have a photo that will inspire many Google and Wikipedia searches? Or maybe an interesting monument or an unusually-located amusement ride in your travels? Upload it to Gadling’s Flickr group and we might use it for a future Photo of the Day.