My friend D (henceforth known as Pizza Queen) has, unsurprisingly, always raved about the pizza in Naples, so when we visited earlier this summer it was clear pizza would be at the top of our to do list. After very sweetly collecting me from the railway station, D & G took me back to our rented apartment in the original old town of Naples where we enjoyed a quick aperitvo before heading out in search of that all important first pizza of the holiday!
Located in Naples’ Old Town, Di Matteo has been serving pizza to the fine people of Naples since 1936 and one suspects very little has changed since then. We arrived at around 18:40pm, in preparation for their 19:00 opening, taking our place at the back of the small queue that had already started to form outside, content to be waiting with a 1 Eu Spritz from the nearby off-license in hand.
At the allotted hour, the doors opened and we made our way firmly into the restaurant where D (who speaks fluent Italian) requested a table for 3 and we were quickly ushered upstairs, the room filling around us with all remaining tables being seated just minutes after opening.
As is common with many traditional pizzerias, most of the anti pasto on offer are fried (with just 2 salads of Prosciutto, Mozzarella and assorted vegetables available) and we quickly decided on a “Crocche” (1 Eu) and 2 “Arancino” (1.50 Eu each) – 1 “Bianco” and 1 “Rosso“.
I wasn’t familiar with Crocche, but basically it is a croquette made out of mashed potato and egg that is breadcrumbed and then deep fried. At Di Matteo they also add a little provola cheese to the centre which becomes soft and gooey as the crocche are fried – delicious!
The Arancino were both filled with provola and meat ragu, the difference between the “Rosso” and “Bianco” seemingly being that one had been made from plain rice and one from rice mixed with tomato, either way they were both equally good and really got our tastebuds going as to what lay ahead.
Pizza wise I decided to keep it classic by ordering a “Margherita Con Buffala” (4.50!!!), only correct I felt, as it was to be my first pizza in Naples. D opted for the vegetarian “Ortolana” (6 Eu) with mushrooms, peppers and aubergine but with Buffalo mozzarella instead of the regular mozzarella, whilst G ordered the “Carretiere” (7 Eu) from the “Pizza Firmate” or signature menu, with Friarelli (a bitter green leaf) & Salsiccia (sausage).
Whilst I had been expecting the drinks list to be short and sweet, I had not been expecting it to be so cheap! Wine was just 2 Eu a 250 ml bottle or 4 Eu a 750 ml bottle (the waiters get so busy I’m sure the last thing they want to do is run up and down stairs with another glass of wine!) whilst beers ranged from 2 Eu to 4 Eu. It should be noted that soft drinks (Coke/Sprite etc) were the same price as the small wine or beer – no messing around here then!
Our pizzas arrived on the table less than 13 minutes after we were seated (and we spent at least half of that time trying to decide what to eat!) and I could immediately see why D & G had raved about Pizzeria Di Matteo so much!
Generously portioned, far bigger than the plate they were served on in fact, the pizzas had wonderfully light and fluffy crusts with little air pockets trapped inside, while the centre of the pizza was practically paper thin. The flavour from the thin layer of tomato sauce had been augmented with handfuls of sweet little cherry tomatoes that exploded with flavour (quite literally – I’d advise against wearing white when you visit!) whilst the buffalo mozzarella was wonderfully creamy – absolute perfection!
D’s Ortolana was similarly delicious, with the different vegetables being everything from bitter in the case of the green leaves to the sweet peppers and tomatoes, briny tinned mushrooms and smoked roasted aubergine – really good!
All in all, dinner for 3 with drinks came to less than 30 Eu – really great value for such great quality ingredients and food but this seems to be the case throughout Naples if the rest of our eating exploits is anything to go by and I was left shaking my head and wondering why I had left it some 20 odd years since my last trip to Italy!
When we had paid we were somewhat surprisingly ushered out of a back exit, seemingly so the queue outside the front, which had increased in size dramatically since we had been seated, wouldn’t be aware that tables were freeing up upstairs! All part of the experience I guess, although I have a feeling our giggles may have alerted more than a couple of people to the fact we found being sneaked out in such a manner rather amusing!
Antica Pizzeria e Friggitoria Di Matteo
Via dei Tribunali, 94, 80138 Napoli, Italy
Phone:+39 081 455262