Of all the pizzerias in Naples, Da Michele is arguably the most famous. This can in part be put down to their longevity, they have been serving pizza since 1870, as well as the fact that the pizza is rather damn good , but also apparently due to its inclusion in the Elizabeth Gilbert novel/Julia Roberts movie “Eat, Pray, Love”. I have to confess to remembering very little about that particular film, apart from how unbelievably awful I found it, but then I think you all know me well enough to know that I didn’t want to eat at Da Michele based on its inclusion in some chick flick……
Let me say now that if you want to eat at Da Michele GO EARLY!!! I mean it. SERIOUSLY!!!! We arrived at around 12:30 and were seated for “lunch” after 4pm! Oh yes people – 3.5+ hours queuing for pizza! Thankfully we were all still friends afterwards!
The queuing system at Da Michele looks a little intimidating at first but after 3.5 hours I felt a sort of brotherhood with the (very funny) waiter on the door so trust me when I say there is nothing to worry about, just push your way to the front (pushing really can be necessary yes) and tell the man on the door how many you are. He then gives you a number and you wait for it to be called before you are seated. Yes it’s that simple! If your number is say 22 and the next one you hear them call out is 55, yes, you really do have to wait for them to go all the way to 100 and then start again!
We were fooled into thinking the queue was smaller that it really was as many people obviously take their numbers and disappear to do other things for 30-40 minutes, knowing they don’t have a chance of being seated anytime soon – by all means do this but BEWARE! If you miss your turn they aren’t going to rearrange things all over again just for you! On the positive side, the nearby streets are fun to wander, the small deli across the road to the left sells Peroni that you can drink in the street (no prizes for guessing what we did) or if you really felt the need, you could escape to the Pizzeria across the road for some antipasti on the terrace while you wait, as the menu at Da Michele is Pizza, Pizza, Pizza.
I mean Pizza, Pizza, Pizza, in the literal sense of the word, you see the menu at Da Michele lists just 3 pizza options; Pizza Margherita, Pizza Margherita Double Mozzarella and Pizza Marinara. Granted they allow you to choose the size, normal or medium for the Margherita and normal, medium or “maxi” for the Marinara but choosing what you want to eat really is as simple as that!
The drinks list is similarly simple, offering only Coke, Fanta, Mineral Water or Peroni for 2 Eu. I’d say their cashier has a simple job but when you look at the sheer volume of people passing through Da Michele on a daily basis, it must be exhausting!
Epic waiting time over, we were eventually shown to a table right next to the open kitchen where we could watch the pizzaiolo shaping the dough, topping and firing the pizzas with impressive dexterity, but not before we got down to the serious business of finally eating!
D & G both opted for the normal sized Marinara at 4 Eu each, whilst I plumped for the normal Margherita at 4 Eu, keen as I was to establish a base for what really was the best pizza in Naples. My iPhone pictures tell me this time we received our pizzas 25 minutes after being seated which was ample time to take in all that was happening round us.
So was the pizza worth the wait you ask? Well I’d have to say a resounding yes (although I’d definitely go earlier to skip the queues next time!)
As is true of all Neapolitan Pizza, Da Michele use only San Marzano tomatoes, grown on volcanic plain to the south of Mount Vesuvius. They also use Fior Di Latte from Agerola, one of Campania’s most revered cheese making towns, just 35kms from Naples. Why is all this important? Well you really can taste it all in the pizza. The tomatoes are just so, so sweet and full of flavour (you are going to hear a lot about tomatoes this trip f you haven’t already realised!) it’s a revelation after all this time in Asia. The fior di latte was stunning as well, so light it practically melted in my mouth – none of that chewy, rubbery texture I had surprisingly become so accustomed to – just heavenly. The biggest surprise was possibly the basil – for we can’t have a Margherita without basil now can we? So often just an afterthought, the basil at Da Michele came from leaves that were as big as my hand, roughly torn (never cut but you knew that already didn’t you) with a fragrance that I will never forget. As for the pizza base – well just look at that char!
So yes, Da Michele is worth it. It’s definitely not a place to linger or get in the way of the waiters, although they were very nice to us – the joys of D’s perfect Italian combined with my cheery disposition definitely helped and even got me a wink from a previously surly Italian chef 😉 Just go early!!
L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele
Via Cesare Sersale, 1 / 3
Tel. +39 081.5539204