And I fell in love.
Before our trip I thought I had eaten good pizza. At times I would even say I have had great pizza. I've lived in New York, a pizza city if there ever was one. I have explored pizza joints all over Chicago (Gino's East is my favorite there.) On past trips to Italy we have also raved about the wonderful, fabulous pizza we have had.
So I am not new to loving pizza.
But never in my wildest imaginings could I have ever expected the rush of love I experienced when I took my first bite of pizza in Napoli.
Eating pizza in Napoli was a revelation.
It begins with the crust. The foundation of pizza-ry goodness. I have had thick and chewy crusts. I have had thin and crispy crusts. But never have I had crusts that were thin and chewy with a little crunch and a wonderfully yeasty, fresh baked taste that almost made me cry with joy.
And then it is topped with just a touch of simple, fresh tomato sauce. Tomatoes with a bit of salt and pepper. Not too sweet from the added sugar that is required when tomatoes are perhaps not quite ripe enough. Not too heavy with an excessive number of spices and unnecessary flavors. Just pure, fresh tomatoes that allow you to taste the Italian sunlight.
Next comes the cheese. They use the freshest mozzarella available. And if you are willing to spend a little bit extra, you can get the buffalo mozzarella. And yes, we were willing to spend the little bit extra that is required.
Finally, it is topped with 2-3 small leaves of fresh basel, placed dead center on top. Somehow those small leaves spread their essence throughout the whole pizza.
After cooking for a short time on a stone in a super hot oven, it is rushed to your table while the sauce is still bubbling.
OH! MY! GOD!
It is perfection. Pure and simple perfection.
"Ah," we said to each other, "this is what pizza is meant to be."
We had pizza for lunch and dinner every day we were there. If pizza for breakfast was an option, we would have had it then too. Didn't even matter where we ate it. Although some places within Napoli were better than others, every place had better pizza than anyplace else we have ever been.
And it really is no wonder. See, Napoli is where pizza was born. It is what they are known for. It is an intrinsic part of their identity. They take pizza so seriously in this city that they have a pizza association that tests the quality of the pizza on offer. If the quality is subpar, the restaurant is no longer allowed to serve pizza. So really, regardless of where you go, it is hard to go terribly wrong.
Since returning from Napoli I have been researching Neapolitan pizzas. My goal is to figure out the secret. How do you make this heavenly pie? What ingredients do I need to mix? What process do I need to follow?
Experimentation shall begin. My goal is to replicate the taste of that pizza as closely as is possible. Because flying down to Napoli every time I get a yearning for pizza might get a tad expensive.
More stories (and lot of photos) about our trip will follow. After I finish the two freelance writing projects I am currently doing.