Pizza Lover’s Odyssey in Naples, Italy

Pizza Lover's Odyssey in Naples Italy 

Five days in Napoli and five pizze Napoletane. There are many reasons why I love Naples – the people, the chaos, the pastries, and yes, the food.  Especially the pizza.  This trip I dedicated part of each day to pizza.  Yes, each day I ate a pizza, a classic margherita or Margherita D.O.C. at five different pizzerie in Naples, my own little pizza lover's odyssey.  

All five of these pizzerie make a VPN pizza (Verace Pizza Napoletana) and must follow the VPN pizza-making guidelines laid out by the AVPN (Association of Verace Pizza Napoletana).  Although these pizzerie follow the same guidelines and basically use the same ingredients, the pizza varied at each place.  As the people at Starita a Martedei explained to me, it really depends on the pizzaiolo.  It's the skill and knowledge of this artisan pizzamaker, to first create a dough and then stretch it into the base of the pizza, that determines the characteristics of his pizza.

Those pizzaioli that follow the guidelines set forth by the AVPN and have passed the association's pizzaiolo test, can display the sign of a Verace Pizza Napoletana, one that has Pulcinella as pizzamaker on it.





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Vera Pizza Napolitana sign 


VPN guidelines: The guidelines cover more than just the ingredients.  There are rules about oven temperature (surface temperature must be 905 F), how long the pizza should cook (60-90 seconds) and even what type of pizza peel can be used.  Many might find this tedious, but I see it as a love and dedication these artisans have for what they do.  Below are some details on making the dough and making one of the classics – the pizza Margherita. 


The dough – For the VPN dough, there are four ingredients: water, salt, yeast, flour (type "00" and up to 20% may be type "0").  I'm a little confused about a 5th ingredient because the guidelines state that "all types of fat must be excluded from the dough;" however, it is widely accepted and admitted that lard is a key ingredient in the dough.  The VPN also gives suggestions for quantities to be used for each ingredient, but each pizzaiolo can and does determine his unique recipe. 

The dough must go through two rising stages, the first lasting 2 hours.  The second happens after the dough has been formed into balls (called panetti) of 250 grams each, and the rising period must be between 4 to 6 hours in a temperature of 25 C.  Then the dough can be used to make the pizza "base," and must be used within the next 6 hours. 


Pizza Margherita – A classic Neapolitan pizza, this pizza with the tricolore of the Italian flag was made in 1889 to honor Queen Margherita, who was visiting Naples.  A classic Margherita has sauce from San Marzano tomatoes, fior di latte (cow's milk "mozzarella" cheese), olive oil, sea salt, and fresh basil.  There are also guidelines as to the amounts of each ingredient and how it is applied to the pizza "base" (the dough). 

Usually each pizzeria has another version of the classic, which they call a D.O.C., where they use mozzarella di bufala (Buffalo milk mozzarella) and fresh tomatoes instead of sauce.  I actually prefer this version because I think the sauce can tend to make the pizza too wet.





Here are the pizze from my pizza lover's odyssey in Naples.  I've listed them in order of my preference.




Pizzeria Starita a Martedei  (via Martedei 27/28)

This pizzeria, first famous for being the pizzeria in the 1954 movie "L'oro di Napoli" starring Sophie Loren as a pizzaiolo at Starita, now makes one of the best pizze in Napoli.  The D.O.C. (pronounced "dock") at Starita was pure magic for me.  The crust might be a little thicker than those at Da Michele and Sorbillo, but much of it is from its bubbling up while in the oven.  It was really quite light in texture and "elastic" accordig to VPN regulations, or as I would say, nice and chewy.  I also tried a few of their fried treats, the zucchini flowers and crocche (pototoes with cheese), which were also delicious. 



Pizza DOC from Starita a Martedei 
Pizza D.O.C. from Starita 


Pizzeria Starita a Martedei in Naples Italy 




Gino Sorbillo  (via Tribunali, 32)


I arrived in Naples on a sunny Saturday afternoon, and headed straight for Sorbillo, located on via Tribunali (also known as Spaccanapoli) in the Centro Storico.  I hadn't realized that Saturday afternoon's, especially sunny ones in March, meant it was pizza time in Napoli.  Many small groups, chatting in Neapolitan dialect, packed themselves around the entrance waiting for their name to be called.  After almost an hour, it was my turn to be called to an available table. 

I ordered the traditional pizza margherita, and it arrived at my table hot from the oven, evidenced by the smoke rising from the pizza, with scents of tomatoes and basil filling the air.  A VPN crust that was chewy around the border and paper thin in the center, the pizza hung over the plate.  This pizza had the thinnest crust of all the pizzerie in Naples that I have tried.  The amount of cheese on the pizza was perfect. The sauce was rich in flavor, although I would have preferred a little less to balance the cheese/sauce ratio.  Here I wish I had had an eating partner or an extra day to try another version, possibly their D.O.C. version. 

(Note: There is another "Sorbillo" on via Tribunali, so if you're wanting to go to Gino Sorbillo's pizzeria, make sure you go to 32 via Tribunali.)




Pizza Margherita from Sorbillo 
Pizza Margherita from Sorbillo



Sorbillo Pizzeria in Naples 

Here you can watch a video of pizzaiolo Gino Sorbillo at work. How quickly and easily he stretches the dough amazes me each time I watch it.


Pizzeria Trianon da Ciro  (via Colletta Pietro 46)


Like my first kiss, I will always remember eating my first Neapolitan pizza.  The Margherita D.O.C. from Trianon da Ciro and the pizzeria will always hold a special place in my heart. 

This time I tried the classic pizza Margherita, with tomato sauce and fior di latte.  I think it might have been an off day (or the humidity from that day's rain messed with the dough), but this time the dough wasn't as light and bubbly as I've had during my previous times eating there.  I definitely prefer their D.O.C. version over the classic Margherita.


  Pizza Margherita from Trianon da Ciro


Pizza Margherita from Trianon da Ciro


 Pizza Margherita DOC from Trianon da Ciro

Pizza Margherita D.O.C.


 Working the Pizza Oven at Trinon da Ciro

Working the oven at Trianon da Ciro



Pizzaiolo and Fornaiolo at Trianon da Ciro 
Pizzaiolo and Fornaiolo (and me) at Trianon da Ciro






L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele (via Cesare Sersale, 1)

As one Napoletano pointed out, this pizzeria is one of the oldest and is the most noted of all pizzerie in Napoli (possibly even before the film "Eat Pray Love" came out).  They make only two kinds of pizza, Margherita and Marinara.

I had the Margherita.  The dough at da Michele left me wanting a little more crunch and flavor when I compare it to the others.  The photo below is of the classic Margherita, but you can order the Margherita with "doppio" double cheese.  As you may have realized, I like my cheese to sauce ratio to be about equal, so I would definitely suggest getting the doppio here.


Pizza Margherita from da Michele 



Pizzeria da Michele in Naples 



Umberto Ristorante & Pizzeria – via Albardieri 31


Umberto is a restaurant that also serves VPN pizza.  It's located in the Chiaia district, right off of via Chiaia.  For me, this pizza resembled an American version of pizza more than the Neapolitan one.  The crust was the thickest and had a much crunchier shell than the others.  There was also much more sauce than cheese.  This pizza also looks too perfect and round.  One sign of a true Neapolitan pizza is that it is more oblong than round, it has black char marks, and the more bubbles in the pizza means the dough/crust will be lighter and more chewy. 


Pizza from Umberto in Naples Italy


Pizza Margherita from Umberto




Related Posts:


Taste of Napoli – Fifteen Favorite Dishes for the Food Lover in Naples

Pasta alla Genovese and Other Neapolitan Sauces at Citta del Gusto

The Dish from Naples, Italy – Pizza Margherita


Dining Around Naples with Napoli Unplugged


Journey Through the Pastries of Naples


Photo Tour of Spaccanapoli and Napoli's Historic Center

Torta Caprese – Flourless Chocolate Cake from Capri


Neapolitan Style Mussels

 Pizza al Taglio at Pizzarium in Rome

Gnocchi alla Sorrentina – A Taste of Sorrento (guest post for Napoli Unplugged)

Bella Napoli – Neapolitans Warm My Heart Like Their Food Warms My Belly

A Drive along the Amalfi Coast





  1. Paula
    April 1st

    I think it’s hilariously ironic that Italy is all into the trend of giving culinary stamps of approval and guidelines (compare wines: Vdt, IGT, DOCG, DOC). It’s a bit absurd (to me) since I never knew two Italians make things the same way … as this experience/post demonstrates! But I guess it also shows how creative Italians can be while using the same ingredients!!
    This post will come in very handy if I every actually make it to Naples … I’ll just bring it along and follow the “tour”!!

  2. Paula
    April 1st

    P.S. Starita’s looks the best to me, yum!

  3. Tuula
    April 2nd

    So awesome!! Booking-marking this for sure :) I’ve yet to make it to Naples, just passed through, but this is a great excuse to go – I’d take this “tour” myself, a super guide! That mozzarella looks so fresh I can almost taste it…well, I’ll be living through your food posts until then :)
    ps. cute photo, bet those guys were lovin’ the attention too!

  4. Esme
    April 2nd

    These pizzas look amazing. I may have to go have some pizza today.

  5. These pizze challenge everything you think you know about pizza. My Italian friend with the restaurant gave me an abridged lesson in the history of pizza and it’s fascinating when you learn of its origins and how commercialised it has become!

  6. Amazing reportage, Kathy! It’s interesting for me to see a side-by-side comparison and notice so much difference between the different styles. I’m from Northern Italy, and the Neapolitan pizza that I know and love is the one made by southern immigrants – which I find tends to look a bit like Sorbillo’s. The more common, non-Neapolitan alternative in Milan has a much thinner and crunchier crust, and the cheese covers uniformly the entire surface.

  7. Kathy
    April 4th

    Paula – I understand your point. As with many dishes, it’s more than just a recipe. The pizzaiolo’s skill (and how much of the supposedly “forbidden” strutto/lard he adds to the dough) plays an important part in the whole thing. I really wish I had tried the D.O.C. version at Sorbillo to see how it compared to Starita…yet another reason to return.
    Esme – Anytime you want a pizza-loving partner to join you in Naples, let me know :-)
    Tuula – When you go, let me know what you think. Pizza preferences are all so subjective. Being that I was at Trianon on a rainy Sunday when all the “good” Catholics were at church, it was pretty slow. I did cause a little scene near the oven when trying to take photos. Mainly, they couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to be in the photo. I even resorted trying to joke (in Italian) that I would break the camera (they didn’t get it).
    Corinne – I so agree. I initially thought they must all be realatively the same. Actually, I would have loved to try more, but it was really impossible. A pizza a day for five days is a lot of pizza.
    Paolo – Thank you! From what I’ve seen, I would say that Sorbillo’s is the quintessential Neapolitan pizza. I have to say that I’m a fan of the thicker border and more chewy crust of the Neapolitan pizza.

  8. Phillip Eastwood
    April 10th

    Their dedication for maintaining the traditional authenticity of Neapolitan pizza is something to be respected and looked up upon. Also, eating those freshly made pizza at the beautiful city of Naples is one of the best experience that a pizza lover will have.

  9. Beth
    June 19th

    There is a VPN pizzeria where I live in SLC, UT. My husband lived in Naples for a few years. When we went to the pizzeria here, he kept telling me it took him back. It was exactly the same. It was delicious, but I didn’t really understand the significance until we went to Naples and I was able to savor the goodness of the pizza there. WOW! I want to go back so badly! Seeing these pizzas makes we want to jump in my car and drive to Settebello! I’ll take it until I’m able to go back to Naples! BTW-I’ve bookmarked your website! Thank you!

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