Corny as it is to love an Oprah book, I wholeheartedly endorse the book Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Ms. Gilbert writes in such a witty, engaging tone, that she transcends "chick-lit" or the slew of self-help memoirs that abound these days. And not to mention, she has forced me to put Naples on my list just so I can visit the pizza place she waxes rhapsodically about in the first segment of her book. Apparently I'm not the only one, since she has a link to Pizzeria da Michele on her website under FAQ, with a firm recommendation to order double mozzarella. Her power of description has had me dreaming about this place for the last three years or so, ever since I read her book...
"So Sofie and I have come to Pizzeria da Michele, and these pies we have just ordered - one for each of us - are making us lose our minds. I love my pizza so much, in fact, that I have come to believe in my delerium that my pizza might actually love me, in return. I am having a relationship with this pizza, almost an affair. Meanwhile, Sofie is practially in tears over hers, she's having a metaphysical crisis about it, she's begging me, "Why do the even bother trying to make pizza in Stockholm? Why do we even bother eating food at all in Stockholm?"
Pizzeria da Michele is a small place with only two rooms and one non-stop ovn. It's about a fifteen-minute walk from the rain station in the rain, don't even worry about it, jsut go. You need to get there fairly early in the day because sometimes they run out of dough, which will break your heart. by 1:00 PM, the streets outside the pizzeria have become jammed with Neapolitans trying to get into the place, shoving for access like they're trying to get space on a lifeboat. There's not a menu. They only have two varieties of pizza here - regular and extra cheese. None of this new age southern California olives-and-sun-dried-tomato wannabe pizza twaddle. The dough, it takes me half my meal to figure out, tastes more like Indian nan than like any pizza dough I ever tried. It's soft and chewy and yielding, but incredibly thin. I alwasy thought we only had two choices in our lives when it came to pizza crust 0 thin and crispy, or thick and doughy. How was i to have known there could be a crust in this world that was thin and doughy? Holy of Holies! Thin, doughy, strong, gummy, yummy, chewy, salty pizza paradise. On top, there is a sweet tomato sauce that foams up all bubbly and creamy when it melts the fresh buffalo mozzarella, and the one sprig of basil in the middle of the whole deal somehow infuses the entire pizza with herbal radiance, much the same way one whimmering movie star in the middle of a party brings a contact high of glamour to everyone around her. It's technically impossible to eat this thing, of course. You try to take a bite off your slice and the gummy crust folds, and hot cheese runs away like topsoil in a landslide, makes a mess of you and your surroundings, but just deal with it.
The guys who make this miracle happen are shoveling the pizzas in and out of the wood-burning oven, looking for all the world like the boilermen in the belly of a great ship who shovel coal into the raging furnaces. Their sleeves are rolled up over their sweaty forearms, their faces red with exaggeration, one eye squinted against the heat of the fire and a cigarette dangling from the lips. Sofie and I each order another pie - another whole pizza each - and Sofie tries to pull herself together, but really, the pizza is so good we can barely cope."
Be sure to check out their pictures of the Pizzeria da Michele staff over the years - I love that. It reminds me of my favorite butcher shop in Brooklyn on Court Street, Staubitz, which has a similar display behind the counter, with sons becoming fathers and time marching on...
Napoli - Via Cesare Sersale, 1/3
(angolo Via P. Colletta)
another post about pizza...