I'd not change any place in the world with Naples (and its immediate surroundings) when it comes to pizza. Pizza, as we know it today, was born there and Naples is, not surprisingly, most likely to be the city with the highest density of Pizzerias on Earth. Admittedly, not all the pizza made in Naples is great, but there are a pretty impressive number of pizzeria who produce a great pizza. Yet, when someone who is a real experts tells you he has found the best pizza in Naples, you simply strive to make it there and see what the fuss is all about, even if you live more than 1000 km away.
If you have been reading this blog from the start you might remember Marco, also known as Pizza Napoletana on a number of food discussion forums, and the pizza pics of his I published. A few month's ago he gave out his list of favourites in Naples and was clearly quite excited for the (re-)opening of one particular pizzeria, the best of all according to his opinion: Da Salvo in San Giorgio a Cremano (just outside Naples).
Having only one evening in Naples before flying back to Germany I was absolutely determined to use it to dine at Salvo's. I had no problem finding a group of voluntary companions for the short trip to San Giorgio. Erase the short actually: Da Salvo is not far from Naples, but if you follow the map published on their website (clearly made for those who already know the way), you might end up, like us, driving between San Giorgio and neighbouring Portici for some time. (Use any of the man internet services providing driving directions instead.)
We did eventually get there and in a few minutes we were seated, waiting for our order of a classical Neapolitan pizza meal: a mixed frittura (fried bits) followed by pizza. Excuse the quality of the pictures in this post: for some reason, the mix of low camera batteries, artificial light and maroon tablecloths somehow gave the photos a really weird colour profile. As hard as I tried to correct that in photoshop I couldn't. I still hope the pictures manage to convey an idea of the food.
Da Salvo makes a pleasant fritto, pretty dry and flavoursome: yeasty paste cresciute (fried dough, literally risen doughs), outside crisp-inside creamy scagliuozzi (fried polenta triangles, my favourites), classic crocchè (as you can imagine, potato croquettes) and tasty fried aubergines. The only slight disappointment in the bunch were the palle di riso (tomato-rice balls), but to be completely honest, as much as I like arancini, I find these Neapolitan pizzeria relatives never live up to what they promise, so it is a very personal dislike.
The choice of pizza classics on the menu is exhaustive, including the artery clogging pizza fritta (fried pizza, usually stuffed with mozzarella, ricotta, Neapolitan salami, and cicoli, a sort of Neapolitan headcheese). I was less happy in seeing the creative or modern part of the menu: a fair share of the pizzas there had cream as base, including my personal nightmare pizza, thecream-ham-mais kernel one. Call me a pizza snob, but I just don't get how anyone could order such a trash pizza, especially when dining somewhere that is supposed to make the best pizza dough of the city. With a topping like that you could as well eat cardboard. (I do understand why salvo has those on the menu: if the customer wants that, then they'd be foolish to take them out of the menu.) We went classic and split our pizza order between DOC pizzas (San Marzano tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and EV olive oil) and provola e filetto pizzas (smoked mozzarella and tomato "filets").
So is Salvo's pizza the best in Naples? Hard to tell, since I haven't tasted the pizza of the contenders in over two years: I would have to undergo a thorough pizza tasting trip through Naples to be sure. Still, Salvo's pizza is exactly like Neapolitan pizza should be: there might be other pizzas as good or better as these, but it would be a hard feat. The dough should always be the base of a good pizza and this is clearly made by masters of the trade: puffy, soft, with a mellow almost sourdoughy ripe yeast aroma and easily digestible (both the mark of a properly ripened pizza dough). The topping was no less impressive: good quality ingredients, applied in a judiciously moderate amount (maybe a coupe more tomatoes would have been OK too) to avoid overpowering the crust or turning it into a soggy mess.
I can't wait to be in Naples again to taste Salvo's pizza once more:just to be sure it is really that good ;-). And if you're travelling to Naples and are looking for a secret tip (who knows for how long) real Neapolitan pizza there's no better pick than Da Salvo.
Largo Arso 10/16
San Giorgio a Cremano