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PIZZA

Naples’ most famous pizzeria opens second Rome location

Lovers of traditional Neapolitan pizza rejoice: one of Italy's most historic pizzerias, which reached global fame in the film Eat Pray Love, is opening a second location in Rome.

Naples' most famous pizzeria opens second Rome location
A Neapolitan Margherita pizza is cooked to perfection. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

There's seating space for 100 to enjoy the food, and another draw of the eatery is the installation of a large window onto the kitchen, where passersby can watch the chefs at work from the street.

The restaurant opened on March 29th, close to the Trevi Fountain in the Italian capital. Though its Naples location serves only two varieties (marinara and margherita), the new Rome location will also offer antipasti, an anchovy topping, and baked and fried pizzas.

READ MORE: What makes Naples' pizza one of the world's top cultural treasures?

Da Michele, a historic pizza restaurant that has made it onto tourist itineraries after featuring in Julia Roberts film Eat Pray Love, is often named the best in Naples. On a typical weekend evening, hungry visitors will queue patiently for hours to get a seat.

Its first Roman branch opened in November 2016, close to the Piazza del Popolo. That was the first Italian branch outside Naples in the eatery's 140-year history, and was followed by the opening of a restaurant in London later the same month.

Further foreign branches can be found in Fukuoka, Japan and Barcelona, Spain.

Neapolitan pizza was recently declared part of the world's 'intangible heritage' by Unesco, and the city has an association tasked with testing pizzerias on their methods and ingredients. Only those that meet the stringent standards are allowed to call their pizza 'Neapolitan'.

Pizza romana, the variety found in the Italian capital, is a different beast. While the Naples chefs keep the crust doughy and light and the toppings simple, Roman pizza is more of a mish-mash, with no strict regulations.

The crust here is slightly thicker and baked at a cooler temperature, meaning none of the black spots which, in the right quantity, are a mark of quality in Naples. You'll also find more varied toppings in the capital city, with anchovies, meat, and all kinds of vegetables frequently making an appearance.

READ MORE: This map shows where to find the very best pizza in Italy

FOOD & DRINK

OPINION: Michelin-starred cuisine is just not suited to Italy

Michelin-starred food has its merits but it doesn't fit with the Italian tradition of cuisine, argues Silvia Marchetti and some frustrated Italian chefs. There's nothing better than a plate of steaming lasagne, she says.

OPINION: Michelin-starred cuisine is just not suited to Italy

I’ve never been a great fan of sophisticated dishes, twisted recipes and extravagant concoctions that leave you wondering what is it you’re actually eating. T-bone steak with melted dark chocolate as topping, burrata cheese with apples, spaghetti with blueberry sauce aren’t my thing.

Hence, I never eat at Michelin-starred restaurants, and it’s not because of the exorbitant bill – paying €200 for a salad simply because it was grown in the private garden of a chef which he personally sprinkles with mountain water each morning, is a bit over the top.

I just don’t think such fancy food has anything to do with the real Italian tradition.

The ‘nouvelle cuisine’, as the name suggests, was invented in France by chef Paul Bocuse. And it’s ‘nouvelle’ – new – not anchored to past traditions.

The philosophy of serving small morsels of chic food on humongous plates as if they were works of art is the exact opposite of what Italian culinary tradition is all about.

We love to indulge in platefuls of pasta or gnocchi (and often go for a second round), and there are normally three courses (first, second, side dish, dessert and/or coffee), never a 9 or 12-course menu as served at Michelin establishments (unless, perhaps, it’s a wedding).

Too many bites of too many foods messes with flavours and numbs palates, and at the end of a long meal during which you’ve tasted so many creative twists you can hardly remember one, I always leave still feeling hungry and unsatisfied. 

So back home, I often prepare myself a dishful of spaghetti because Michelin pasta servings often consist in just one fork portion artistically curled and laid on the dish. In fact, in my view Michelin starred cuisine feeds more the eye than the stomach.

The way plates are composed, with so much attention to detail, colour, and their visual impact, seems as if they’re made to show-off how great a chef is, than as succulent meals to devour. I used to look at my dish flabbergasted, trying to make out what those de-constructed ingredients were and are now meant to be, and then perplexed,

I look at the chef, and feel as if I’m talking to an eclectic painter who has created a ‘masterpiece’ with my dinner. I’m not saying Michelin starred food is not good, there are some great chefs in Italy who have heightened a revisited Italian cuisine to the Olympus of food, but I just don’t like it nor understand it.

There’s nothing greater than seeing a plate of steaming lasagne being brought to the table and knowing beforehand that my taste buds will also recognise it as such, and enjoy it, rather than finding out it’s actually a sweet pudding instead.

More than once, after a 4-hour Michelin meal with a 20-minute presentation of each dish by the chef, the elaborate food tasted has given me a few digestion problems which lasted all night long.

Michelin-starred food has started to raise eyebrows in Italy among traditional chefs, and is now the focus of a controversy on whether it embodies the authentic Italian culinary experience. 

A Milanese born and bred, Cesare Battisti is the owner of restaurant Ratanà, considered the ‘temple’ of the real risotto alla Milanese.

He has launched a crusade to defend traditional Milanese recipes from what he deems the extravagance and “contamination” of Michelin-starred cuisine. “Michelin-starred experiments are mere culinary pornography. Those chefs see their own ego reflected in their dishes. Their cooking is a narcissistic, snob act meant to confuse, intimidate and disorientate eaters”. 

Arrigo Cipriani, food expert and owner of historical trattoria Harry’s Bar in Venice, says Michelin-starred cuisine is destroying Italy’s real food tradition, the one served inside the many trattorias and historical osterias scattered across the boot where old recipes, and cooking techniques, survive.

“Tasting menus are made so that clients are forced to eat what the chef wants, and reflect the narcissistic nature of such chefs. Italian Michelin-starred cuisine is just a bad copy cat of the French one”, says Cipriani.

I believe we should leave French-style cuisine to the French, who are great at this, and stick to how our grannies cook and have taught us to prepare simple, abundant dishes. At least, you’ll never feel hungry after dinner.

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