This is the blog and public record of the Chicago Pizza Club. We eat a lot of pizza and share our thoughts on it as well as post any relevant pizza news we come across.

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Special Report: Da Michele, Napoli, Italia

Petey scrimped and saved and got himself a train pass to Naples, Italy to sample some of the local pizza. Much fuss has been made in the club about Neopolitan pizza and we wanted to see how it really is in the motherland. We went to Da Michele, a place that has all of two menu choices and has been serving the Naples crowd since 1870. Faced with such staggering choices, we decided to try both of their pizzas. They feature a margherita and a marinara pizza.

  • Margherita - mozzarella, basil, tomato
  • Marinara - tomato, garlic, oregano

For those of you who haven't been to Naples before, allow me to offer a brief summary. It's a seedy Italian city and very rarely does anyone think it's not a good idea to graffiti tag their ancient fountains, buildings, monuments, plazas, and anything else made from marble. Also, I'm scared to cross the streets since no one ever follows any traffic signs and two lanes seem to accomodate 4 lanes worth of tiny, zippy vehicles. It has some positives: a great archeological mueum, it is on the Mediterranean Sea, the seafood is fresh, the architecture is impressive if mistreated, Capri is nearby, and they are currently in the middle of adding new subway lines and restoring many of their museums and buildings. I recommend it - in 2011.

The sauce on these pizzas was very good; it tasted homemade and fresh and there is probably no time in southern Italy when tomatoes don't taste great. The mozzarella was probably the best example of this cheese I have had on a pizza, except for maybe the bufalina at Spacca Napoli (Chicago). The basil and garlic were great, but they were present in such small amounts you could eaisly forget they were included. The crust was very similar to the one at Spacca Napoli in that it burned nicely on the underside, but became soggy in the center as it sat on my plate ready to meet my pearly whites. It didn't have the "chewiness" factor to keep it together - mine just turned soupy.

In the end, we enjoyed this pizza. It was completely fresh and basic, oftentimes all that is needed for a great meal. They do form long lines and they efficiently served our pizzas in less than 5 minutes. I think if I was born in Naples and had never travelled, I would feel confident in saying Neopolitan pizza is the best. That is not, to the detriment of Naples, the case at all for us. I still think it's a great change-of-pace pizza, but the truth is that its lack of topping diversity is frustrating. The toppings are not evenly spread throughout the pizza. For example, one large basil leaf was on the margherita and 2 chunks of garlic were on the marinara. When you managed to get all the ingredients in your mouth at the same time, a rare occurrence, the pizza was noticeably impressive. It exceeds in its simplicity, but this ain't the 19th century anymore. I need more toppings, better distribution, and a less soggy crust. Being the "original" anything can be overrated and I think that's the case with pizza. I guess the Italians figure that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Things have been done the same way here for a long time. I think this may be almost as good as Neopolitan pizza can be, so we do suggest you try it if you come to town. However, the style of pizza one finds in the USA has higher potential and has experienced more innovation and we easily prefer it. Take heart Vera Napolitano Pizza fans, I think Spacca Napoli in Chicago compares quite favorably to the few places we tried in Naples, a testament to the proprietor.

The menu

Kate has a beer

I want that one

"It's all mine!"

Real Italians!

Where it went down