Where to find the best pizza in Naples

The marinara: is it even a pizza? It looks, to this casual observer, like bread with tomatoes on top. That does not a pizza make.

You need cheese. Without at least a few little blobs of mozzarella de bufala, you don't have pizza, you just have bread and tomatoes masquerading as pizza. A poor imitation.

Around here, however, I'm clearly in the minority. At Da Michele pizzeria, they serve only two types of "pizza": marinara and margherita. They're the absolute simplest versions of the genre. One is pizza base and tomatoes, the other is pizza base, tomatoes and mozzarella.

If I were to voice my opinion here at Da Michele that one of their two pizzas isn't even a pizza, I would probably be yelled and gesticulated at until I was forced to leave. Because at Da Michele, and indeed across the city of Naples, they take their pizza very, very seriously.

How seriously? The Associazone Verace Pizza Napoletana, an organisation that certifies the veracity of true Neapolitan pizza, has a booklet of guidelines that's 11 pages long. That's right: the garbage outside your pizzeria might not have been picked up for a fortnight but there will be someone around to check that the pH level of your dough is exactly 5.87.

Ask any Neapolitan for their favourite pizza place and prepare yourself for a very long conversation that will involve a lot more depth and detail that you'd expected. Everyone has a personal favourite.

Some will grant you toppings, adding anchovies to their pizza, or sausage meat. Some are purists who believe that to add anything to a margherita is to desecrate the name of pizza itself. Some will even say the mozzarella is superfluous.

In this, the home of pizza, it's a serious business. And I intend to take full advantage of that seriousness by sampling as much of the product as possible. It's something of a mission, if not to find Naples' definitively best pizza, then at least to sample some of its tastiest.

And a quick google and a conversation with a few Neapolitans on a train leads me to L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele, home of the marinara – ahem – pizza and something of an institution in this town. The Condurro family has been making these pizzas since 1870. That's some serious pedigree.

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Da Michele is rustic pizzeria personified, a place of unadorned wooden tables, white-tiled walls and harried waiters trying to get everyone fed and watered and out of there as quickly as possible. The reason for this rush is that there's always a queue at the door, and part of the reason for that queue is Elizabeth Gilbert. Yes, Eat Pray Love fans, this is where Gilbert came to eat pizza in Naples. Sigh.

The reason she came here, quite possibly, is that Da Michele is perfect. The pizza base is crisp but chewy, the tomato sauce sweet and delicious, and the splodges of mozzarella de bufala add a perfect salty zing. Anyone who tells you the Italians don't make good pizza has never been to Da Michele. Or even Naples.

Continuing on. I may well have begun my search with the best but that doesn't mean I won't try the rest. And you don't have to go far: Pizzeria Trianon da Ciro, a three-storey colossus of a restaurant with a reputation for some of the city's tastiest slices, is about a block away from Da Michele.

Here you'll find something almost shockingly decadent: a menu. Yes, Trianon deigns to put things on pizza, things that include sausage meat, salami, capers, and sometimes anchovies.

I opt for the sausage pizza, the house specialty, which arrives at my table, as it will anywhere in Naples, on a plate the size of the moon. It's uncut, and designed to be eaten by one hungry customer. That's lucky: I'm one hungry customer.

The base is not quite as perfect as the ones they churn out down the road. The sausage meat, however, makes a welcome point of difference, adding a little porky goodness to what's already a very good pizza. It's not as good as Da Michele, but it's worthy of devouring.

Just near the National Archeological Museum, over in Naples' historic centre, you'll find an equally cherished relic of the past: Lombardi, a pizzeria that's been run by that eponymous family since 1905. Brothers Nando and Gigi man the oven these days, and it's these guys who are known for their smoked provola pizza. Again, it's sensational.

And the search goes on, and on. There's Il Pizzaiolo del Presidente, where Bill Clinton once ate; and Pizzeria Starita, with its "Montanara", a pizza with a deep-fried base. Amazing.

In the search for perfect pizza in Naples, you soon realise, everybody wins.

TRIP NOTES

MORE INFORMATION

GETTING THERE

Emirates flies from Sydney and Melbourne to Rome, via Dubai. Call 1300 307 777 or go to emirates.com. Trains from Roma Termini to Napoli Centrale take about one hour and 10 minutes, and cost €22. See trenitalia.com.

SEE + DO

L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele: Via Cesare Sersale 1/3, Napoli. Phone: +39 081 553 9204. Pizzeria Trianon da Ciro: Via Pietro Colletta 44/46, Napoli. Phone: +39 081 553 9426. Pizzeria Lombardi: Via Foria 12/14. Phone: +39 081 456 220.

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