In 2006, I read Elizabeth Gilbert's book Eat, Pray, Love. The first chapter was about her time in Italy. I had lived in Italy and everything she described about the culture, the people, the language, the sensation of being in Italy resonated with me. Except that is, when she wrote of going to Napoli and eating pizza.
Elizabeth Gilbert wrote: "But he is Neapolitan, no question about it, because before I left Rome he gave me the name of a pizzeria in Naples that I had to try, because, Giovanni informed me it sold the best pizza in Naples. I found this a wildly exciting prospect, given that the best pizza in Italy is from Naples, and the best pizza in the world is from Italy, which means that this pizzeria must offer…I’m almost too superstitious to say it…the best pizza in the world? Giovanni passed along the name of the place with such seriousness and intensity, I almost felt I was being inducted into a secret society. He pressed the address into the palm of my hand and said, in gravest confidence, “Please go to this pizzeria. Order the margherita pizza with double mozzarella. If you do not eat this pizza when you are in Naples, please lie to me later and tell me that you did.” So Sofie and I have to 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 delirium that my pizza might actually love me, in return. I am having a relationship with this pizza, almost an affair. Meanwhile, Sofie is practically in tears over hers, she’s having a metaphysical crisis about it… There’s not a menu. They have only 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 always thought we had two choices in our lives when it came to pizza crust—thin and crispy, or thick and doughty. How was I have 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 one shimmering movie star in the middle of a party brings contact high of glamour to everyone around her. It’s technically impossible to eat this thing of course. You try to take a bit off your slice and the gummy crust folds, and the hot cheese runs away like topsoil in a landslides, makes a mess of you and your surroundings, but just deal with it."
I read this part and my mouth watered. I dreamed of going to Naples and eating pizza. Finally, 14 years after reading this book, I went to Naples. I had two days in Naples and was on a mission to eat as much pizza as I could muster. I managed to eat 5 pizzas and 1 fried pizza (I did not finish everything on each plate) and without a doubt, pizza from Naples, Italy is the Please The Palate Pick of the Week.