Neapolitan pizza is rightly world famous. It has long been an essential part of Italian culture, and the Naples art of pizza-making has even received world heritage status from UNESCO.
Pizza’s a serious business in Naples. Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (True Neapolitan Pizza Association) was founded in 1984 to promote and protect true Neapolitan pizza in Italy and worldwide.
Two pizzerias in Naples are especially well-known, and a must-visit for any pizza lovers lucky enough to take the trip.
Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba, established in 1738, is the oldest pizzeria-tavern in Naples; and L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele is so popular it issues numbered tickets to diners to ensure that the restaurant doesn’t get too busy.
L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele takes pizza so seriously it only offers two choices: marinara, and margherita.
It also made an unforgettable appearance in Eat, Pray, Love, further cementing its fame:
“He gave me the name of a pizzeria in Naples (‘Da Michele’) that I had to try, because he 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 pizzeria must offer… I’m almost too superstitious to say it… the best pizza in the world?
“‘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’.
“At the pizzeria ‘Da Michele’, the pies we have just ordered, one for each of us, are making us lose our mind. 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 the pizza, almost an affair.”
Following branches in London’s Soho and Baker Street, L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele has now opened in Manchester.
So is the King Street newcomer worth the hype?
The restaurant has taken over the old Zizzi site at the Grade II-listed 53 King Street, and is opulently decorated in shades of pink with sparkling chandeliers and marble columns and flooring.
The Pink Cocktail Bar, located at the entrance, offers a choice of classic Italian aperitifs – think spritzes, bellinis, and an excellent negroni (all £9.95) – as well as signature cocktails and Italian wines and beers.
“I want someone to look at me the same way I look at pizza,” reads a pink neon sign.
When it comes to food, the Manchester menu offers far more than just two choices of pizza.
There are oysters (£4.50 each or six for £21.90), starters such as arancino (£6.50) made with fior di latte and pecorino Romano D.O.P cheese, salads, and mains ranging from fritto di mare (£19.90) to A5 grade 10oz Wagyu steak at an eye-watering £69.
Pasta dishes include traditional penne all’arrabbiata (£12.90) or carbonara made with aged guanciale and egg yolk (£13.90) as well as luxurious linguine lobster (£25.90) or truffle ravioli topped with shaved black truffle (£19.90).
But what about those famous pizzas?
A traditional Neapolitan pizza is roundish, with a diameter of 30-35cm, soft and elastic with a raised edge (the famous ‘cornicione’).
The base must be prepared by hand – rolling pins and mechanical presses are not allowed – and cooking must be done in a wood-fired oven at 430-480°C, which takes just 60-90 seconds.
At L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele in Naples, five generations of master pizza makers have carried on the work of the founder, respecting the tradition and being faithful to Michele Condurro’s instructions.
Over on King Street, the 14 pizza options on the menu include the traditional marinana (£8.90) and margherita (£9.90), but also fried pizza, famous in Naples, filled with pressed pork, salami Napoli and mixed cheeses (£13.90), and a truffle mushroom pizza with white truffle cream and shaved black truffle (£19.90) which was a champion at the London Pizza Festival.
Unable to resist the description from Eat, Pray, Love, we opt for the margherita pizza with double mozzarella (£11.90).
Cooked quickly in the glitzy gold pizza oven, it’s exceptional, from the light, chewy charred base to the blend of tomato tanginess, pools of fior di latte milkiness, sharp and salty pecorino Romano D.O.P cheese and fragrant fresh basil.
With perfect pizzas and efficient service in striking surroundings, this place is already getting booked up fast, and it’s easy to see why.
If you’re looking for a slice of Naples on the streets of Manchester, you won’t be disappointed.
L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele is open now at 53 King Street, M2 4LQ. Find out more and book here.