Pizza, as you might already know, was born in Naples. What you might not know is that in Naples, fried pizza existed before baked pizza. And although Neapolitans have raised pizzamaking in the oven to an art form, their skill at turning out fried pizza is even greater.
As with so many local specialties in this city, it’s hard to say who makes the best fried pizza here; there are improvised pizzerias in every corner of Naples, street vendors that make a really good pie.
There’s a saying here, voce e’ popolo, voce e’ dio (the Neapolitan version of vox populi vox dei), which means that something is certain – there’s no doubt. And that applies to Masardona’s pizza being one of the best in the city.
Arret’ ‘e case nove is an area called “behind the new houses.” It’s not easy to find Masardona’s pizzeria in that maze of narrow streets between Via Amerigo Vespucci (Via Marina) and Corso Arnaldo Lucci. It’s located behind the Loreto Mare Hospital; once you’ve made it near the hospital, the best way to find it quickly is to just ask someone, “Where is pizzeria Masardona?”
Everyone here knows Masardona, the fry house that seems to be the one immortalized by Vittorio De Sica in the movie “The Gold of Naples,” starring Giacomo Furia and Sophia Loren.
Just like in that movie, Enzo Piccirillo and his sons prepare the dough and his wife fries the pizza to perfection using traditional tools. They produce just one thing: fried pizza, made of a light dough enclosing a mixture of ricotta, cicoli (fatty pork), provola cheese and tomato. A bit of pepper is added, and then Enzo punches all around the sides of the pizza to ensure that the filling won’t leak. A few skillful, fast movements – part of the family legacy – and the pizza is immersed in hot oil for what seem like only a few seconds. After a few deft spins by the wife at the fryer, the pizza is ready, scorchingly hot, delicious. For those who can’t finish a full pie, there’s the battilocchio, a half portion.
There’s not much in the way of seating at the pizzeria, just a few stools inside and a couple of tables on the small sidewalk outside.
Enzo runs a very efficient business. All day long the fried pizzas are delivered by scooter to the most remote parts of the city. He benefits from the fact that fried pizza lends itself to home delivery. While the taste of oven-baked pizza changes in delivery, that of fried pizza remains almost unaltered. You might say that baked pizza is like a small child who suffers from a car ride. Fried pizza is mature and can handle the journey!
Enzo’s sons are the fourth generation of a family that has been operating this fry house since 1947. The founder was Anna’s grandmother (nicknamed “Masardona”); then Carmela took over, and now there’s Enzo, Carmela’s son, the wise entrepreneur, the philosopher of fried pizza, who carefully ensures that each of the pizzas produced meets his very high standards. Fried pizza might have always been around, but Enzo knows that only consistently high quality will ensure that his family’s business will last.