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Opening a pizza joint in a city that’s world renowned for its pies requires some gumption. Maria Rosaria Artigiano, 56, the energetic owner of Pizzeria ‘Ntretella, which opened a few years ago, certainly has it; so does her brother, the brilliant chef Gennaro Artigiano. The beautiful restaurant they built together has quickly become a “new classic” in the panorama of Neapolitan pizzerias.

Gennaro, 57, owns Locanda Ntretella, an old restaurant in the Spanish Quarter known for its excellent cuisine. Yet he is a restless man, always on the lookout for a new challenge. So in 2013, when he heard of an old carpentry shop in the heart of the Spanish Quarter, he visited the space and realized it would be a perfect place to open a pizzeria. The siblings had long dreamed of opening a Neapolitan pizzeria, one that focused on high-quality ingredients and made exceptional pies.

However, the restoration work turned out to be more complicated than expected: The walls, made of tuff, a yellow volcanic stone commonly found in Naples, were ruined, and the floor was covered with concrete screed.

Finally, after more than two years of hard work, Gennaro and Maria Rosaria’s dream came true – Pizzeria ‘Ntretella opened in July 2016. The screed was removed to reveal a beautiful piperno (lava stone) floor, and the Neapolitan tuff shines; we reckon it’s one of the most beautiful pizzerias in Naples.

Yet the neighborhood it’s located in – the Spanish Quarter – hasn’t always had the best reputation. In fact, it was an area of ill repute almost as soon as Don Pedro de Toledo, effectively the first Spanish viceroy of Naples, set up barracks there in the 16th century. The quarter became a hotbed of prostitution and, over the years, was frequented by characters from the city’s underworld.

It was only 20 years or so ago that things began to change. Mass tourism has completely transformed the Spanish Quarter, making it a popular and crowded destination, a maze of narrow streets full of restaurants, pizzerias and numerous magical corners to discover.

The name comes from Neapolitan puppetry: traditionally Ntretella is the girlfriend of Pulcinella, one of the genre’s stock characters.

Pizzeria ‘Ntretella is one of the quarter’s surprises. The name comes from Neapolitan puppetry: Traditionally Ntretella is the girlfriend of Pulcinella, one of the genre’s stock characters.

Equally as traditional as its name is Ntretella’s pizza, which is made using slow-rise dough. “We let it rise for at least 48 hours, and this guarantees a great lightness to the dough,” says Maria Rosaria. “The ingredients are all of exceptional quality – we use various Slow Food products, such as ancient Neapolitan tomatoes.”

We order several pizzas to try a slice of them all. As always, we find the pizza marinara, made simply with tomato, garlic and oregano, to offer the strongest tomato flavor – it’s the best way to enjoy this elemental ingredient. Here there is a very interesting version made with anchovies from Pozzuoli.

“We are pizza artisans, and like a craftsman we never make the same products twice,” Gennaro tells us. “Here everything is made by hand and therefore the customer must be ready to accept imperfections.”

Meanwhile, we order fried anchovies, and a plate of healthy mixed vegetables. “All our vegetables come from a family-run vegetable garden, located in the Taburno Camposauro Park, near Naples,” Maria Rosaria tells us. These homegrown vegetables, including plump eggplants and endives that go slightly sweet when cooked, also top the pizzas.

The tables outside, which seat about 30 people in total, fill up first. “Here in Naples we have beautiful weather for many days a year. But if the weather is bad there are about 80 seats inside,” Maria Rosaria says. The clientele is mainly Neapolitan: Employees from the nearby financial center fill up the tables during lunch, while more families and couples come for dinner.

“The pesto is also homemade; I prepare it myself,” says Maria Rosaria, “as well as all of the desserts, from the zuccotto [a dome of sponge cake filled with layers of cream and chocolate] to the tiramisu and the delizia al limone [“delight of lemon,” a soft dome of sponge cake and tasty lemon cream that originated on the Amalfi Coast].”

‘Ntretella has it all: traditional cuisine, architectural restoration, high-quality ingredients, the art of Neapolitan pizza making (awarded UNESCO status), homemade desserts. In short, the perfect combo to stand out in Naples’ crowded pizzeria market.

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Published on October 23, 2019

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