It may be on the outskirts of Naples, in the residential suburb of Fuorigrotta, but there’s still something about Pizzeria Cafasso that attracts clients, from famous directors to your average Joe (Giovanni, in this case).
Certainly one big draw is it’s proximity to the San Paolo football stadium, one of the few things in Naples that is not dedicated to San Gennaro, the protector of the city for over a thousand years. It’s believed that San Paolo, or St. Paul, who was born in what is today Turkey and died in Rome, first made landfall in Italy in this spot, which is why the stadium was dedicated to him.
The pizzeria is also relatively accessible, despite being some ways from the center of Naples. It’s next to an underground station and the Cumana commuter railway station.
But we would argue that the pursuit of quality always pays off – excellent pies are what make the simple, family-run pizzeria one of the best known in the city.
The pizzeria was born in 1953. Giuseppe Capasso, who was known as Don Peppino, founded it with his wife, Elena Gonzales. Giuseppe learned the trade from his parents in the family’s historic pizzeria, Capasso Pizzeria in Porta San Gennaro. But in 1953, after the growth of the Fuorigrotta district in the wake of the Second World War, he decided to invest in this area by opening his own pizzeria.
The pursuit of quality always pays off – excellent pies are what make the simple, family-run pizzeria one of the best known in the city.
The original name was Capasso – Giuseppe’s last name. But a few years after the opening, when applying for his grandfather’s war pension, Giuseppe noticed a typographical error. The family’s real surname was Cafasso not Capasso, and so he changed his last name as well as the name of the pizzeria in Fuorigrotta.
Giuseppe’s three sons, Ugo, Antonio and Rosario Cafasso, were the heirs to their father’s pizzeria. Now the shop is in the hands of 75-year-old Ugo, a master pizza maker who in turn has passed his knowledge and skills down to his 44-year-old son Stefano.
Ugo is proud of maintaining a high level of excellence. “I have received extraordinary awards,” he tells us, including visits from some of Italy’s most celebrated artists. “Paolo Sorrentino, the director of the film ‘La grande bellezza’ (‘The Great Beauty’), came here after winning the Oscar in 2014, together with actor Tony Servillo, to celebrate the victory.”
The rules written by Don Peppino are still in place: The mixture of flours remains the same, and the size of the pizza – not too big – is consistent. Above all, their pies are never too dry and have a solid structure.
Out of these principles was born the calzone stuffed with escarole, a true symbol of the place. It’s balanced and delicious, with the secret being the addition of a generous portion of pecorino Romano and olive oil on the outside. As it cooks, a delicious crust of cheese and oil forms on the surface of the calzone.
“I always get the escarole calzone,” says Paolo Lubrano, a writer from Pozzuoli. “I love this place, its simplicity, its real people,” he adds. And in fact, the focus here is on people. “During the period of Covid nobody was left without a job here,” Ugo tells us. “We started with delivery and now we have about 20 places outside. With the two internal rooms, well spaced, we can seat about 80 people.”
Although tempted by the escarole calzone, we order the “Doc” pizza with very fresh tomatoes cut into slices, buffalo mozzarella, and olive oil added at the end. It’s divine.
There’s more than pizza, though, on the menu. Ugo also recommends the frittura all’italiana (a plate with a range of Italian fried delights). “We prepare it fresh every morning, crocchè, arancini, omelets… all homemade,” he says. You can also get traditional Campania dishes like the gnocchi alla Sorrentina (Sorrento-style gnocchi with tomato and mozzarella) and spaghetti with clams.
But the surprises aren’t over. The dessert list is very short, but truly exceptional. There is a tall, moist Neapolitan pastiera – extraordinary. And there is a very special cassata, the baked cassata. Unlike the Sicilian cassata, which is prepared cold, the Neapolitan cassata has a short crust pastry casing and is baked in the oven. The pastry chef Ciro Ferrantino brings it fresh every day.
In short, a pizzeria of excellence. “Speaking of excellence, another Oscar winner was also here,” Ugo tells us. “Roberto Benigni, who won the Oscar with ‘La vita è bella’ (‘Life is Beautiful’), came with his wife, Nicoletta. He wore a pizza chef’s hat and got behind the cashier asking 5 euros for each person who wanted to take a picture with him. Of course, he was joking.” But we can almost guarantee he wasn’t laughing about the pizza.
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