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Editors note: Anya von Bremzen is the winner of three James Beard awards, a contributing writer at AFAR magazine and the author of six cookbooks. Her forthcoming book National Dish: Around the World in Search of Food, History, and the Meaning of Home, she explores the connections between place and identity in six food capitals around the world, including our beloved Naples. We asked her about her favorite places to visit every time she’s back in the city.

Naples IS pizza. It’s where pizza was invented in the 18th century, meaning it’s where flatbread first met tomato and cheese and both met the domed Neapolitan oven. So, yes, arriving to Naples, on the airplane I already think pizza!: charred and blistered, a classic Margherita perhaps, with its tricolore of the Italian flag: the red of tomatoes, the white of the cheese and the green of the basil. My first stop is Pizzaria La Notizia 53.

It’s run by Enzo Coccia, a third-generation pizzaiolo who grew up in the 1960s – an economically harsh period in southern Italy – in a poor quarter near the train station. Now Enzo is famous as a pizza philosopher, preservationist un-traditional baker, and author of a densely inscrutable scientific treatise on pizza. He also stars in documentary films about pizza, propounds on pizza to visiting dignitaries, and flies around the world consulting on pizza. In Naples he’s known as Il Pizzaoilo Illuminato – The Enlightened One.

In 1994 Enzo opened La Notizia in the bourgeois Vomero quarter and began to think of pizza as a canvas; for Alba truffles, for instance, or hand-crafted Campanian cheeses. He created pizza still-lives of favas, asparagus, and pungent pecorino from herb-fed Laticauda sheep. In 2010, La Notizia became the first pizzeria – ever! – to be mentioned in a Michelin guide. Enzo’s the protagonist of the Naples chapter in my forthcoming book National Dish.

It’s in the rather upmarket Vomero district in the Upper City and clientele ranges from local pizza lovers to visiting dignitaries to maybe the president of the Napoli soccer club and the city’s top intellectuals. It’s both a neighborhood spot and a destination restaurant for visitors. But it’s not fancy; it’s still a pizzeria at heart.

A while back, Enzo, ever the scientist, developed a special fermentation method for his crust, using just a trace of yeast, a special blend of flours a temperature-controlled cool fermentation of about 14 hours, and extra-loose dough. The pizza bakes in the domed Neapolitan oven fired by two kinds of wood, at 815 degrees Fahrenheit in 90 seconds flat. The crust emerges perfectly blistered and dotted with tiny air bubbles inside, so it’s incredibly light and it feels like it’s still breathing. Besides the classic Margherita and Marinara, the locavore toppings might include special cheeses from boutique producers, Vesuvian pomodorini (tiny tomatoes), seasonal greens, hand-crafted salumi, even truffles.

It’s not really a [full] restaurant, so one just has pizzas and calzones, with maybe a salad. The Pizza San Gennaro is really popular, perfect and minimalist with yellow pienolo tomatoes, oregano, and really good olive oil. And also a calzone filled with escarole, anchovies, olives, and smoked mozzarella from Gaeta.

Enzo has several pizzerias on the same block. La Notizia 53 is the original classic. La Notizia 94 is more upmarket with a more adventurous menu of toppings and a very scientific-looking fermentation chamber, plus really interesting wines and craft beers from local producers. They do this amazing baccala (salt cod) pizza. On the same block is also Enzo’s place O Sfizzia d’a Notizia dedicated to pizza fritta (deep fried pizza) and a special Neapolitan sandwich called ‘a ‘mpustarella.

After some pizza, to end a perfect first night back in Naples, I’d go to Vi Piano, the bar and lounge at the Grand Hotel Parker not far from La Notizia in the Vomero heights. The bar is on the hotel rooftop with a stunning, sweeping view of the Bay of Naples that sparkles at night. Their James Bond-inspired cocktails are cool, but it’s just as nice to have a chilled limoncello or a glass or Prosecco and take in the panorama.

Anya’s book National Dish: Around the World in Search of Food, History, and the Meaning of Home comes out Jun 20, 2023, and is available now for preorder.

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Published on June 20, 2023

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