Settling It Forever: Where Is The World's Best Pizza?

Finally! Which Neapolitan Pizzeria Is The World Champ?

I've eaten pizza in 34 countries. Lots and lots and lots of pizza as anyone who is familiar with my ever-expanding girth can verify. I've had the best Australian pizza, the best Canadian pizza, the best British pizza, the best Chicago pizza, the best New York pizza, the best California pizza, and just about the best everything else pizza.There are just a few things about pizza I can state with absolute certainty.

1) What passes for pizza in North America, UK, etc. is a very tasty savoury pie. It is nowhere near what is really a pizza.

2) The vast majority of pizzerias in Italy, the nation of pizza, have no clue on how to make real pizza.

You want the world's best pizza? Be ready to wait about an hour. In the rain if necessary.
You want the world's best pizza? Be ready to wait about an hour. In the rain if necessary.
No fancy Michelin Star restaurant here. You'll be sitting at a narrow marble table elbowing total strangers.
No fancy Michelin Star restaurant here. You'll be sitting at a narrow marble table elbowing total strangers.
But... dang... it's good!
But... dang... it's good!

3) The vast majority of pizzerias in Naples, the birthplace of pizza, have no clue on how to make real pizza.

That's a really powerful statement considering that there are over 12,000 pizzerias in Naples and some 25,000 in Naples' region of Campania. Naples is true Pizza Paradise, and the Neapolitans can never get enough of it. You will hardly ever meet a Neapolitan who does not enjoy a pizza at least once a week.

Keep in mind that original, real pizza is margherita. Dough, Tomatoes, Mozzarella, Basil and Oil. No pineapple/anchovy/chili/dogfood combinations here.

The spiritual home of pizza is Naples and only the 100% original, true Neapolitan pizza is recognised by the European Union as a "copyrighted" traditional specialty and carries a DOC, like fine champagne. According to the European Union rules a proper margherita pizza has to have mozzarella "from the southern Apennines," and be served with tomatoes grown strictly locally and only a leaf or two of fresh basil. The shape and size is governed as well. The official pizza has to be round and no more than 35cm in diameter, and if the rim is more than 2cm high, it's instantly disqualified. It's tough being an official pizza!

There are three items which are the subject of constant debate in the streets and cafes of Naples:

1) Politics

2) Soccer

3) Pizza

Therefore when seeking the ultimate pizza, you must consult with the resident specialists, the old men playing cards on straw chairs outside their tiny antique "vascio" basement apartments; the sweater-wearing "guaglione" winking at the passing girls while straddling his parked Vespa; and most importantly, the local police. There is no one better informed than Neapolitan police officers on where to get great pizza. It's like asking a Canadian policeman where to get the best donut in town. You know they're the experts!

You then have to balance their input with the results from the latest Annual Naples Pizza Championships where the area's elite pizzaioli square off in the ultimate taste test to determine who will wear the crown for the current year. Once you have all that information for calendar year 2007, you will boil the 25,000 pizzerias in Naples' Campania province to just these seven pizzerias (in alphabetical order):

Pizzeria Cafasso

Via Giulio Cesare 156, Napoli, Tel: +39 081 2395281

Pizzeria Da Michele

Via Cesare Sersale 3, Napoli, Tel. +39 081 5539204

Pizzeria Di Matteo

Via Tribunale 94, Napoli, Tel: +39 081 455262

Pizzeria La Sorrentina

Via Domenico Pirozzi 37, Fratta Maggiore, Tel: +39 338 3248615

Pizzeria O'Scapricciatiello

Via Orofino Torrione, Salerno, Tel: +39 089 9951260

Pizzeria Pellone

via Nazionale 53, Napoli, Tel: +39 081 5538614

Pizzeria Tappost

Via Casalanno 27, Marano, Tel: +39 081 5862002

This is not to say that the other 25,000 pizzerias serve sewer sludge on a plate. But if you want to experience the most incredible, original, memorable, unforgettable, unique, best pizzas in the world, you have to visit one of these seven pizzerias.

This list changes a bit from year to year. Some pizzerias like Cafasso, Da Michele, and Pellone have inhabited the list for years, and even decades. Da Michele has been in business for about 150 years! Pizzeria Trianon was one of the foremost on that list for decades. However, in the past few years, Trianon has been abandoned by its pizza-gourmand clientele as the quality of its pizza has plummetted. You can walk down Via Cesare Sersale at any time between noon and midnight and you will see at least twenty people queued outside Da Michele waiting to get inside and right across the street you can shoot a cannon through the Trianon and not hit anyone.

Also interesting that Pizzeria Brandi, where the margherita pizza was invented, has never been on this rarefied list. In this case, the originator has been surpassed by the imitators!

The current hotshot and winner of the last Annual Naples Pizza Championship was La Sorrentina. Therefore if we take our weighted averages, we should find that La Sorrentina has the best pizza in the world? No. Absolutely not.

La Sorrentina's everyday pizzas are not exactly like the ones they enter into the Championship. Therefore, if you want to taste their ultimate pizza you have to show up just once a year. In my humble opinion that does not make a Champion. The real Champion is the pizzeria that will serve you the best pizza in the world day in and day out at any time of the day or night.

Cafasso, Di Matteo, O'Scapricciatiello, and Tappost all prepare and serve astounding pizzas, but ever since I was knee high to a basil plant, I've spread the gospel far and wide around the world that Pellone makes the best pizza in the world. It's an absolutely amazing presentation and taste triumph. First of all, as they toss the dough in the air, they toss the European Union's size restrictions right out the window. Pellone's pizza is at least 60 cm in diameter, an enormous disk of dough that droops over the edges of their extra-large plates. The mozzarella covers virtually every square cm of the topping, the sauce tastes like the tomatoes were picked 10 minutes earlier and the gigantic basil leaves are still crunchy. Ask for it specially made, easy on the oil, and extra-burned, and be ready to send your tastebuds to heaven.

My opinion runs counter to the Neapolitan prevailing wisdom which places Da Michele as the overall long-term reigning champion. That factor is reinforced by PBS travel show host Rick Steves who has glorified Da Michele on American TV. Don't get me wrong. Da Michele makes incredible pizza, but I'd always given Pellone the slight nod.

And then it happened... in an event which surprises no one on Naples' crime-ridden streets, a customer was shot to death inside Pellone. It would have been of no interest to the long-term Pellone customer except that right after the shooting, the Pellone pizza recipe changed! Nobody will officially confirm the connection, but I can assure you that the pizza is quite a bit smaller, the dough is soggier, the tomato sauce tastes canned, the amount of mozzarella is down by a third, and generally it has significantly fallen from its previous zenith.

Therefore, given my latest tasting (March, 2007) I have to bite my tongue, swallow my pride and declare that the single best everyday-served pizza in the whole wide world is... Pizzeria Da Michele!

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Comments 52 comments

livelonger profile image

livelonger 9 years ago from San Francisco

What a great tribute to good pizza! I've always liked real Neapolitan style pizza, or New York style, which is a close second and very similar. I really don't like Chicago or California style pizza - blech!


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto Author

Thanks, Livelonger. New York street pizza is a celebration of culinary greatness, but in the very "strict" qualification it does not qualify as "real" pizza. Don't get me wrong, I love NY pizza with pepperoni, mushrooms, etc. as a taste of its own and every time I'm in the Big Apple, I consume my weight in it, but IMHO there is something about the wood-fired oven original margherita simplicity that puts it in a league of its own. Yes, eat great pizza and you may not "live longer" but you'll definitely live happier! :)


WestCoast 9 years ago

I thought the best pizza was from a little tiny hole in the wall in Pozzuoli where you get a small, maybe 6 or 7 inches across, pizza baked ina wood fired oven with bits of charcoal adhering to the side of it. It's made with squished tomatoes and Moooozarella di bufala and not much more. When I got it, a few years back it retailed for about 25 cents when you couldn't get a coffee for 25 cents. I wonder if the place is still there.


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto Author

Poooooozuoli has been sealed off to traffic due to the inability/unwillingness of the government to fix the earthquake damage of a decade ago and turned the whole center of town into a pedestrian only zone. Thanks to this typically bright move from the council, the downtown core has withered away and died. There's nothing left in the center of Pozzuoli now but the ferry dock, a couple of fish markets and some unregistered aliens selling counterfeit watches on folding tables. I don't think that there is even one pizza place left there by the harbour, let alone that memorable el cheapo pizza!


Pawleys 9 years ago

Can you tell the bests places in the US? I have one...Landolfi's in Pawleys Island, SC. Its the first place I ever tried Pizza margherita, and haven't found one better yet!


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto Author

Hmm... never been there! Looks like I might have to plan another vacation! :)


Steen 9 years ago

It´s not true what you say about the first pizza, that it was made only with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil.

What you talk about is pizza Margerita which an Neopolitian pizzabaker composed for the birthday of the queen. Off cause they had plenty of different pizzaes before that. This is typical how Americans misunderstand every kind of historical events in the world and make their own history! I really hate that!

Steen.


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto Author

Of course, the first pizzas were created long before 1889 when pizzaiolo Raffaele Esposito created the margherita as a tribute to the Queen of Italy, Margherita di Savoia in the tricolor of the Italian flag (tomato, basil, mozzarella). There are records of pizzas being found in the excavations of Pompei and Herculaneum. And BTW, I hope you're not calling me an "American" not that I have anything against Americans, but because I'm an Italian-Canadian! :)


STEVE 8 years ago

FYI belive it or not OFFICAIALY the world best pizza is in Mundaring in Western Australa winner of the USA world pizza titles..


dave 8 years ago

very weird experience. i was looking at recipes for pizza margherita to try to make the pizza i had at trianon a few years ago in naples when i stumbled upon this website. i was reading the posts after the great column and happened upon a place called landolfi's in pawleys island, sc, which is where i now reside. Im definitely going to hit this place up tomorrow, what a small world!!


Ben 8 years ago

I've eaten there myself. Da Michelle is the best Margherita pizza I've ever had and I went to what locals considered the best all over Naples. Yes, I had to wait in line for about an hour in the street, but it was worth it!!! I too have eaten pizza all over the USA (NY, LA, Chicago, etc) and in 7 other countries and NOTHING compares to real Neapolitan pizza - NOTHING. I say go to Da Michelle!!!


Sandilyn profile image

Sandilyn 8 years ago from Port Orange, FL

I could eat pizza almost every day. In fact, before I moved in with my son, he ate it everyday. I make him home cooked meals now. Anyway we love pizza and now you make me want to travel. I must go to Naples! I have to eat their pizza!! I just wish that you had a recipe.


misterpm profile image

misterpm 8 years ago from Netherlands

I've been in a lot of countries around the world and surprisingly there are SOME US pizza's within my top 10! Still totally agree best pizzas are made and sold in Italy! Own home made pizzas are also very nice, no matter who is making them..hehe


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 8 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

Also worth knowing is that you can't reheat a proper Italian pizza. If you don't eat it fresh from the oven, the dough is only good for soling your shoes. It is very high glutin flour they use.


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 8 years ago from Toronto Author

I agree fully! The high gluten content is also responsible for why frozen pizza can never taste as good as fresh dough.


Liam 7 years ago

Guys you really need to try the steak fajita pizza from walmart there fresh ones,and omg i was blown away.

the right combination of cheese grilled peppers sauteed onions and awesome sauce and big prime cuts of steak no fat no crap pure steak, worth every penny.


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto Author

Wow, sounds great! I don't think that Walmart Canada carries that though... too bad. All we get up here is the beaver fajita pizza, the moose mousse pizza and the muskrat musk pizza. :(


Netters profile image

Netters 7 years ago from Land of Enchantment - NM

Pizza is my favorite food. It's hard to get a good one in the Southwest (New Mexico). Growing up in Trenton, NJ, now there's a place to find good pizza. I really enjoy the way you write, very entertaining. Thank you.


Susan 7 years ago

There was a pizzeria in a small piazza north of via Rocco Gualdieri on via Posllipo in Naples where I ate my first Margherita. It may not be the best in the world but, it is for me. I've never eaten one as good as that one since and I probably never will.


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto Author

Do you mean Piazza Salvatore Di Giacomo? That's south of Rocco Gualdieri on Posillipo and Pizzeria La Reginella 2 is actually just a bit south of that. Unless I missed a piazza! :)


angelo di fluno profile image

angelo di fluno 7 years ago from Italy

Dear Mr. pizza in Napoli is very good, nobody can say different; but, please, the next time you will be in Italy, come to Rimini and I will let you taste a good. pizza.

Ciao Angelo


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto Author

Angelo... una volta abitavo un po a sud di Rimini e non ho mai trovato una pizza buona. Dammi il nome della tua pizzeria! Ho fame! :)


angelo di fluno profile image

angelo di fluno 7 years ago from Italy

Ora ho un albergo, l'Hotel Grand Meeting a Rivazzurra, ma prima ero al "Pirata" di Torre Pedrera.

A Rimini mangi una buonissima pizza da Bigno vicino al palazzetto dello sport, alla pizzeria "Le Terrazze" qui vicino a me, poi "Lo Zodiaco", Pizzeria "La Rondine" zona via Covignano

Vieni a Rimini

Ciao Angelo


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto Author

Grazie, Angelo! Speriamo che chi vederemo presto! :)


Camping Dan profile image

Camping Dan 7 years ago

I would love to have the opportunity to go and try a real pizza like that.


msteel 7 years ago

New jersey has the worlds best pizza. simple and easy. super thin crispy crust made by real Italians


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto Author

Hey, don't get me wrong, Joiseee has some great pizza, but IMHO nothing compares to the top Neapolitan one! :)


Old salt 7 years ago

I have had Pizza in Naples in 1970 while in the Navy. The food was so bad on the ship but not half as bad as that Olive Oil cardboard I had in Naples. I'd even eat Little Ceasers ( Sleezers ) over the Italian stuff.


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto Author

Dude, don't get me wrong. I've probably had pizza at over 100 pizzerias in Naples and suburbs and likely 90% of them are pure garbage: Stuff that the rats living in the big trash piles out on the Neapolitan sidewalks would turn their noses up at. You just haven't had the opportunity to have a pizza at one of those very few and thoroughly exquisite palaces of pizza gastronomy! :)


Tim 7 years ago

I am very fortunate that, during my visit to Napoli about 5 years ago, I ate twice at Da Michele and twice at Trianon. While even Trianon was very good (seemingly might have gone down hill) I have never experienced what must be the culinary version of an orgasm like I did when eating at Da Michele.

I also love NY style pizza and am no pizza snob, but until you've had pizza from Naples it is unfair to claim you've had the best.


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto Author

Tim, you're absolutely right! Trianon on the last couple of times I've been there really had gone downhill. The short walk across the street to Da Michele IS a culinary orgasm! Da Michele would be better served (and certainly can afford) to redo their pizzeria as the overcrowded high school cafeteria ambiance and the rude, bored waiters certainly don't add any charm and devalue the entire experience of eating there... but how can anyone deny that magnificent pizza!


wannabwestern profile image

wannabwestern 7 years ago from The Land of Tractors

Some of the best pizza I ever ate was in a small town in AZ. NOT Wickenburg, this time! Go figure.Loved your article!


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto Author

Small AZ town... wouldn't happen to be Kingman would it? I remember having a pretty good pizza there a few million years ago! :)


TomLee 7 years ago

Hal,

I'm actually going to Napoli in 2 weeks. Can you share some insight about Buffalo mozzarella vs, Cow mozzerella? I am going to Da Michele of course, based on not just your recommendation but others that concur. Is it worth seeking out? Da Michele uses cow mozzarella which they say is better suited for pizza. What are your thoughts?


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto Author

Congratulations! Enjoy Naples (watch your wallet and luggage) and have a great time at Da Michele. You might want to check out Pellone on Via Nazionale too. YUM! The essence of the yak vs. cow argument is that cow has more of the traditional pizza cheese texture and familiar taste, but the yak produces a far more delicate cheese which is considerably milder. The problem with yak is that the structure of the cheese breaks down with heat much faster than cow, so it's best suited for very hot wood fired ovens where the pizza is baked in well less than a minute. Anything over this, and the yak just turns to milk and the pizza into a watery mess.


Lappland 6 years ago

best pizza in the world is served in Äkäslompolo, Finland: Restaurant Eväskori


carlo magno 6 years ago

don't listen to HAL LICINO, pozzuoli is still thriving and has a great nightlife, and a lot of pizzeria's, via napli is filled with them alone, and thats one road, down by the port of pozzuoli there are a lot of small rsturants, but the speaiality of pozzuoli has always been fish not pizza, but with all the polluted water that is here they have to go into the real deep ocean and find some decent fish.

i've lived in naples for 23 years and ate a few thousand pizzas myself and i think that they are all great, but for the utmost best you have to go downtown naples, the trianon pizzeria is always till full and you need to advance reserve a table up to 1-2 weeks ahead, the reason it has gone down is because of the area of FURCELLA witch is probably the worst area in naples followed by the spanish quarter so with a lot of robberies and hold ups, ecc ecc a lot of people don't go there anymore.

and don't worry about your wallet, its safe in a lot of places and there is the same crime like in any metropolis.

stay away from these areas though: furcella, spanish quarter (quartieri spagnoli), Piazza garibaldi, Secondigliano, Scampia (the most dangerous for gang related)

i may have forgotten a few places.

also a very important thing to always be aware of in naples is the DRIVING, they often don't respect red lights,never give the right of way, so expect the worse driving in all of europe.


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 6 years ago from Toronto Author

Lappland: Did you say pizza or smoked herring? :)

Hey, Carlo Magno, go read http://hubpages.com/food/See-Naples-And-Die ! Buon Divertimento! :)


TomLee 6 years ago

Hal,

I'm back from Italy. What you say about pizza in Italy in general is surprisingly true. Pizza was generally better in Boston than it is in Rome by far.

I went to both Da Michele and Pellone in Naples. Both were excellent and closer to Italian pizza in Boston than pizza in other Italian cities. I had a margherita at Da Michele and the margherita with bufala mozzerella at Pellone (which didn't open until 7pm.) IMHO, the bufala mozzerella didn't jusify the extra 3 euros. It was a little creamier, but not much difference tastewise. Da Michele has a slight edge over Pellone mostly because Da Michele is less expensive than Pellone (even with regular mozzerella.)

I took the train in from Rome, and the pickpockets were not a problem ,but as a pedestrian in Garibaldi square (where the train station is) you have to be careful about being run over from vehicles from all directions. I took the Cicumveuvianna train to Sorrento was was a great day trip.

Thanks for your advice which was very helpful to me.


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 6 years ago from Toronto Author

I certainly agree that Da Michele's bufala is actually is not as successful on their pizzas as their regular mozza and they do most definitely take the value for money sweepstakes! I'm very happy that you managed to avoid the lunatics driving their clapped out Fiat Unos around Piazza Garibaldi's curves on two wheels. I just wish that Pellone and Da Michele could airlift their pizzas out so I'd never have to go to that hellhole Naples again!


ziplockbags profile image

ziplockbags 6 years ago from Dallas, TX

Yea the first pizza I had in Italy had no meat and wasn't cut!


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 6 years ago from Toronto Author

That's the real margherita for ya! :)


Deano 6 years ago

Fantastic commentary - thanks!!

I am heading over to Italy next year and intend sampling these legendary pizzas....


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 6 years ago from Toronto Author

Enjoy! They're delicious!


whcobb profile image

whcobb 6 years ago from Fort Campbell, KY

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http://williamcobb.blogspot.com

"What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?"


MrSpock profile image

MrSpock 6 years ago

I've heard about the irony of pizza in Italy so it's good to hear there are a good handful of places to go for the good stuff.


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 6 years ago from Toronto Author

whcobb: Copy away! Hope you have great luck with it! :)

MrSpock: Ya, unfortunately all the good pizza places are in that sewer called Naples. :(


Francesco 6 years ago

Hal Licino

If you can back off with the constant insults at Naples it would be greatly appreciated. Me, I live in america but am a Napolatean at heart. I even would rather live in Naples then in miami, or los angeles (which i have visited and now live in). I know that Naples might not look good in some places and i admit it is a garbage dump but to many of us we call it home. I smile at all the people screaming insults at eachother in thick dialect and this might sound crazy but the smell of naples is actually good if you get used to it. The ocean air mixed with the smell of garbage and ceramics is pretty refrshing. Plus the driving in Naples is horrible that much i can say and you have to be pretty intelligent to not get run over.

Now that that is gone and said, on to the pizza. Da michele by far is THE best pizza in the world to me. I eat it everytime i visit Naples and it simply is delicious. My uncle even works as a pizza chef there now so i don't have to wait in line for the pizza. But i say it has gone a little downhill, why? Because my father doesn't work over there anymore as a pizza maker. My family and other people would always say that the pizza was best when my dad worked there (I will not give his name by the way). also i have to say if you ever try to go for good pizza then never go to miami, the only pizza there is the cardboard like thing crust pizza with no flavor. It doesn't fit the culinary style of Napolatean gastronomers. And basically that is it.

Also i would like to finish by naming some good pizzerias that i have visited in my few travels around the U.S.

Il canale (as i think it is called now) Washington D.c. near georgetown as i can't remember the adress. It has good pizza now and a lot of them have been trained by my father.

Fratelli de la buffala- Cities all over the world if you can find one. It has generally similar qualities to that of napolatean pizza.

P.s. Sorry for all the high talk about my father.


bala 6 years ago

very nice to be there........


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 6 years ago from Toronto Author

My dear Francesco. Unlike you, I was born in that teeming sewer therefore I reserve the right to keep blasting that evil disgusting and thoroughly revolting POS by the bay. Naples needs to be excised from Europe like the cancer that it is. Fence it in, turn it into a zoo, and wait for the Neapolitans to eat each other. It won't take long.

bala, yeah, go there and find out. Da Michele and Pellone are about the only two buildings to salvage out of the whole cesspool. :)


Hal Licino profile image

Hal Licino 6 years ago from Toronto Author


BillB 3 years ago

Hey, you gotta mention South Philly pies, the best pizzas in the USA.

Neapolitan pizza, EH, good fo kids, but not real food wit beer or a good wine! You gotta do Philly a good turn, guy! Hey!

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