There I was, in Rome on a very last minute solo trip – I’d booked it Sunday evening, travelled on the Tuesday morning – and I was only there for 2 nights. I had so much to see & do in the Eternal City that I almost forgot about this place. This was until I suddenly remembered that Pizzeria da Michele, Naples’ most famous pizzeria featured in the movie ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ and somewhere I’d been gasping to visit for years, have opened two branches in Rome, including one not too far from my hotel. Wahoo!
Was the pizza as good as Julia Roberts made it out to be in the movie? Well, I just had to find out, purely for research purposes of course ;).
It was reassuring to see that the restaurant opened late – 7pm – and didn’t subscribe to the earlier opening times of the tourist eateries. I mean, all of the food in Rome seems to be so amazing, but the proper locals’ eateries are always top notch! I was ready a little early, so I just hung out by the nearby Trevi Fountain for a while. There are worse problems to have! What a stunning place! Standing there in complete awe at this amazing fountain, which marks the terminal point of one of the city’s aqueducts, time seemed to stand still. But soon enough it was 7pm, so I made the 2 minute walk to the restaurant.
I expected a huge queue, but nope, I was the first to arrive. I love the unpretentious and minimalist interior decor in each of the 3 dining rooms, common in proper Neapolitan pizzerias, complete with marble tables. I was given a convivial welcome and chose to sit in the dining room which housed the kitchen were I could smell the wood-fired oven as soon as I entered. The pizzaioli were testing to see if the oven was hot enough by baking a plain pizza base and seeing how quickly it cooked. Pretty quickly, my order was taken: pizza Margherita and a bottle of sparkling water. I was one very excited man around about now.
Before I knew it, my pizza and their first order of the night, was deftly prepared and being baked in the amazing wood-fired oven. Pizza making using a oven like this is something I’m always in awe of and I’m pleased to say that I’ve attempted it once! My pizza must’ve spent no longer than the typical 90 seconds in the blazing hot oven before it was briskly flicked from the pizza peel and delivered, by a very proud waiter, to my table.
It was huge, far bigger than the plate, with beautiful charring on the edges and scant on the toppings: exactly how a Neapolitan pizza should be. The first thing I noticed when cutting into it was just how soft the base was; it’s a bit of a misconception that all Italian pizza is crispy. The only part of this pizza that was crispy was the charred edges. Then there’s the taste! WOW! The oven imparted a gorgeous smokiness into everything, which was especially true of the sweet tomato sauce made from the San Marzano variety grown on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius. The combination of sweet and smokiness was heavenly. Then there’s the mozzarella which sits in kind of a soup of the sauce, pleasingly lacking in any browning from the oven, slightly stringy and tasted deliciously milky. The few basil leaves were imparted a subtle flavour to everything around them. It was so delicious and so much more easily digestible than you’d imagine a giant bread-based meal to be, and before I knew it, I’d eaten the lot; it’s a shame they don’t do some sort of ‘Man vs Food’ challenge else I’d have won a t-shirt!
Of course I had room for pudding, so I went for a tiramisu! Expecting some sort of rustic ‘slab’ of tiramisu to mirror the perfectly-imperfect pizza I’d just eaten, instead I was presented with an intricate little dessert that resembled a work of art. I was a little disappointed at first, but one taste changed that. The strong coffee flavour from the sponge really came through and was perfectly in contrast with the perfectly-sweetened mascarpone. A small dessert like this is probably wise after such a gigantic pizza!
All decent meals in Italy have to finish with a coffee, of course. Whenever I return to Italy I’m always reminded just how short they pour their espresso and here is no different. I’m also reminded just how incredible every drop tastes – even the coffee I had at the bar at the top of Mount Vesuvius served in a tiny plastic disposable cup tasted like magic – and here was no different.
All-in-all, this was one of the most memorable dining experiences of my life and definitely the best pizza I have ever had. Friendly, quick service, great decor and a small but perfectly formed pudding just added to a great experience. I paid a little over €20, bargain! I’d highly recommend it. I can’t wait to visit the original eatery in Napoli!
Keith’s rating: 5 out of 5!
Date of visit: 16/01/2019