BY MAXIMILIAN KWIATKOWSKI
Before I left for Italy, my Dad asked his Sicilian co-worker about things I should do during my travels. Besides going to his home of Sicilia he recommended going to Naples for Pizzeria da Michele. During a trip that a friend and I took to Pompeii, we decided to make a stop there for dinner. Thank God my Dad asked.
Pizzeria da Michele is not the oldest nor the original Neapolitan pizzeria, but is considered by many to be one of the best and most affordable examples of true Neapolitan pizza. The original shop opened in 1906 and was moved to its current location in the ‘30s. It’s remained pretty much the same ever since, with its minimalistic menu, consisting of only two kinds of pizza and a few drinks.
The area is kinda shady, but if you’ve been near Cicero Avenue in Chicago late at night, it’s about the same. Just don’t wear your Sunday best and you’ll be fine.
The restaurant was bustling with people, but we were able to get a seat quite quickly. The service was intermittent but this place is by no means fine dining, so I let it slide. Regardless, we got our food quickly even if we had to wait at times for drinks.
The two pizzas that Pizzeria da Michele offers are a margherita and marinara. The margherita consists solely of tomato sauce, mozzarella and a bit of basil, while the marinara is just a large helping of sauce, oil and oregano (no cheese).
Both pizzas had a very thin crust, which was chewy like a thicker crepe, but beyond that, the two couldn’t be more different.
The sauce on the margherita was thin but full of a robust and fresh earthy tomato flavor. It was as if it was made that morning. I hadn’t had mozzarella that good since I was in Paestum, which sells its mozzarella to a select few restaurants.
On the marinara pizza, the sauce was thick and tasted quite good as well. I preferred the margherita, although the other was fantastic in its own merit.
Even though the pizzas here are incredibly simple, the ingredients have an uncanny freshness. So fresh, you actually feel satisfied and full of energy. Yes, this is pizza we’re talking about.
That’s the beauty of this place, the chefs are masters of their craft and stick to their guns. It’s a tradition we really don’t have in America.
John Stewart may be right that Chicago-style deep dish isn’t pizza, but there’s no way in hell the stuff on the east coast is either. Pizza da Michele is the real pizza.
5 out of 5 stars