Down a few dark alleys and garbage-strewn streets from the city’s main road lies a restaurant that will make you wait two hours for a meal that takes 40 seconds to cook.
The modest-looking diner hidden away in the black heart of Italy has been dubbed “the Sacred Temple of pizza,” and claims to be the birthplace of the dish. The otherwise easily-missed dive is constantly surrounded by a sizable crowd of famished foodies – tourists and locals alike – who are taunted by wafts of olive oil, crushed tomatoes, and tangy oregano that escape the cramped eating quarters every time the host opens the front door to call out another number. Rain or shine, day or midnight, the always-long wait is out by the dumpsters that emit less pleasant smells.
But nobody seems to care.
Returning customers know that once you’ve been sat at a wobbly table and offered either beer, Coke, Fanta, or water, you can settle in and mentally prepare for the best meal of your life.
The secret is simplicity. The family-run pizzeria only offers the two choices written on the menus hanging from the green-and-white-tiled walls: The Margherita or the Marinara, with the option to double-up on the mozzarella.
There are no frills nor garnishes at L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele either, because that simply isn’t the Neapolitan way. Besides, the pizza leaves no room on the large record-sized plates for anything other than the tender, oily-but-not-greasy, somewhat round circle of culinary heaven.
You can count the number of fresh ingredients thrown on the soft, warm dough with one hand: The red, juicy sauce that actually tastes like it’s made from tomatoes; the slightly stringy yet perfectly melted creamy-white mozzarella cheese. The crust – if you can even call it that – is charred and bubbly around the edges, substantial enough to dip into the pools of Italian olive oil that glisten on the paper-thin centre of the pie.
Every creation comes uncut, straight out of the traditional clay oven with a middle so delicate it has to be eaten with a knife and fork. Even though most of the servers speak some English, you wouldn’t be understood if you attempted to order anything other than a pizza to yourself; a decision rather easily-made after several hours of patience.
While the restaurant allows takeaways, half of the fun is experiencing the anticipation, the eventual admittance, and the atmosphere inside what is perhaps the humblest-looking eatery in existence boasting a world-renowned reputation.
At €5 a pop, the pizzas at L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele are certainly worth the wait.