Pizzeria Starita has found itself in Italy's national spotlight a number of times since it opened in 1901. It was featured in a famous Sofia Loren movie -- L'Oro di Napoli (The Gold Of Naples) -- back in 1954. More recently, pizza maker Antonio Starita was given the honor of preparing and presenting a special pie for Pope John Paul II for the Jubilee in 2000. The pie -- Pizza Del Papa -- is now featured on the menu at the pizzeria.
Despite all of this notoriety, Pizzeria Starita is rarely one of the first places that come to mind when locals are asked about their favorite spot in town. Perhaps it's because it is a bit out of the way. Or maybe they simply want to keep the tourists away. Whatever the reason -- Pizzeria Starita should be on the top of every list of the best pizza places in Naples. It was where I found the most delicious pizza I ate while I was there. It was so good, despite the fact that Scott and I were trying to pace ourselves throughout the week, we ordered three pies. Each was spectacular.
But before we get to the pizza, a bit about the place itself. When we arrived on a Thursday evening around 8PM, Pizzeria Starita was just starting to get busy. The first room we entered, where the oven was located, was packed with people placing take out orders and waiting to be seated. The dining area, which is off to the left, is divided into three connected rooms in a railroad style. Decorations include various news articles, memorabilia, and historical photographs.
The menu takes some time to work through. Believe it or not, Pizzeria Starita serves more than 60 pies! There's quite a difference between here and the two options at Da Michele. This was the only place where we were not given English menus (I'm not sure if they were available), but luckily we had a pretty good sense of what we wanted to order. There were so many pies that looked delicious, and had we been able to devour more than three I might have opted for a Pizza Al Pesto (smoked mozzarella and pesto) or gone a little crazy and tried a Lasagna pie (tomato, fior di latte, and ricotta).
But other than the Margherita pie -- which we tried at every place -- we had to order a Pizza Del Papa (butternut squash, smoked mozzarella, peppers, and zucchini). Both were out of this world. They were cooked to perfection. They held together well (you'll notice they're not falling off the plate either) and every bite melted in your mouth. The crust was adequately charred, yet still maintained a soft and chewy complex. The Margherita pie was €4.00 (about $5.50) and the Pizza Del Papa was €7.00 (about $9.50).
The first two pies were so good that we wanted to try another. I was leaning towards the Fiorilli and Zucchini pie (smoked mozzarella and zucchini) and when we asked our waiter for a recommendation, that's the one he suggested. What are the odds? I guess about one in 60. Although not quite as awesome as the first two pies, it was still delicious. Sadly, I had very few cheese heavy pies while I was in Naples, but this was one of them. All of the vegetables tasted fresh and were adequately cooked, unlike at some other spots where they were carelessly thrown onto the pie. It cost €6.00 (about $8.50).
On our way out, we stopped to say hello to the legendary Antonio Starita (Scott and him had previously met at various pizza events and conventions). Although he spoke little English, it was clear he was happy about how much we loved his pizza. On occassion, he's popped into New York's Keste Pizza & Vino (which also has a version of the Pizza Del Papa on its menu) while passing through the city to man the oven there. You can sure I'll be stopping by the next time that happens.
As we made our way out of Pizzeria Starita, the crowded front room had turned into a mob scene which poured out onto the street. A mix of families, couples, and college-aged folks were eagerly waiting for the chance dig their faces into some of the city's best pizza. Whether or not they were just starting off their night, or grabbing a bite before heading home... I can't think of a better way to spend an evening in Naples.
The above piece is the 6th article in a 13-part series about my pizza adventures in Italy (January 2011 - February 2011). You can access the other parts of the series here:
Introduction (Part 1)
Da Michele - Naples (Part 2)
Pizzeria Brandi - Naples (Part 3)
Caputo Flour Mill - Naples - (Part 4)
Salvo - Naples (Part 5)
Pizzeria Starita - Naples (Part 6)
Buffalo Mozzarella Tour - Caserta (Part 7)
Di Matteo - Naples (Part 8)
Sorbillo - Naples (Part 9)
Dar Poeta - Rome (Part 10)
Forno Marco Roscioli - Rome (Part 11)
00100 Pizza - Rome (Part 12)
Pizzeria Pellone - Naples (Part 13)