Perhaps that's what Bill Clinton was thinking when he famously paid a visit here when he was in Naples for the G7 Summit in 1994. Bill Clinton is much beloved by the Italians and a large poster of him chowing down on some pizza is displayed by the entrance at Di Matteo. In fact, Clinton's pizza outing was such a big deal that the chef from Di Matteo who personally served Bill Clinton decided to open up his own pizza place down the block in 2000. It's name? Pizzaiolo Del Preisdente.
Di Matteo has been around much longer -- since 1936 -- and is a no-frills, bi-level spot known just as much for their pizza as for their fried goods such as pasta cresciuta (dough balls), arancini di riso (rice balls), and crochette di patate (potato croquettes). When we arrived at 8PM on a Friday night, the place wasn't particularly crowded. We made our way upstairs -- through the oven area and small first floor dining room -- where there were an abundance of available tables.
We started off our meal with fried goods -- arancino (a fried rice ball), crocchè (a fried potato croquettes), and frittatina (a fried macaroni pastry). These were the exact same items that we'd gotten at Pizzeria Salvo the previous day... and they were not as good. My inclination is that it's best not to order fried goods at Di Matteo when you're seated at a table and don't know what's fresh. During my week in Naples, I occasionally purchased fried goods from the window out front as I passed by the pizzeria on the way to other Via Tribunali restaurants. I always ordered what was hot and it always tasted delicious. The fried goods we were served with dinner were lukewarm and uninspiring. So keep an eye on the deep fryer and order whatever it is that's hot.
When we left Di Matteo around 9PM, it was full but not packed. As we walked down Via Tribunali, I noticed the contrast between Di Matteo and Sorbillo, another famous pizza place, where dozens of people were waiting to get in the door. I knew that was where I wanted to eat the following night.
So is Di Matteo worth a stop? It's certainly easily accessible and is one of the more well-known spots in town. If you're only in Naples for a limited time though, grab some pizza elsewhere and swing by for some fried goods for dessert. The pizza was solid, but in Naples that is not enough. Each bite should be transcendental. Although no experience surpassed that at Pizzeria Startia, the following night would at least give Starita a run for it's money.
The above piece is the 8th 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)