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For die-hard pizza aficionados, a trip to Naples is akin to a religious pilgrimage or a visit to an ancestral home. Yes, the pizza in Naples is that good. After all, when you visit the birthplace of any food, you’re bound to be in for an experience like none other — and Naples delivers.

Origins of Neapolitan Pizza

This international food phenomenon has humble European roots. It’s believed that pizza dates back to perhaps the 17th or 18th century, when hungry Neapolitan peasants began topping their flatbreads with tomatoes to create an inexpensive meal. Word slowly spread, so that by the 19th century, visitors to Naples were seeking out the poorest Italian neighborhoods to sample this delicious dish.

Pizza really hit it big in 1889, when King Umberto I and his wife Queen Margherita di Savoia visited Naples while on holiday. The Queen had heard of this culinary delight during her travels, so she ordered local pizzaiolo (pizza maker) Raffaele Esposito to bake a selection for a royal tasting. Of the pizzas Esposito presented, the Queen favored his simple creation topped with mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes (the colors of the Italian flag). From then on it was known as the pizza Margherita — known today as the classic Neapolitan pizza and a worldwide favorite.

What Makes It Special?

Neapolitan pizza is pure simplicity in its ingredients and execution. Since there’s so little to it, the quality and freshness of the ingredients, along with the devotion of the pizzaiolo, is what really makes this style of pizza shine. There are actually two types, the aforementioned Margherita and the pizza Marinara, which doesn’t contain cheese. The Marinara is topped with tomato, garlic, oregano, and extra-virgin olive oil. The crust of both is typically soft and thin and is made with highly refined wheat flour, fresh brewer’s yeast, water, and salt. Neapolitan pizzas are known for being heavy on the sauce, making them soggy in the middle and difficult to slice. Because of this, the pizzas are usually quite small (10–12 inches) to make them more manageable to eat.

Recommended Pizzerias in Naples:

Antica Pizzeria Port'Alba (Via Port’Alba 18, Naples): The oldest pizzeria in Naples (and likely the oldest in the world), this restaurant began making pizza in 1738! It’s an unassuming place wedged between used bookstores, so it can be easy to miss. Highlights here are their crust — a golden brown affair that is slightly thicker than most other Neapolitan pizzas.

Pizzaria La Notizia 53 (Via Michelangelo Da Caravaggio 53A, Naples): Blending a genuine love for the art of pizza-making with a home-like atmosphere, Pizzaria La Notizia 53 makes all of its guests feel like family. The pizza is worth the journey out to the Vomero neighborhood.

50 Kalò (Piazza Sannazzaro 201/B, Naples): Don’t let the long lines scare you away — there’s a reason why people wait for the pizza here, even locals. Pizzaiolo Ciro Salvo uses only the freshest ingredients as well as organic extra-virgin olive oil in his creations.

Sorbillo (Via dei Tribunali 32, Naples): Here you’ll be in the care of celebrity pizzaiolo Gino Sorbillo. Located in the city center, Sorbillo serves up a larger version of the Neapolitan classic with a thin crust and a variety of toppings to choose from.

Learn more about Naples, the home of pizza, on a cruise to Europe with Holland America Line.